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Clara Schumann's Compositions Reviewed by Her Husband

The age in which Clara Schumann lived was not propitious for the woman composer. What George Bernard Shaw is pleased to call "middle-class morality" was rampant, and the woman who dared do anything but cook and sew and gossip about her neighbors was regarded as a new-fangled and suspicious character. In proof of this we have Mendelssohn's prudish objections to the appearance in print of his sister Fanny's compositions, with the result that many of the Songs Without Words published under his name are really her work.
 
Robert Schumann, philosopher-musician that he was, had no such respect for conventions. He boldly married a woman- pianist in spite of her father's opposition, and actually encouraged her to write music despite the fact that she was active as a virtuoso pianist and teacher, and despite the fact that during fourteen years of their married life she bore him eight children, all but one of whom survived him. "In the Book of Projects" (in which since December, 1840, Schumann had been in the habit of making entries of various kinds concerning his artistic life and work), Berthold Litzmann tells us in his Clara Schumann "the list of 'Leipsic composers,' which begins with Mendelssohn, contains the name of Clara Schumann. Anyone knowing Schumann must know that this is no mere bridal compliment. He places her here solely on account of the actual worth of her talent, a worth which he certainly did not overestimate, though he refused to allow it to be under-estimated or suppressed, but which he considered it his duty to foster, although in this matter, as in her playing, he was forced to resign himself to a certain degree of helplessness in the face of external circumstances. 'Clara,' he writes in February, 1843 (during her visit to Dresden), 'has written a number of smaller pieces, which show a musicianship and tenderness of invention such as she has never before attained. But children and a husband who is always living in the realms of imagination do not go well with composition. She cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many tender ideas are lost because she cannot work them out.'
 
"But he never ceased to stimulate and encourage her; stimulating her indeed until he enticed her into following his own path with him. It was, therefore, quite natural that on Christmas Eve, 1840, Clara's gift to him consisted of three songs which 'with the utmost modesty' she had dedicated to her beloved Robert."

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