Clara Schumann’s life is frequently told through the lens of dichotomies. Not only is her artistic profile measured against that of her husband, but other polarities surface time and again: private versus public, professionalism versus amateurism, composer versus pianist, and, for Schumann’s Dresden years, Dresden versus Leipzig. Many of these dichotomies are rooted in artificial boundaries that are imposed on nineteenth-century cultural practice in order to construct a neat and palpable music history.Footnote 2 From a biographical perspective, it seems impossible to separate Clara Schumann from Robert, given that their marriage had a significant impact on their creative and emotional worlds.Footnote 3 It is also true that of all the Schumanns’ residencies, Leipzig may have been the most prominent, as has been acknowledged in both their individual and joint biographies. Yet Dresden, too, though in a different way, offered a range of cultural and artistic opportunities, some of which have been discussed in the context of Robert Schumann’s professional career. Among the literature that has rectified the impression of Dresden as a musically underdeveloped city are studies by Klaus Lenk,Footnote 4 Armin GebhardtFootnote 5 and Michael Heinemann,Footnote 6 the latter two of which have provided details not only of Dresden’s rich history in court, church and choral music, but also of its city band (Stadtkapelle), coffee houses, beer gardens, guest houses and private homes that were sites for music. Thomas Synofzik and Hans-Günter Ottenberg’s volume on Schumann in Dresden has offered further perspectives on both Clara’s and Robert’s experiences of the city. Relevant here is Wolfgang Seibold’s chapter, which explores interpersonal relationships between Robert Schumann and three of his Dresden dedicatees: Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, Lida Bendemann and the Saxonian king Friedrich August II.Footnote 7 Clara Schumann, too, was a part of this circle, as demonstrated by Beatrix Borchard’s chapter in the same volume, which scrutinizes the Schumanns’ relationship through a letter from Clara Schumann to Pauline Viardot-Garcia. Reflecting on Clara’s musical, social and private obligations, Borchard concludes that her Dresden years were characterized by an unstable self-perception. The differences in Robert’s and Clara’s aesthetic views on creative and interpretative artistry added to this struggle.Footnote 8
Branching out from these studies, this chapter – which is located at the intersection of biography and reception history – explores Clara and Robert Schumann’s private and semi-private circles in Dresden. During their Dresden residency from 1844 to 1850, taking up the opportunity to mingle with contemporaries from such cities as Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Prague and Vienna, the Schumanns initiated and participated in a number of social gatherings. Prominent among these were spontaneous private visits, meals, soirées, organized musical circles, matinees and trios in their own or friends’ homes; walks and outings in the countryside; sociable visits to restaurants and coffee houses; and public events.Footnote 9 In what follows I propose that all these served the shared purpose, albeit in different forms, of communication about and through music.Footnote 10 By illuminating facets of the Schumanns’ private and semi-public life in Dresden from the perspective of interpersonal communication, this chapter is focused less on the reconstruction of networks and places – a task that has already been tackled by Lenk, Gebhardt and, more recently, Michael Musgrave.Footnote 11 Rather, I offer some ideas as to how Clara and Robert Schumann communicated with their contemporaries through physical meetings, letters, visual components (such as drawings and lines of poetry) in album leaves, and musical material, together with a discussion of how these communications influenced their artistic outlook. In doing so, I probe the boundaries between private, semi-private and public domains, especially as these levels of communication were merged in the Schumanns’ lives.
