Just some random thoughts on the Schumanns, Brahms, and women composers

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What ifs

Robert and Clara Schumann, possibly one of the most prominent couples in the history of music.

What are they famous for? For both of them being (rather) leading figures of their time, for their endearing love story, but most importantly, for their foremost importance in introducing Brahms to the music world.

Can you imagine if Robert never met Clara? There would then be none of his sweet tender works, such as his Lieder, nor the Kinderszenen.

Can you imagine if Clara never met Robert? She might still have been a brilliant pianist, but there would not have been the 3 Romanzen for the violin and piano, said to be inspired by his birthday.

But really, the point I want to get to is this.

Can you imagine if Clara and Schumann never met each other, hence there were no Schumanns who met Joseph Joachim. There was hence no possibilty of Joachim introducing Brahms to the Schumanns, and hence, Brahm...



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What ifs

Robert and Clara Schumann, possibly one of the most prominent couples in the history of music.

What are they famous for? For both of them being (rather) leading figures of their time, for their endearing love story, but most importantly, for their foremost importance in introducing Brahms to the music world.

Can you imagine if Robert never met Clara? There would then be none of his sweet tender works, such as his Lieder, nor the Kinderszenen.

Can you imagine if Clara never met Robert? She might still have been a brilliant pianist, but there would not have been the 3 Romanzen for the violin and piano, said to be inspired by his birthday.

But really, the point I want to get to is this.

Can you imagine if Clara and Schumann never met each other, hence there were no Schumanns who met Joseph Joachim. There was hence no possibilty of Joachim introducing Brahms to the Schumanns, and hence, Brahms never met the Schumanns?

If any of this chain of events didn't occur, we might never have had Brahms in our world.

Or, even though Clara and Robert never met, Robert did go on to meet Joachim, who then introduced Brahms to Robert and Robert alone. Hence, Brahms met Robert Schumann, but not Clara Schumann.

Therefore, while Robert did go on to promote Brahms and we did come to know of Brahms the great composer, Johannes' works would not have been the same, without his love for Clara.

For that, I am thankful to the world of coincidences (not really coincidences, but well, let's say the possiblity of things happening), and glad none of this what ifs happened.


Women composers

Clara is not the first woman who attempted to compose. In fact, Mendelssohn's sister, Fanny, who some think to be, in fact, better than her brother, had composed before Clara. Yet Fanny's father's reaction to her composing, was

Music will perhaps become his [i.e. Felix's] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament.

And even though Felix Mendelssohn was supposedly supportive of her composing career, he wrote that

From my knowledge of Fanny I should say that she has neither inclination nor vocation for authorship. She is too much all that a woman ought to be for this. She regulates her house, and neither thinks of the public nor of the musical world, nor even of music at all, until her first duties are fulfilled. Publishing would only disturb her in these, and I cannot say that I approve of it.

Hence Clara, who was born fourteen years after Fanny, was living in such a time where a woman was not encouaged to compose, as it gets in the way of them fulfilling their womanly duties. And despite the fact that Clara was born in a musical family and her father, who was a music educator himself, paid immense attention to Clara's musical education and made sure she was given composition lessons, Clara herself had written,

I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?

And with her piano performing career, and the heavy duty of raising her children as a mother, and wife of a man, she was too occupied to compose much. Robert himself had made such observation and expressed his regrets over it:

Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But to have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing. She cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost because she cannot work them out.

This Collection of works

I understand completely the points made by the other reviews, how these works are only listened to today, because of the name "Schumann". Because Clara married Robert. Many of the works in this collection are indeed only 小品.

However there are some works that I really enjoyed. And some works really showcased Clara's brilliant technique as one of the most distinguished performing pianists of her time. One can also see the influence Robert and Clara had on each other, in the evolving styles of their works.

To me, the works that I loved the most, are all so full of feelings, love, yearning. Who says a woman's only responsibilty and duty in life is household chores and raising kids? A woman has her own emotions and desire, and some women have the gifts to express these with music.

Throughout the history of time, women had faced so many obstacles to be who they want to be, to embrace their talents and freely express themselves as they wanted to. And how glad we are to be living in such an age where a woman's works can now be fully appreciated. To that, I salute everyone who had made the world what it is now, and we must never forget how hard the women before us had struggled in their times, and still were applauded for what they did. For that, I will always listen to Clara Schumann.

(My favourite works in this collection: Romance in B Minor, Romance in A minior, Nocturne in F Major Op.6 No.2, Ballade in D minor Op.6 No.4, Romance in A-Flat Major Op.11 No.3, Impromptu in G Major Op.9, Vlases romantiques Op.4, Variation Op.8, Pieces fugitives Op.15 No.3, Romance in G minor Op. 21 No.3.)

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