Robert and Clara Schumanns’ love for one another is one of the great romances in the world of classical music. Robert was studying piano with Maestro Wieck and met his daughter Clara. She was already a great pianist at the age of eighteen and Robert fell in love with both her and her musicianship. He asked her father permission to marry, but was refused. Clara and Robert married after several years of petitioning the court and had eight children together. Clara was Robert’s muse throughout his career.
Songs from Op. 12 & Op. 37 were described by Robert, “My wife has written some very interesting songs, which have inspired me to compose a few more. Together they form a very nice whole, which we should like to publish in one book.” Clara began composing at an early age and she performed her own Piano Concerto at the age of fifteen with Mendelssohn conducting. Her Piano Trio is considered her masterpiece and a major piece in the repertoire for chamber music, though she herself dismissed it as “effeminate and sentimental”.
In 1853, the Schumanns moved to Düsseldorf where Clara had space to practice and compose. Her Three Romances for Violin and Piano were written that summer and demonstrate intricate writing for both instruments. She dedicated the work to the extraordinary violinist Joseph Joachim, who was a close friend of Brahms and who introduced him to the Schumanns.
Robert’s Piano Quintet was the first of its kind and was composed in 1841 after he had quickly written his string quartets. He created a new kind of ensemble by adding the piano to the string quartet, thus combining his mastery of the piano with his fondness for the quartet. Clara performed at the piece’s premiere.