Clara Josephine Wieck Schumann.

Born in Leipzig, Germany on September 13, 1819, and died in Frankfurt on May 20, 1896.

A German pianist and composer, and the wife of composer Robert Schumann. Generally considered the most important classical pianist of the 19th century, and respected as a gifted virtuoso and one of the most important women in music history.

She gave her first public appearance at age nine, and her first complete recital at age eleven. Her childhood was unhappy, because her father had been determined to make her into the successful prodigy that she became; she never got to read or play or be a child.

Robert Schumann asked for her hand when she was seventeen, and despite her father's objection they were wedded a few years later, on the day before her 21st birthday.

Clara Schumann, mother of eight. Her children were Marie, Elise, Julie, Emil, Ludwig, Ferdinand, Eugenie, and Felix.

She and her husband were very close; they wrote poetry for each other and stuck together even through Robert Schumann's suicide attempt, manic depression, and psychosis. Clara was the premier interpreter of her husband's works, and she also played much of Johannes Brahms, who was a dear friend to the Schumanns and especially to Clara. It is known that Brahms was in love with her, and she may have been attracted to him as well, though it isn't known if they ever had an affair.

She was of the classical school of piano playing, the conservative school, in contrast to the new innovations being pioneered most notably by the legendary Franz Liszt. Clara had a nearly pathological aversion to Liszt, refusing to play at the Mozart festival in Vienna in 1856 because Liszt was the conductor; neither would she appear at the unveiling of the memorial for her own late husband at his birthplace, just because Liszt was there. Her playing was characterized by technical precision and attention to properly representing the composer's markings. She was not as masterful as Liszt or Mendelssohn or Thalberg, but she was more interested in musicality than just virtuosity. And she was good enough, that's for sure.

She was said by George Bernard Shaw to be a "nobly beautiful and poetic player," and other firsthand accounts describe the rich, deep, beautiful tone she could produce from a piano.

Her overall importance lies in her popularization of the compositions of her husband Robert Schumann and dear friend Johannes Brahms, and her role as perhaps the most famous female musician.

Clara Schumann's portrait was perhaps (for some times) better known to Germans than that of any other woman, due to the fact that it was printed on the front side of the 100DM banknote of the set used all over Germany since 1990. The backside showed her instrument, the piano. Unfortunately (from an aesthetic point of view), these notes were superseded on January 1st, 2002 by the comparatively bland Euro notes.

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