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Clara Schumann: Changing Identities and Legacies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 May 2023

Joe Davies*
Maynooth University, Maynooth
Nicole Grimes*
University of California, Irvine


In the course of the last two hundred years, different facets of Clara Schumann's artistic, creative and performative persona have been highlighted and different narratives have been produced. As the articles to follow demonstrate, these facets include Clara Schumann as a performer, an improviser, a virtuoso, a priestess, a prophetess, a celebrity, a composer and a curator of flowers and photographs. The Introduction and four research articles in this issue devoted to Schumann suggest in multifaceted ways that her creative identities and legacies are open to new ways of being contextualized in both historical and contemporary contexts. This journal issue initiates important conversations and provides some constructive starting points for considering the nature of Clara Schumann's identities and their legacies, and for pondering how Clara Schumann can help us to think afresh about identity and legacy as concepts.

Grappling with a range of sources in both German and English, this Introduction to the issue embraces the fluid intersections in Clara Schumann's creative world between the visual and the tactile, the sonic and the corporeal. It explores the changing images of Schumann from her lifetime to the present day and reconsiders her creativity from our current perspective.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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1 Stefaniak, Alexander, ‘Clara Schumann and the Imagined Revelation of Musical Works’, Music & Letters 99/2 (2018): 194–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Stefaniak, Becoming Clara Schumann: Performance Strategies and Aesthetics in the Culture of the Musical Canon (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2021).

2 See Prince, April, ‘(Re)considering the Priestess: Clara Schumann, Historiography, and the Visual’, Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 21 (2017): 107–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 Lalonde, Amanda, ‘The Young Prophetess in Performance’, in Clara Schumann Studies, ed. Davies, Joe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021): 188Google Scholar. Further on Schumann's improvisatory practices, see Goertzen, Valerie Woodring, ‘Clara Wieck Schumann's Improvisations and Her “Mosaics” of Small Forms’, in Beyond Notes: Improvisation in Western Music of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, ed. Rasch, Rudolph (Lucca: Brepols, 2011): 153–62Google Scholar; and Goertzen, Woodring, ‘Setting the Stage: Clara Schumann's Preludes’, in In the Course of Performance: Studies in the World of Musical Improvisation, ed. Nettl, Bruno and Russell, Melinda (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998): 237–60Google Scholar.

4 Lalonde, ‘The Young Prophetess in Performance’, 188.

5 Stefaniak, Alexander, ‘Clara Schumann's Interiorities and the Cutting Edge of Popular Pianism’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 70/3 (2017): 697–765CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 For wider discussion of Schumann's pianism vis-à-vis nineteenth-century musical practices, see Joe Davies, ‘Clara Schumann, Joseph Joachim, and the Nineteenth-Century Cadenza’, in Joseph Joachims Identitäten, ed. Katharina Uhde and Michael Uhde (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, forthcoming); Loges, Natasha, ‘From Miscellanies to Musical Works: Julius Stockhausen, Clara Schumann, and Dichterliebe’, in German Song Onstage: Lieder Performance in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, ed. Loges, Natasha and Tunbridge, Laura (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2020): 70–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Loges, ‘Julius Stockhausen's Early Performances of Franz Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin’, 19th-Century Music 41/3 (2018): 206–24; and Ludim R. Pedroza, ‘Music as Communitas: Franz Liszt, Clara Schumann, and the Musical Work’, Journal of Musicological Research 29 (2010): 295–321.

7 On the subject of authorship as it relates individually and/or collectively to Clara and Robert Schumann, see Taylor, Benedict, ‘“Du meine Seele, du mein Herz”: Self, Other, and Hermaphroditic Union in the Music of Robert (and Clara) Schumann’, Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie 18/2 (2021)Google Scholar:; Roe-Min Kok, ‘Clara: Robert's Posthumous Androgyne’, in Clara Schumann Studies, 223–45; Boyd, Melina, ‘Gendered Voices: The Liebesfrühling Lieder of Robert and Clara Schumann’, 19th-Century Music 23/2 (1999): 145–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Hallmark, Rufus, ‘The Rückert Lieder of Robert and Clara Schumann’, in Of Poetry and Song: Approaches to the Nineteenth-Century Lied, ed. Thym, Jürgen (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2010): 335–74Google Scholar. On issues of gender and authorship in German culture, see Deiulio, Laura and Lyon, John B., eds, Gender, Collaboration and Authorship in German Culture: Literary Joint Ventures, 1750–1850 (London: Bloomsbury, 2019)Google Scholar; Head, Matthew, Sovereign Feminine: Music and Gender in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013)Google Scholar.

