On Clara Schumann’s 199th Birthday: The Countdown Begins!

Any other Clara Schumann fanatics out there? I’ve been a personal devotee of Clara the composer ever since I first listened in college to Barbara Bonney and Vladimir Ashkenazy’s recording, Robert & Clara Schumann Lieder. I was a Music major and voice student exploring new repertoire for upcoming recitals; while I already loved Robert Schumann’s famous Lieder, Clara’s music stopped me in my tracks, influencing me for years to come. I celebrate her birthday every September 13th, and we’re now approaching a very special one!

Schumann’s cadenzas for movements from Mozart’s D minor piano concerto, K. 466. Whittall Foundation Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

As we now start our official one-year countdown to Schumann’s bicentennial, I had to take a moment to highlight at least a peek at what Clara Schumann materials we have digitized, waiting for you to study and enjoy with a simple click. The Gertrude Clarke Whittall Foundation Collection includes Clara Schumann’s manuscript cadenzas for the first and last movements of Mozart’s D minor piano concerto, K. 466. In fact, the Collection features two copies of her cadenzas: one rough copy, and one fair copy. Schumann first performed this particular concerto in Leipzig in early 1857, about half a year after Robert Schumann died in a sanatorium. This early 1857 performance at the Leipzig Gewandhaus marked the renewal of her performance career, a new means of supporting her family. She wrote of the experience:

I played Mozart’s D minor Concerto, for the first time in my life, and Beethoven’s Eroica Variations. I was terribly agitated! When the audience received me with a wqrmth as if every heart grieved with mine, I had to respond with all that was in me. I played well, except for the beautiful cadenzas of Johannes, which showed anxiety. (John N. Burk, Clara Schumann: A Romantic Biography, 344)

So it appears that Schumann borrowed Brahms’ original cadenza in her first performance of that concerto. Sometime during her more mature solo performance career, she would have composed her own cadenzas – though her own feature strong similarities to Brahms’ cadenzas. The strong ties did not escape Schumann, however. Nancy Reich describes in her book, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman:

In 1891, when Clara was preparing an edition of her cadenzas, she was suddenly overwhelmed by guilt when she realized that the cadenzas to the Mozart D Minor Piano Concerto that she had been playing as her own had been borrowed largely from Brahms. She wrote to ask if she shouldn’t put his name on it too. Brahms answered that in that case, he would have to put her name on all his loveliest melodies, for “I owe more melodies to you than…passages you could take from me.” (Reich, 184)

Brahms’ cadenza for Mozart’s D minor piano concerto, K. 466. Whittall Foundation Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

And, wonderfully enough, we also hold Brahms’ manuscript copy of his cadenza for the first movement of Mozart’s D Minor Concerto, K. 466, which includes a note from Schumann in which she identifies the passages she used in her own cadenza (see images 13-15 in the digitized book of cadenzas).

We have so much more Clara Schumann material to share, from published sheet music, to manuscript music and correspondence, to extensive published literature about the Wunderkind, virtuoso and composer. I look forward to future blog posts and displays highlighting this magnificent musician!

Happy Birthday Abbey!

Today marks the birthday of singer, songwriter, actress, and political activist Abbey Lincoln (Anna Marie Wooldridge August 6, 1930 – August 14, 2010). One of many singers influenced by Billie Holiday, she made her breakthrough in 1956 with her first recording, Abbey Lincoln’s Affair, and her appearance in the film The Girl Can’t Help It. Though she […]

Sheet Music Spotlight: Red Cross Women in World War I

The following is a guest post from retired cataloger Sharon McKinley.  May 8 is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. Founded in 1881, the American Red Cross organization was still rather small when the United States entered World War I. But services multiplied, millions helped collect supplies and money, and many served overseas, particularly […]

Celebrating Bessie Smith: “Empress of the Blues”

It’s International Jazz Day! When our friends from the Prints & Photographs Division let us know that they’d be featuring favorite jazz-related items today on their blog, Picture This, I couldn’t let the day go by without a related post. Of course, the Music Division is home to outstanding jazz collections that document the life […]

Higdon’s Viola Concerto: A Library of Congress Commission and a Grammy Nom!

The 2018 Grammy nominations were announced this morning, and among the lineup you can find a work co-commissioned by the Library of Congress! Pulitzer Prize winner and American composer Jennifer Higdon’s Viola Concerto was co-commissioned by the Library of Congress (with support from the family of Cameron and Jane Baird, and John J. Medveckis), the […]

Ella on Her 100th Birthday

  Tomorrow, April 25, marks the one and only Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday. Fitzgerald’s impact on American music is undeniable, and her legacy and influence continue to inspire new generations of artists today. To celebrate the First Lady of Song on her special day, the Library’s Jazz Specialist Larry Appelbaum will give a talk tomorrow […]

Jeannette Rankin: First Woman Sworn Into Congress 100 Years Ago

The following is a cross-post from the Library of Congress Blog, written by Wendi Maloney and published on March 31, 2017 under the title “Women’s History Month: First Woman Sworn Into Congress 100 Years Ago.” One hundred years ago this Sunday—on April 2, 1917—Jeannette Rankin was sworn into the 65th Congress as the first woman […]

Discovering Composer Amanda Maier

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Martyn, a violinist and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music. Her research focuses on the life and career of Amanda Maier. She is particularly interested in Maier’s career as a violinist and how her performances and repertoire can inform us about the […]

Discovering the Music within our Dance collections: Composer Lucia Dlugoszewski and the Erick Hawkins Dance Company

The following is a guest post from Kaitlin (Kate) Doyle, one of the Music Division’s summer Fellows. Dance Curator Libby Smigel introduces her.    Meet Kate Doyle, a doctoral candidate specializing in experimental composition and sound for performance art at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Kate spent her summer as a CWRU Fellow […]