While most of the studies cited above are based on the Schumanns’ published diaries and letters, the impression of their busy and culturally rich Dresden life is confirmed in the ‘Album Robert und Clara Schumann’.Footnote 12 Comprising a total of 418 items, the album includes autographs, letters, poems, business cards, drawings, engravings, dried flowers and other objects.Footnote 13 Although it is not bound and its content is heterogenic in nature, its purpose matches that of other albums of the time.Footnote 14 A collection of autographs testifying to personal contacts, it gathers memories of Robert and Clara Schumann for themselves and, more importantly, for posterity, a sentiment that is reflected in the inscription on the album’s cover page: ‘To our children for loyal safekeeping / Dresden, 13 June 1845 / Robert Schumann / Clara Schumann’.Footnote 15 Most of the musical autographs are addressed to Clara; many of these originate from her concert trips before the Schumanns’ marriage.Footnote 16 Robert’s contributions to the album consist primarily of letters associated with his editorship of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, together with a selection of musical autographs.Footnote 17 In addition to the ‘Album Robert und Clara Schumann’, the critical editions of the Schumanns’ correspondence and of Clara Schumann’s youth diaries help to shed new light on the Schumanns’ contacts during their time in Dresden.Footnote 18
Clara Schumann had friends in Dresden long before the Schumanns’ residency there. She knew Sophie Kaskel, then Countess von Baudissin; Friedrich Anton and Friederike Serre; Carl Kraegen; and Ernst Carus, all of whom belonged to the Schumanns’ circle during the 1840s.Footnote 19 Litzmann’s claims that Clara Schumann did not always agree with these friends on aesthetic levels are likely to be true.Footnote 20 Yet the conclusion that they had no significant impact on the Schumanns’ Dresden time might be over-hasty: some of these acquaintances did indeed influence the Schumanns’ musical and artistic decisions during this time.Footnote 21 Besides spontaneous visits, the Schumanns got together with their close friends for birthdays, joint Easter and Christmas celebrations, and christenings.Footnote 22 Sometimes, social meals were organized with no special occasion; these were often combined with music-making. Such was the case on 21 October 1849, for which the diary reads: ‘Mr Král from Prague, Ms Sulzer from Vienna, Mrs Jacobi and Tittel for a meal – sang nicely.’Footnote 23 Gebhardt’s comprehensive study of visitors to the Schumanns’ house includes more than 140 people and embraces conductors and choir directors, instrumentalists, instrument makers, poets, painters, composers, members of the aristocracy, music publishers, and critics.Footnote 24 Among them is Eduard Hanslick, whose memoirs of his visit to Schumann in September 1846 offer revealing perspectives on both Dresden and the Schumanns. By way of anecdote, Hanslick recalls conversations about Schumann’s and Wagner’s aversion to each other due to their opposite personalities.Footnote 25 Though many of Hanslick’s memories seem exaggerated, Robert Schumann confirms this impression when he notes on 17 March 1846, after an encounter with Wagner, that the latter ‘is full of depressing thoughts; one cannot listen to him for long’.Footnote 26 Despite their personal differences, there was some kind of artistic exchange between Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner, partly facilitated by private meetings in the Schumanns’ and their friends’ homes. While Hanslick, possibly with one eye to his own readership, focused on Schumann and Wagner, other Dresden relationships were perhaps more significant for both Robert and Clara.Two names feature prominently in the Schumanns’ diaries and correspondence of their years in Dresden:Footnote 27 Eduard Bendemann (1811–1889) and Julius Hübner (1806–1882).Footnote 28 Hübner and Bendemann were both painters, but they shared a strong musical interest with the Schumanns, as Clara noted in a diary entry on 24 October 1847:
In the evening at Bendemanns’, where a small but likeable circle got together. I played a few things. Bendemann is interested especially in Robert’s compositions and tries hard to understand them in their entirety, which makes me very happy; Hübner is also an attentive listener. Thus, the most art-minded people are these non-musicians here, whom I prefer to all Dresden musicians.Footnote 29
