notes from the past: the letters between robert and clara

robertclaraschumann“I’ve just received some letters from Vienna regarding Liszt. He caused a stir as Vienna has never known. He is truly an artist whom one must see and hear for oneself. I regret that you won’t meet him because you two would really get along well. He likes you very much. He ranks your compositions far above Henselt’s, above everything that he knows in our time. I played your Carnaval for him (I also played it for Ms. Cavalcabo); he’s delighted with it. ‘He’s a genius,’ he said; ‘that’s one of the greatest works I know.’ You can imagine my joy.”

“Once again I survived playing at the theater. The applause was as usual, but my playing seemed so bland and so–I don’t know how to put it–that I almost lost interest in continuing with my tour. Ever since I heard and saw Liszt’s bravura, I feel like a beginner. Maybe my courage will return again–I hope it’s just a passing melancholy which I often have. I know it’s not right to be so dissatisfied, but I can’t help it. The only thought that can cheer me is to live as an amateur pianist later, to give a few lessons, and not to play in public anymore. You’ll always love me, my Robert, won’t you?”

– Clara Wieck, to Robert Schumann, April 1838

Source: The Complete Correspondence of Clara and Robert Schumann, edited by Eva Weissweiler (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1994).

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happy birthday, martha


The video that made me realize how incredible this lady is.

The hair. The humor. The no-nonsense attitude. Above all, the unflinching artistry. Happy birthday, Martha!

“I think interpretation is trying to liberate what one is unconscious about. When one can let go some things one doesn’t know are there – the unexpected things and the surprises in the performance – that’s when its worthwhile. This is also what I appreciate in other performers. When they are masters of their means of expression, this does not exactly interest me. That interests me in a teacher, but in a performer I am interested in what happens behind or in spite of the things the performer consciously wants to do. Maybe I am a little bit of a voyeur, you know, that way. But this is what I love.”
– Martha Argerich, in a 1979 interview

notes from the past: the letters between robert and clara

robertclaraschumann“One might think you were very pale or even somewhat sickly, based on the painting [of you]. You aren’t, are you? But as I said, I’d like you to put on some weight, and I want to tell you how to do that–you have to be very cheerful, drink an occasional glass of Bavarian beer, and you must not play anything by Bellini and Chopin, and only amusing and funny pieces by your beloved. By the way, remain just as you are if you want (I already wrote you that)–you please me, truly you do–I imagine my future wife to be just like you–do you hear?” – Robert Schumann, to Clara Wieck, April 1838

Source: The Complete Correspondence of Clara and Robert Schumann, edited by Eva Weissweiler (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1994).

notes from the past: the letters between robert and clara

robertclaraschumann“Sometimes (but only very rarely) I’m overcome with a terrible fear that with all the honors which you will receive as an artist, you will forget the poor, simple artist who cannot adorn you with titles and can offer nothing but his love. But when I consider the depth of your heart, the truthfulness of your entire being and your character, too, which has always been so firm and honorable, I feel so happy and secure that I’m ashamed of my little fear….Clara, if only I could tell you how happy your love makes me; it fills me so completely that there isn’t any part of my whole being that doesn’t quiver with it. But then language and sounds become incomprehensible; I see only two figures embracing, and everything around me fades away. You’re my dear Clara.” – Robert Schumann, to Clara Wieck, February 1838

Source: The Complete Correspondence of Clara and Robert Schumann, edited by Eva Weissweiler (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1994).

musical excerpt: fuga from Bach’s sonata no. 2 in a minor

Bach can be one of the most difficult musical giants to grapple with. His works go beyond those of many other composers’ in their demands on mental acuity and musical finesse, and it’s no secret that many students struggle to find an appreciation for Bach, particularly when Baroque aesthetics and conventions seem so far removed from the modern world. For some, a love for Bach has to develop slowly over a longer time, with accumulated exposure to the expressiveness of his musical lines and the grand purity of his harmonies–and the growing realization of how deeply his music is steeped in the vibrant colors of his society, of dance or church or court.

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notes from the past: the letters between robert and clara

robertclaraschumann

(This snippet is interesting not only because of how it adds more depth of detail to the relationship between Robert and Clara, but also because it reminds us what a prestigious performer Clara Schumann was, a fact which is often overlooked/understated.)

“I gave my fourth concert this afternoon, and I played pieces by Liszt and Thalberg to silence those that thought I couldn’t play Thalberg. There were 13 curtain calls, and not even Thalberg experienced that. It was probably because the people in the audience were generally indignant about an article claiming that I didn’t know how to play Beethoven, a rumor started by Mr. Holz, Beethoven’s former shoeshine-boy. You can imagine the hubbub; just wait and see what will happen to him–he offended all who are knowledgeable about music and the entire audiences. You probably won’t understand the public’s enthusiasm here, since you don’t know what I’m accomplishing and since you don’t know me well enough as an artist. But don’t think I am angry with you for this; on the contrary, I am happy to know that you don’t love me because of my talent, but, as you once wrote on a little piece of paper, ‘I don’t love you because you are a great artist; no, I love you, because you are so kind.’ That pleased me immensely, and I have never forgotten it.” – Clara Wieck, to Robert Schumann, January 1838

Source: The Complete Correspondence of Clara and Robert Schumann, edited by Eva Weissweiler (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1994).

notes from the past: the letters between robert and clara

robertclaraschumann“Listen–at Easter I’ll get a couple thousand talers from Eduard and Carl–and it’s then possible that I’ll build a small house–in consultation with experts, of course, with three rooms upstairs and just as many downstairs–the entire design and plan is already complete in my mind–Härtel’s house can’t compare with the cozy atmosphere in ours–the dreamy darkness in the one room with flowers in the window or the bright blue room with the grand piano and copper engravings–we will love each other very much and remain faithful–that will be an angelic life–you will gently guide me when I need direction–will tell me when I fall short, but also when I’ve done something nice–and I’ll do the same for you–you will love Bach for my sake and I Bellini for yours–we will often play duets–I’ll improvise for you at twilight, and sometimes you will sing along softly–and then you will fall quite blissfully into my arms and say, ‘I never imagined it would be so wonderful.’” – Robert Schumann, to Clara Wieck, January 1838

Source: The Complete Correspondence of Clara and Robert Schumann, edited by Eva Weissweiler (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1994).