8 See Nancy B. Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985, rev. 2001); Reich, ‘The Correspondence between Clara Wieck Schumann and Felix and Paul Mendelssohn’, in Schumann and his World, ed. R. Larry Todd (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994): 205–32; Reich, ‘Women as Musicians: A Question of Class’, in Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship, ed. Ruth Solie (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993): 125–46; ‘Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms’, in Brahms and His World, ed. Walter Frisch (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990): 37–47; and Reich and Burton, Anna, ‘Clara Schumann: Old Sources, New Readings’, Musical Quarterly 70 (1984): 332–54Google Scholar.

9 See Borchard, Beatrix, Clara Schumann: Ihr Leben (Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1991)Google Scholar; Borchard, Clara Schumann: Ihr Leben. Eine biographische Montage (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2015); and Klassen, Janina, Clara Schumann: Musik und Öffentlichkeit (Cologne: Böhlau, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

10 Beatrix Borchard, Clara Schumann – Musik als Lebensform – Neue Quellen – Andere Schreibweisen (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2019); Irmgard Knechtges-Obrecht, Clara Schumann: Ein Leben für die Musik (Darmstadt: wbg THEISS, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2019).

11 An important project in this area is the Schumann Briefedition, ed. Thomas Synofzik et al., Robert-Schumann-Haus, Zwickau, und dem Institut für Musikwissenschaft der Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber, Dresden; see See also Gerd Nauhaus, ed., The Marriage Diaries of Robert and Clara Schumann: From their Wedding Day to the Russia Trip, trans. Peter Ostwald (Northeastern University Press, 1993); and Berthold Litzmann, Clara Schumann: An Artist's Life, Based on Material Found in Diaries and Letters, trans. Grace E. Hadow, 2 vols (London: Macmillan, 1913, rev. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

12 Laura Hamer, ‘Preface’, in The Cambridge Companion to Women in Music Since 1900, ed. Laura Hamer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021): xxi–xxix.

13 Hamer, ‘Preface’, xxiii.

14 Borchard, ‘Von Robert zu Clara Schumann und zurück?’ Schumann Studien 9, ed. Ute Bär (Sinzig: Studio Verlag, 2008): 81–96 at 81.

15 On recent approaches to biography in nineteenth-century musical culture see the special issue, ‘Music and Biography’, ed. Joanne Cormac, 19th-Century Music 44/2 (2020), esp. Paul Watt, ‘Marie Lloyd (1870–1922) and Biographical Constructions of the Nineteenth-Century Female Superstar’, 119–130.

16 On Schumann's letters, and ideas of self-representation, see (among others) Beatrix Borchard, ‘Clara Schumann in Dresden – Briefe. Tagebücher: Lektüren’, in Schumann und Dresden, ed. Thomas Synofzik and Hans-Günter Ottenberg (Cologne: Dohr, 2010): 47–64; and Reich, Nancy, ‘The Diaries of Fanny Hensel and Clara Schumann: A Study in Contrasts’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review 4/2 (2007): 21–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 See Joe Davies and Roe-Min Kok, eds, Clara and Robert Schumann in Context (Cambrdige: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), for further exploration of the complexities surrounding their personal and creative relationship.

18 Such is the case in the context of Schumann's American reception, where she was, as Jonathan Kregor shows, portrayed as a ‘symbolic figure who not only appealed to America's nascent celebrity culture, but who could also be invoked to shape important aesthetic social and artistic issues’. Kregor, ‘Clara Schumann, “Clara Schumann” and the American Press’, in Clara Schumann Studies, 246–70. For more on this topic, see Reich, Nancy, ‘Clara Schumann and America’, in Clara Schumann: Komponistin, Interpretin, Unternehmerin, Ikone, ed. Ackermann, Peter and Schneider, Herbert (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1999): 195–203Google Scholar.

19 For more on this approach of ‘constellations’, wherein there will always be gaps, see Borchard, Clara Schumann – Musik als Lebensform, 29, 75; and Natasha Loges, ‘Clara Schumann's Legacy as a Teacher’, in Clara Schumann Studies, 272.

20 Romantic Music of Robert, Clara, and Johannes, Lorna Griffitt, piano, and Haroutune Bedelian, violin, Centaur Records CRC3948 (2022).

21 Quoted in Reich, Clara Schumann, 216.