As we continue our journey and exploration of musical evolution from the Romantic Era through the Modern Era, we will make a slight pit stop and review one of music’s “Power Couple’s” of the Romantic Era, Robert and Clara Schumann.
In more modern times, musical couples have been more common, from Yoko Ono and John Lennon to Beyonce and Jay-Z. But in the 19th Century musical landscape, it was more of a rarity for such unions to exist successfully. First and foremost is the fact that historically women have been viewed in a secondary role compared to their men counterparts. This exists even today, just ask the United State’s Women’s soccer team! Women have always faced an unfortunate bias in terms of playing a secondary role to men in society, whether it’s politically or socially. This is a point that was also elaborated on in an article written by a Rose (last name withheld) for the online magazine Autostraddle (http://www.autostraddle.com/ladies-of-note-a-brief-history-of-women-composers-queer-and-otherwise-141391/) in July of 2013. In the article Rose states that “just about every field of art tends to diminish the accomplishments of women, but especially classical music, since most of it that outsiders pay attention to was made in a time when women’s roles in the arts were limited.”
But during the Romantic Era, Clara Schumann found a way to distinguish herself in a male dominated world. Both Clara and Robert were trained by Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck. Robert was a masterful composer and was on his way to be a virtuoso pianist until an injury to his arm forced him away from that path. But as a composer, Robert was genius, with compositions such as Carnaval to strengthen his stature. Clara was a child prodigy from the beginning under her father’s watchful eye. She made her formal debut at the age of 11 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus.
Robert and Clara married in 1840 despite the condemnation of the union by Clara’s father. From 1840 to 1856, when Robert passed away, Clara took a bit of a back seat in order to raise the couple’s eight children. When Robert passed away, Clara’s musical journey took off. She devoted the next 40 years of her life to music (including the memory of her husband) and became one of the world’s most renowned performers.
It’s hard to imagine the connection between the Schumann’s and Beyonce and Jay-Z, but there are definitely some parallels to be drawn.