The Schumanns attended soirées and matinées hosted not only by the Bendemanns and Hübners, but also by Carus, the Hillers, Lucius, the Schröder-Devrients and the Schuberts.Footnote 30 Special soirées were organized when famous contemporaries travelled through Dresden. For instance, on 11 July 1845, a soirée was held at the Schumanns’ home after a concert performed by Ferdinand David; and Joseph Joachim played at the Schumanns’ in 1850.Footnote 31 When Franz Liszt visited Dresden in June 1848, it was the Hübners, the Bendemanns and Constanze Jacobi whom Clara invited to join their soirée. Liszt arrived late and the evening ended with a hefty argument.Footnote 32 Yet perhaps what is more remarkable is that Bendemann left the room when Liszt performed poorly.Footnote 33 This behaviour supports Clara Schumann’s impression that Bendemann valued music beyond the purpose of entertainment. The dedication of Robert Schumann’s Impromptus (Op. 66) to Lida Bendemann bears further witness to both the musical relationship between the Schumanns and the Bendemanns and the depth of their friendship in general.Footnote 34 Occasionally, Felix Mendelssohn socialized with the Schumann circle when he visited Dresden.Footnote 35 Not only was Mendelssohn’s music performed, but also it was discussed in the writings originating in that context, especially after Mendelssohn’s death. Robert Schumann’s commemorative Erinnerungen an Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and his piano piece ‘Erinnerung (4. Nov. 1847)’ are complemented by three poems penned by Julius Hübner.Footnote 36 According to Boetticher, the first poem, overwritten ‘FMB’, was handed to Robert Schumann sometime in 1848.Footnote 37 On 5 April 1859, Hübner penned a similar version, prefaced as follows:
R. Schumann had composed a small piece ‘Erinnerung an Felix M.’; it had such a moving, softly wistful effect that words came to me involuntarily, which accompanied its sound in my inner self.Footnote 38
Hübner’s first poem about Mendelssohn – together with a further poem in memoriam Robert SchumannFootnote 39 – served as a vehicle through which he communicated his memories of both acquaintances. More generally, these poems reflect the romantic spirit and sentiments of nostalgia that prevailed within this circle, subtly drawing on notions of the inner self and a sense of longing within the context of intellectual exchanges. Not only does the painter Hübner self-identify as a poet here, but he also reiterates his friendly associations with both Mendelssohn and Schumann, thereby pointing to his cross-artistic links.
The Schumann album also includes a farewell gift (dated 21 April 1850) from Julius Hübner to Clara Schumann, one that reveals multiple layers of communication through both music and art.Footnote 40 The Erstlingskomposition (first composition), titled ‘Gern hält das Ohr dem Schmeichler still, die Wahrheit Niemand hören will’ (‘The ear will gladly listen to flatterers, while nobody wants to hear the truth’), makes little sense musically; however, the three-page manuscript invites closer scrutiny on account of its artistry and contextual density.Footnote 41 The visual appearance of the musical text is that of a canon, one of the most popular genres for album sheets and Stammbücher.Footnote 42 The first and second pages include women’s hands, possibly alluding to Clara Schumann’s affinity with the piano (see Figure 1.1).Footnote 43 Some notes in the score are replaced by little angels, and the manuscript as a whole is decorated richly with stars and flowers. The margins feature images of angels and animals with references to music. The inclusion of small angels as part of this fictional composition might allude to Clara Schumann’s private image in Dresden as a loving and graceful acquaintance.
Similar qualities were acknowledged by her students on the occasion of her birthday on 13 September 1848. Thanking her for her patience and pedagogical and musical sensitivity, the students wrote a poem for their teacher, the last four stanzas of which read:Footnote 44
|Doch wie Cäcilia warst Du anzuschauen –|
Die Heilige – es lauschte jedes Ohr,
In mancher Wimper sah ich Zähren thauen
Und in mir drängte sich die Frag’ empor:
Was leg’ ich ihr, der Herrlichen, zu Füßen
Um mit des Dankes Zeichen sie zu grüßen?
|But you looked like Cäcilia –|
The holy [woman] – every ear was listening,
In some lashes I saw tears
And I asked myself:
What do I give her, the glorious [woman]
As a symbol of gratefulness?
|Da sah im Geist ich die entzückte Menge|
Auf Deinem Pfad Dir Blumenopfer streu’n;
Doch sieh, der Blüthen liebliches Gedränge,
Es fügte sich zu goldverschlungnen Reih’n,
Und staunend sah ich sie zu Deinen Füßen
Als reichen Teppich dichtverwoben sprießen!
