Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 November 2021
At Clara Schumann’s concerts, Robert Schumann’s sets of piano character pieces met audiences only through her own reshaping and recontextualization. She extracted pieces from some sets for ‘mosaics’ of two or more pieces, potentially from different opuses and by different composers. In other cases, she performed piano sets in abridged or reordered versions. This chapter closely considers several of Schumann’s mosaics, as well as her several versions of Kreisleriana. It argues that Schumann’s reworkings of her husband’s piano sets were acts of compositional agency that reflected her own strategies. In her mosaics, she juxtaposed pieces to create new textural, tonal, motivic or stylistic interrelationships and, in her abridged versions of sets, changed their larger structures in both radical and subtle ways.
Examining this aspect of Clara Schumann’s performances can nuance how we understand her image as her husband’s pianistic champion, reminding us that she cultivated this image while participating in practices that allowed performers to customize works. More broadly, it invites us to recognize a musical work as a building block for a concert, and to recognize that performers’ decisions shape how features seemingly fixed within the score can take on varying significances within this larger context.