The Schumanns in love

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Today, a love story.

In the year 1840, the immensely talented German pianist Clara Wieck was eagerly awaiting the eve of her 21st birthday, when she would be free to legally marry the 30-year-old composer and music critic Robert Schumann. The couple had hoped to wed years earlier, but the match was bitterly opposed by Clara’s father. The situation turned ugly, and the whole matter ended up in the German courts.

Clara and Robert kept in touch by letters, which were sometimes intercepted by Papa Wieck. Schumann, for his part, buried himself in his music, composing furiously until Clara would come of age.

Early in 1840 Clara wrote, “Dear Robert, I love you so much it hurts my heart. Tell me what you’re writing. I would so love to know. Oh please, please… a quartet, an overture—even perhaps a symphony? Might it by any chance be—a wedding present?”

The marriage finally took place on today’s date in 1840. As she had guessed, Robert presented Clara with a musical wedding present: not a quartet, overture, or symphony, but a song cycle, a “Myrten”, consisting of 26 songs, which were published as his Opus 25.

The opening song, entitled “Dedication,” is a setting of a Rückert poem which contains this refrain: “You are my heart and soul, my bliss and pain, you are the world I live in and the heaven I aspire to, my good angel, my better self.”