|I imagined how the grateful crowd|
Would spread flowers on your path;
But look, the flowers
Became a golden line,
And I was astonished to see them
Flower richly at your feet like a rug.
|Und dieser Wunsch – von Allen nachempfunden –|
Ein freudig Echo fand er in dem Ruf:
Den Nachklang all’ der schönen heitren Stunden
Die unvergeßlich Deine Kunst uns schuf,
Dir zur Erinnerung an dein freundlich Walten
Durch ein lebendig Sinnbild festzuhalten.
|And this urge – felt by all –|
Found in this call a happy echo:
The reverberation of all the nice and happy hours
Brought to us unforgettably by your art,
In memory of your friendly guidance
Shall be recorded in a lively image.
|So ward’ zur Wirklichkeit der Traum erhoben;|
Sieh wie die Blumen, die wir Dir geweiht,
Durch unsre Hand dem Teppich eingewoben
Nun unverwerklich blüh’n für späte Zeit!
O nimm sie hin mit Deiner holden Güte –
Der Lieb entsproßen – unsres Dankes Blüthe.
|Thus, the dream became reality;|
Look, how the flowers which we dedicate to you,
Woven by our hands into the rug
Will now forever flower fadelessly!
O accept them with your graceful gentleness –
Sprouted from [our] love – [they are] the flower of our gratefulness.
The poem was signed by forty students and presented alongside a hand-woven rug. The students were members of Robert Schumann’s Chorgesangverein (choral association), for which Clara provided accompanimental support at the piano during their rehearsals.Footnote 45 Gebhardt counts both the members of the Chorgesangverein and Clara’s piano students as part of the Schumanns’ social contacts, an approach that highlights the fact that her relationships with some of these students exceeded the nature of a student–teacher connection.Footnote 46 Marie von Lindemann, for instance, also one of the signatories of the poem above, was a piano student with whom Clara Schumann kept in touch long after her departure from Dresden.Footnote 47
Another layer of interpersonal communication surfaces through poet–composer relationships. For example, Robert’s discussions about a libretto with Robert Reinick led to both an expansion of the social network and aesthetic innovation.Footnote 48 Neither of those realms was restricted to Robert Schumann, as can be seen in Clara’s two songs to poems by Friederike Serre, ‘Beim Abschied’ and ‘Mein Stern’.Footnote 49 The settings were created while Clara – separated from Robert – spent time with Friederike.Footnote 50 That Schumann used an English version of Serre’s ‘Mein Stern’ for album leaves emphasizes the expressive gravity she assigned to Serre’s words.Footnote 51 Sanna Iitti reads the farewell song ‘Beim Abschied’ (the text of which is presented below) through the lens of feminism, female desire, and libidinal movements. Feminine gestures, she suggests, are depicted through the lied’s chromatic, rhythmic and motivic features (see Figure 1.2). On a more general level, Iitti concludes that this song, despite its thoughtful title and lyrics, conjures joyful sentiments and can be interpreted as a portrayal of Clara’s fond memories of both her friendship with Serre and her anticipation of reunion with Robert.Footnote 52 The recurring final two lines in each stanza and the positive textual turn at the end of the poem point to these sentiments: ‘Ach, vielleicht der nächste Morgen / hebet alle, alle Sorgen’ (Ah, perhaps the morrow / Will banish all sorrow.).
