Giving voice to a woman’s life and loves
through song, images and narrative
Hailed as the “Queen of the piano”, the young pianist and composer, Clara Wieck dazzled 19th century European audiences with her virtuosic, yet delicate and highly musical piano performances. In 1837, aged only 18, she was made a Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuoso by the Emperor of Austria and, perhaps more importantly, she was so popular in Vienna that a cake was named after her, ‘Torte á la Wieck’.
After her legendary marriage in 1840 to creative genius, Robert Schumann, her composing slowly began to take a back seat as she put her energies into being a wife, mother to eight children, pianist, teacher and editor. After Robert’s death, she became the breadwinner for the family with a punishing schedule of performing which spanned over 35 years. Social pressure undoubtedly played a part in her demise as a composer. It was not seen fit for a woman to compose, summed up in this review of her opus 15 pieces, in which the reviewer intimated that “the female sex is more suited to imitation than to original creativity in the artistic realm”. This attitude became her reality as she herself wrote in her diary, “I once believed that I had creative talent, but I have given up this idea. A woman must not wish to compose—there never was one able to do it.”
Nevertheless, Clara left us with a body of compositions, which, albeit small, are now deservedly becoming better known and can stand proudly alongside those of her famous contemporaries.
Her story is told in Art Sung – Clara Schumann. At the heart of this dramatized recital are her songs, alongside works by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, Liszt and, of course, her husband, Robert. The visual material has been mainly inspired by flowers collected and pressed by Clara and which were of great significance to her. These will be interwoven with letters, diary entries, newspapers clippings and artwork from the German Romantic movement to create a video which, together with the Lieder, will give voice to Clara Schumann’s extraordinary life.