A brilliant inventive pianist, teacher and composer, she is credited with inventing the idea of music concerts. (Rolling Stones be grateful). Through her performances she supported her family.
A prodigy trained by her parents and predominantly her father, she made her first public appearance when she was nine. Her talent captured the eye of Robert Schumann who applied to study with her father, and lived with the family for a year.
Eventually a romance developed between Robert and Clara, despite Robert being nine years older. They married in 1840 after a contentious court battle with Clara's father, Friedrich Wieck. Together the couple collaborated on their music, as their family grew.
She had eight children.
Her husband Robert suffered a mental breakdown and spent the last two years of his life in an asylum. Accounts either say that Clara didn’t visit him or that she wasn’t allowed by the doctors to visit him. Syphilis was suggested, or maybe manic depression, or maybe schizophrenia.
Accounts either describe Clara touring Europe in order to support her large family, or mean and neglectful Clara handing off her motherhood role to her oldest daughter and servants.
And then there’s Brahms (1833-97) who sought out Robert and asked to study with him. He and Clara were thrilled with this talented young man, who soon became a dear family friend. There's an account of him balancing on a stair rail to entertain the kids.
When Robert became ill Brahms was an enormous help to Clara.
Actually he loved Clara at least as much if not more than he loved Robert.
Over the years they travelled together, wrote each other constantly, and at one point went away to Switzerland to talk about marrying, but they never did. Brahms died a year after Clara.
So, Clara – for talent, tirelessness, loyalty, and holy smoke – eight children!
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