In the past, Valentine’s Day was a day reserved for lovers, but today it is a day for exchanging chocolates, whether between lovers, friends or family. Some say it is a day established by the chocolate industry to sell their products. Some say it’s like any other normal day. However, it’s definitely a great day to remember, especially when most of us are exhausted from the pandemic. To celebrate the recent Valentine’s Day this year, I’m sharing the most awe-inspiring love story in classical music history.
I want to tell you a story about Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms.
Robert Schumann was a German composer, pianist and music critic. His father was against his son becoming a musician because he didn’t want him to live in poverty, as most musicians were financially unstable at the time. Following his father’s wishes, he went to law school. However, he didn’t go to school because he couldn’t ignore that his heart beats for music.
After careful consideration, Schumann stopped going to school and decided to be a musician. It was a decision made when he was relatively old, but his passion for studying music was unstoppable. To learn systematically, he takes lessons from a popular teacher in town.
This teacher was the father of the much-loved concert pianist Clara Wieck. Because she was also a pianist, they shared musical opinions and gave each other musical advice. Despite the nine-year age difference, they had in-depth discussions and debates while maintaining a good friendship. Their relationship became serious over time and they eventually became lovers. Due to the age difference and Schumann’s lack of financial resources, Clara’s father opposes their union. However, their love was very strong. Eventually, they married without her father’s consent.
Several years later, after Schumann had become an influential musician and music critic, a young Johannes Brahms came calling home unexpectedly with the intention of performing for Schumann.
After listening to Brahms perform, Schumann brought his wife over to praise Brahms’ performance. It was then that Brahms saw Clara Schumann for the first time. She was elegant, beautiful and kind in his eyes. Although Clara was Robert’s wife, Brahms instantly fell in love with the woman 14 years his senior.
Brahms knew that this love was not right and that it was impossible.
However, he couldn’t deny it. All he could do was not cross the line with her.
Brahms became a good friend to her instead of a lover. When Robert Schumann struggled with mental issues, Brahms genuinely cared about his wife. Sometimes Brahms took care of his family. Brahms expected that after Robert Schumann’s untimely death at 46, his own love for Clara would come true and he could marry her.
But Clara lived for Robert and his music. Perhaps she dreamed of a future with Brahms. However, she couldn’t betray Robert as she truly admired and loved him. Brahms respected her and remained with her until her death at the age of 76. He never married – Clara Schumann was the only woman he really loved. The year after her death, he also died, as if following her to heaven.
I recommend two pieces of music: Widmung of Myrthen by Robert Schumann and Intermezzo Op by Brahms. 118 #2.
Widmung of Myrthen was a wedding present prepared by Robert for his fiancée Clara. Because Robert didn’t have the money to buy a present, he created a piece of musical art for her. The melody is bright and brilliant. I could feel how much he loved her in the lyrics.
Intermezzo Op. by Johannes Brahms. 118 n° 2 was also made for Clara and dedicated to her. He composed the piece with all his feeling and his heart for her. Clara played it when they last met before her death. The music expresses loneliness, sadness and longing. When I listen to it or play it, I remember heartbreaking movies. Since the music has a different atmosphere, I hope you’ll listen to both when you get the chance.
Lee In Hyun
Lee In-hyun is a classical pianist and author of the award-winning book “The Classic Class”, published in January 2021. She works in both Korea and the United States. She currently resides in Los Angeles. — Ed.
By Korea Herald ([email protected])