Muses: Clara and Robert Schumann ... and Brahms



She was an eight-year-old Wunderkind; he was an aspiring composer in his teens who saw her at a concert and so admired her playing that he sought piano lessons from her father. When Clara turned 18, Robert Schumann asked Herr Wieck for his daughter’s hand in marriage, but he was vehemently opposed to the union: so began years of agonizing separation and tender correspondence, with many sheets of manuscript exchanged, including some of Schumann’s most affecting Lieder and piano miniatures. He wrote to his yearned-for beloved, “You appear in the Novelletten in every possible circumstance, in every irresistible form... They could only be written by one who knows such eyes as yours and has touched such lips as yours.”



The lovers eventually took Clara’s domineering father to court after he threatened to disinherit her and confiscate her concert earnings. They won love’s battle and were at last married in 1840, the day before her 21st birthday. In celebration of their joyous union, Robert presented his bride with the song cycle Myrthen as a wedding gift – a bouquet or “myrtle of flowers”. He also gave her a marriage diary, in which the couple wrote regular entries for four years (often about their sex life). They settled into a routine: while Robert spent most of his time composing, Clara managed to give concerts and compose a thing or two herself in between running the household and wrangling eight children. 



Brahms

Add caption
One of the most frustrated love triangles in Romantic music was formed when Clara began to champion the music of the young composer Johannes Brahms – like her, a piano phenomenon. He quickly became a great friend of the Schumann family. When Robert’s mental health deteriorated, leading to his institutionalization and untimely death in 1856, Brahms moved in with his older mentor Clara to help look after her children while she coped with the loss of her husband.

Brahms, who was mentored by composer Robert Schumann,  launched himself into an extended period of work on his First Symphony shortly after declaring his love for Schumann’s wife Clara. A letter survives in which he declared, “I can do nothing but think of you … What have you done to me? Can’t you remove the spell you have cast over me?

So, did they or didn’t they? Schumann’s biographers frown at the suggestion. But this is the story that Brahm’s letters tell; they start formally “Honored Lady”, a bit later; “Cherished Friend”; finally “Most Adored Being- Every day I greet and kiss you 1000 times” or “Please go on loving me as I go on loving you always and forever”. Living under one roof in Dusseldorf for several months and hiking together along the Rhine valley. Platonic? If you wish. In later life Brahms, secretive and aware of posterity, threw into the Rhine a bundle of Clara’s letters. Platonic correspondence? If you wish. And Clara writes her children, protesting her innocence “I can truly say, my children, that I have never loved a friend as I loved him…( his role during the crisis…) Believe all that I, your mother, told you and do not heed those petty and envious souls who grudge him my love and friendship, trying to bring up for question our relationship, which they neither understand nor ever could.”  Brahms never married and as Clara was lying, crippled with stroke, waiting for the end, he was finishing his 4 Serious Songs “O death how welcome is thy call”. He almost missed the funeral and as he watched Clara being lowered into the grave, where 40 years earlier he had watched Robert being placed, he lost his composure and was sobbing behind the bushes. A few months later he died as a result of a chill he caught while trying to arrive for Clara’s funeral in time.

Piano Quartets in E flat minor, Opus 47 (Robert Schumann) G minor, Opus 25 (Johannes Brahms) were both premiered with the participation of Clara Schumann, guiding muse and one of the most distinguished pianists of the day.




Source: Limelight Magazine.com


Fascinating Stories Behind Classical Music Compositions

Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony



Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (sometimes identified as No. 7) really is unfinished. A symphony traditionally has four movements; Schubert completed two movements but then abandoned the project for reasons that are not clear. However, he did sketch a third movement. Various composers have “completed” the symphony based on that sketch, and their interpretation of the first two movements, but for all intents and purposes, Symphony No. 8 remains truly unfinished.


Dvorak’s 9th Symphony



This beloved symphony is better known as “From the New World” or “New World” because the famed Czech composer from Bohemia composed this masterpiece in 1893, while he was staying in America. However, the nickname is somewhat misleading, because while he composed it in America (a.k.a. the New World), it’s not an exclusively American symphony. While American Indian and black American themes inspired the symphony, it has as much, if not more, influences from his native Bohemia. Leonard Bernstein said it best when he described the 9th as “multinational.”


Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man



During World War II, the conductor of the Cincinnati Orchestra asked Aaron Copland to create a fanfare to be used to introduce concerts. The conductor had suggested a salute to the common soldier, after similar pieces created by English composers during the First World War, but Copland, instead, sought to make a salute to the Four Freedoms (freedom from fear, want, religion and speech & expression). Finally, he settled on making a salute to the common man. At the orchestra leader’s suggestion, it premiered during income tax season in 1943. Copland later turned the Fanfare into the theme for the fourth movement of his Third Symphony. The now-familiar Fanfare can be heard at rock concerts, the Olympics and political campaign events.



Mendelssohn’s Wedding March



Sometimes, it’s hard to fathom that tunes such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Happy Birthday” were actually composed. Even the “wha-wha-waaaah” played on the trumpet was composed! Such is the case with Felix Mendelssohn’s wedding march, part of his incidental music for his A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Most people would recognize this march as the music played for a newly-married couple’s recessional.


Handel’s Water Music & Royal Fireworks Suites



Georges Frederic Handel composed three suites to accompany England’s George I, as he and his companions sailed on the Thames River. Handel premiered his compositions in 1717, and, supposedly, the king loved the pieces so much that he had the 50 musicians play them continuously for hours. (That had to hurt.) Thirty years later, Handel composed the Royal Fireworks Suite at the behest of the court of George II, to promote the unpopular treaty ending the War of Spanish Succession. Humorously, during the first official performance of the Fireworks Suite, an elaborate stage built for the show caught fire.

Reposted from Listverse.com