Translation of Clara Schumann, ‘Beim Abschied’Footnote 53gatherings which were carefully planned solely for the purpose of musical performance: the musical circles (Kränzchen) in 1845; the matinées in the Schumanns’ home on 7 April, 19 April and in the Cosel’sche Palais on 3 May 1846; and the trios in 1847. Conceived by the Schumanns, the Serres, Friedrich Wieck and the Hillers, the first Kränzchen took place at Wieck’s home on 9 January 1845.Footnote 54 On 23 January 1845, Schumann notes another circle at the Hillers’, at which his own Quintet, compositions by Hiller and songs of Josef Ticháček were played.Footnote 55 The Kränzchen attracted public attention and were reviewed in the music journal Signale für die musikalische Welt:
Ferd. Hiller, Carl Krägen, F. Kummer, C. M. Schubert, Robert Schumann, Tichatschek and Fr. Wieck have initiated in Dresden a musical circle, at which piano chamber music ranging from solo to quintet is featured – of course in a very interesting and masterly way. Unfortunately, due to limited space only few of the Dresden connoisseurs are able to attend.Footnote 56
While this review indicates that the Kränzchen were private and space was limited, the circles’ private status is challenged by the fact that they were reviewed publicly.The boundaries between private and public were similarly blurred at the Schumanns’ matinées, for which attendees received formal invitations, signed jointly by Clara and Robert. Heinrich Brockhaus and his daughter were invited to all three matinées in 1846.Footnote 57 Brockhaus visited the Schumanns on 31 May 1846 – whether or not he was present at one of the matinées before that date is unknown.Footnote 58 The Schumanns were so popular that some people requested an invitation to their matinées. One such approach was made by Hermann Theobald Petschke on 7 December 1844:
I take the liberty to request from you an invitation to your musical matinée for my brother, the advocate Petschke and for Mr and Mrs Erkel. All three people are very musical and admire your compositions.Footnote 59
It seems that these events, owing to their size, fostered types of communication less intimate in nature than the spontaneous occasions with the Bendemanns, Hübners and Serres. In relation to the first matinée, on 7 April 1846, Robert Schumann wrote:
At the matinée yesterday Hofrath Hans from Jena (Rietschel’s father-in-law) also came. I liked everything he said, he also reminds me of a courtly man. Many excellent people were at ours: the Austrian minister Kuefstein with his wife, Countess O’Donnell (the same to whom Goethe dedicated some poems) with her lovely daughter; also R. Wagner was there, who is usually missing everywhere where there is music. Dr Frege sang some of my songs, as beautifully as I have never heard them before; she moved everyone.Footnote 60
This account suggests that the establishment of a public image through music was prioritized over artistic innovation and deep conversation, although this is not to say that the latter could not be facilitated among individual visitors of the matinées. Perhaps it reflects the Schumanns’ efforts to establish a musical culture for themselves and their wider circles. The second and third matinées are not covered in a detailed way in the diaries. For the second one, Robert Schumann notes ‘the duets’ (die Duetten); for the third, he mentions ‘the quintet’.Footnote 61
Among initiatives taken by the Schumanns in 1847 were the trios, in which Clara performed alongside the violinist Franz and the cellist Friedrich Schubert. The first trio took place on 27 October 1847.Footnote 62 The trios’ repertoire – including works by a wide range of composers – blurred the boundaries between the ‘great masters’ Bach and Beethoven; well-known contemporaries such as Chopin, Löwe, Mendelssohn, Molique and Spohr; and lesser-known compositions by the Schumann’s violinist friend Franz Schubert.Footnote 63 A further type of semi-private gathering was the club or piano salon, both of which, however, only surface in the diaries once and most likely only applied to Robert Schumann.Footnote 64
Just as gatherings in the home afforded opportunities for musical performance, so too did the Schumanns’ trips to the countryside, particularly those that were linked with the Chorgesangverein. For instance, on 20 August 1848, Clara Schumann asked a ‘Herr Doktor’ (possibly August Otto Krug) whether he would join a trip to Pillnitz and whether he might have the individual parts for his vocal quartets, as they wished to sing some of them during the trip.Footnote 65 Gebhardt reconstructs further trips with the Chorgesangverein also to Kreischa (on 24 June 1849) and Meißen (on 28 July 1850).Footnote 66 Additionally, the Schumanns’ involvement in public events contributed to their social life – as a theme in private conversation, a professional activity or a pastime. These events included performances of their own Chorgesangverein, the subscription concerts, charity events, concerts in and outside of Dresden, festivals and anniversaries (among them the Goethe- and Schillerfeste and the celebrations on the occasion of the anniversary of the Chorgesangverein).Footnote 67 Some of Robert Schumann’s music was rehearsed within private circles before it was performed in public, and Clara Schumann played her husband’s pieces in both contexts.Footnote 68
