She was a child prodigy whose European piano debut before she had even reached her teen years was greeted with critical acclaim. As she matured, she continued to receive laudatory reviews and her performances were frequently sold out. She learned to compose as well, but some of her works did not come to light until the twentieth century. She lived in an era when women, other than singers, almost never performed publicly or composed. She did both.
Her circle included many of the musical giants of the nineteenth century and she was the confidante and muse to two of them in particular: Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. She was an influential leader of the Leipzig conservatives during the musical war of the romantics that occurred in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
She was the mother of eight children, four of whom perished before her. Throughout her life she demonstrated extraordinary fortitude and strength of character in meeting the adversities that befell her. She was honored by having her image depicted on the 100 Deutschmark note as well as on the German Famous Women postal series.
Clara did not start to speak until after she was four years old, joining other such worthies as Albert Einstein and fellow pianist Arthur Rubinstein with that condition. Friedrich Wieck, her father, started teaching five-year-old Clara to play piano pieces by ear to see if deafness was causing her to be mute. Later, she said she was not “entirely cured” until she was eight years old.
Clara’s parents divorced when she was five years old and, under Saxon law, her father took custody of Clara and her four brothers. Clara’s mother, a famous singer at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, could not reconcile with Wieck because of his rigid personality and ultimately embarked on an affair with Wieck’s best friend. Clara and her mother, who remarried, only had limited contacts through letters and occasional visits after the divorce.
Friedrich Wieck had studied theology but made his career in music, and he soon developed a reputation as a stellar music teacher. From age five forward, Clara became his prize pupil and received daily lessons in piano, violin, singing, music theory, harmony, composition and counterpoint. She practiced an additional two hours a day, employing her father’s instructional techniques and methodology. Little time was left for Clara’s general education, which suffered as a result. She did not experience a normal childhood, either.
Clara’s demanding regimen paid off and by the time she was nine she had already given her first public performance. In 1830, when she was eleven, Clara made her formal debut at the prestigious Gewandhaus in Leipzig, where her mother had sung, with the orchestra under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn. She followed this with a highly praised concert tour to Paris and other European destinations.
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There was a time when she imagined him beautiful, and the memory of it filled him simultaneously with both joy and sorrow. He was riding the airport train and the memory of their time together tasted of every beautiful thing that ever was, and of all things broken and lost and irredeemable. See, this was the train that brought her to him, and this was the train that took her away. He held tight to the memories, even the pain of them, because already it all seemed faraway and unreal. The fact of her boarding a plane and flying across the miles to be with him, here in this sad and glorious city, because she somehow imagined him beautiful, somehow imagined him brave, seemed ludicrous to him now. But he held each memory like a precious stone. He recalled the first time he saw her, waiting at the baggage claim in the airport lobby with her suitcase and flowered dress. It was a clear October morning when they rode the train into the city and they looked at all the little colored houses that lined the hills and she clung to his arm and said, “It’s pretty,” and he nodded because it was, and the train dropped them into the middle of downtown and they walked through it all like Christmas. They walked the blocks to the motel, and when they arrived it was barely noon, and the man would not check them in until three.
Poem of the Week
who have experienced
on a large
i tell raif
i think my
might be dead
haven't seen her
& her car hasn't moved
for two weeks.
you would smell it
passing me a plate
of triangular shaped bread
slathered in jam.
Story of the Week
DARLEEN SQUEELED into the empty spot as soon as the gleaming white Mercedes pulled out. "We got lucky," she told Montana. "Even on a Monday night, this lot is killer."
Montana rolled her big blue eyes. "Whatever."
The eleven year old had better things to do, like text her friends. Incessantly, as if she had a tic. The kid hadn't wanted to shop tonight, but Darleen insisted. This was their first Christmas without Paulie and the girls needed to stick together. Darleen's ex had been nasty lately and mediation had hit a cement wall. Montana wasn't aware how dangerously close they were to losing access to Paulie's vast and unreported wealth.
Montana sighed dramatically as she yanked open the door of the Porsche Cayenne and tumbled out. She didn't pause in her texting.
Darlene checked her face in the rearview mirror. The most recent fat transfer had been wildly successful. She loved her new lips. Grabbing her Gucci bag, she hopped out of the front seat.
Her daughter trailed her into the mall, thumbs flashing on her phone keypad.