Monthly Archives: December 2011

Two Female Composers from the Victorian Era

Today I want to celebrate two female composers of the 1800’s, both of whom were related (sister and wife, respectively) to famous male composers: Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847) and Clara Schumann (1819-1896).

Fanny Mendelssohn was said to be equally talented as her brother, Felix, but her father did not want her to have a career. “Music will perhaps become his [i.e. Felix’s] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament”. Later, when she married, her husband had a different attitude and her own compositions were released first, under her brother’s name, and then later, under her own.

Listen to her composition, Trio op. 11. 4 Finale (above link) and tell me if she does not stand up against all the greats of that time, including her brother.

Unfortunately, neither Felix or Fanny lived long lives, both suffering strokes and leaving this world much too soon.

Clara Schumann lived a much longer, though maybe more tragic, life. Her husband, Robert Schumann, tried to commit suicide and ended the last two years of his life in an asylum, and four of her eight children died before she did and one also spent his life in an asylum. Yet, through it all, she was able to perform and compose and take her place as the main bread winner of the family.

She and Johannes Brahms (thirteen years her junior) had a very close relationship, though no one knows exactly how close. He was friend to both she and her husband and stood by her side during Robert Schumann’s hospitalization, helping her with their kids and somewhat taking on the role of the patriarch. They both had their personal letters between themselves destroyed after their deaths. Brahms D-Minor Piano Concerto represents his feelings about Schumann’s attempted suicide and his feelings for Clara.

She was a celebrated performing pianist in her lifetime and contributed largely to piano teaching techniques.

My favorite of her works–3 Romances for Violin & Piano Op. 22, wasn’t available to embed in this blogpost, so I added her Pianoconcerto in A minor, Op. 7, also beautiful. But if you go to youtube, you won’t be disappointed if you look for and listen to 3 Romances for Violin and Piano…and all her other pieces.