The Schumanns’ contacts during their Dresden residency were not confined to people residing in or around Dresden. As much as the Schumanns received many visitors from outside of Dresden, they also travelled. Gerd Nauhaus highlighted this point when including Clara’s concerts in Leipzig and the concert tour to Vienna via Brno and Prague in 1846/47 in his study of the Schumanns’ public musical appearance in Dresden.Footnote 69 Wolfgang Boetticher and Renate Federhofer-Königs have shown from different perspectives that the Schumanns had a large professional network in Vienna, also including many private contacts.Footnote 70 The Schumanns’ own farewell matinée (Abschiedsmatinée) on 15 January 1847 testifies to this vibrant private musical life.Footnote 71 During the stay in Vienna, Clara Schumann also received an autograph in the hand of Antonio Salieri, whose originality was verified on the autograph sheet by Alois Fuchs, a member of the court chapel in Vienna.Footnote 72
The literature on the Schumanns’ relationship with their Prague contemporaries is scarcer.Footnote 73 En route to Vienna, the Schumanns stopped in Prague on 25 November 1846, where they met with Kurrer, the music publisher Hoffmann, and Kittl.Footnote 74 Returning from Vienna, they again passed through Brno and stayed in Prague from 24 January to 3 February 1847. This time, they met with Ambros, Emminger, Glaser, Grund, Gutt, Hellwinger, Hoffmann, Kittl, Kreutzberg, Kurrer, Mildner, Count Nostitz, Pitsch, Polak, Rath, Countess Schlik, Škroup, Countess Thun, Träpp, Tomášek, Veit, Count Windischgrätz and Zdekauer.Footnote 75 This list suggests that the Schumanns had a tight professional private network in Prague – an impression supported by the fact that both Clara and Schumann signed the album of Countess Schlik during their stay in Prague in 1847.Footnote 76 Some Prague acquaintances even visited the Schumanns in Dresden.Footnote 77 An album leaf to an unknown person, created by Clara Schumann and dated Prague, 5 April 1865, supports the idea that her visits to Prague exceeded the purpose of concert-giving and included some kinds of private communication.Footnote 78 However, the extent and nature of these private contacts is not entirely clear.
What emerges from the range of sources and interpersonal communications studied in this chapter is the impression of the active role that Clara Schumann took in the Schumanns’ joint musical life in Dresden. Some of their friends were part of her networks before the Schumanns’ relocation there, and during their residency she actively fostered musical relationships by socializing, issuing invitations and performing spontaneously or in organized settings. In Dresden, as we have seen, the Schumanns mingled with musical professionals and amateurs as well as painters, writers and other cultural protagonists. Clara Schumann played a central role (both musically and socially) in promoting this cross-artistic exchange. Despite her many private musical endeavours, Schumann maintained a busy public performance schedule during the Dresden years, while also tutoring a number of piano students and assisting Robert with the Chorgesangverein (among other commitments). All these musical activities shaped the way the Schumanns communicated with each other, with friends, acquaintances and the public. At the same time, the Schumanns’ social life in Dresden had an impact on their private and public image: both domains were merged.
The aspect of communication does not stop with the examination of private and semi-public networks. Rather, it also embraces compositions and such extra-musical traits as dedications and poetry. Creative output – published and unpublished; complete or incomplete – can yield new insights into interpersonal communication and networks as a whole. While the Schumanns’ private circles inspired compositional outputs, programming decisions and aesthetic ideas, at the same time creative outputs also enriched, deepened and cemented interpersonal relationships. Although this chapter has focused on Clara and Robert Schumann in Dresden, it is my hope that the excursion into interpersonal relationships between the Schumanns and their Prague contemporaries will initiate further research within this realm, adding another layer to our understanding of the Schumanns’ cultural life during the 1840s and beyond.