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Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman Paperback – June 28, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


"Clara Schumann was one of the remarkable women of the nineteenth century, and she deserves this well-documented biography. . . . This is the best modern study of Clara Schumann available in English."―New York Times Book Review

"The marvelous originality of Reich's book lies in the way she places the marriage and the celebrated friendship with Brahms in perspective among other critical factors in Clara's life. Reich's painstaking, scholarly detail and feminist insight recover not merely the events in the life, dramatic as they were, but its major themes, movements and connecting threads."―Women's Review of Books

"Reich's first edition contributed to the increase in interest in Clara Schumann and in the performances and recordings of her music. The publication of this revised edition will continue to stir interest with the availability of new documents, letters and the extensive list of newly published music; further, this new edition offers a much more detailed look at Clara Schumann's life and music."―Journal of the International Association of Women in Music

"In addition to telling us the story of Clara Schumann's life, Nancy B. Reich . . . includes chapters on Clara Schumann's children, her work as editor, performing artist, and teacher, and her relationships with Brahms, Joachim, Liszt, and other major figures of the era. . . . There is also a list and analysis of Clara Schumann's compositions. . . . Reich has written an eminently readable, well-researched, and thoughtful book that gives historical and psychological insights into one of the major artists of the nineteenth century."―Classical Music Guide Forums

"Foremost among the strengths of this book is the delineation of Schumann's character. While pointing out the overwhelming challenges and devastating losses that dogged her entire life, Reich makes no attempt to paint her as a saint or hero. . . . The first edition of this book has gained acceptance as a standard resource on Clara Schumann. This revised edition preserves the strengths of the first edition while adding additional information and a fine-tuning of the presentation, assuring that Reich's work will remain central to the subject for the foreseeable future."―Notes: Journal of the Music Library Association

About the Author

Nancy B. Reich received her Ph.D. from New York University and has served on the faculties of Queens College, New York University, Manhattanville College, and was a Visiting Professor of Music at Bard College and Williams College. In 1996, she was awarded the Robert Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau, Germany.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (June 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801486378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801486371
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 68 people found the following review helpful By CBK on June 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
This revised edition of Clara Schumann's biography by Nancy Reich is a gem. Not only is the scholarship impeccable and thorough, but the talented writing engages and fascinates the reader at every turn.
Features of this wonderful new edition include the use of new medical reports that have come to light regarding Robert Schumann's illness; reference to recently discovered letters and diaries that further elucidate Clara's friendships with people like Emilie List, Frederic Chopin, and the Mendelssohns; and the expansion of the Catalogue of Works.
The revised Catalogue alone makes this new edition compulsory for anyone-lay or professional-interested in Clara Schumann and her prodigious work and impact. The Catalogue records every known piece by Clara Schumann, reviews of her compositions, her own performances of her works, the location of autograph copies, and much more.
The 1985 edition of Dr. Reich's outstandingly researched biography clearly had a major impact on Schumann studies. It was followed by a continuing, worldwide outpouring of performances and recordings of Clara Schumann's works, articles about Clara, and studies of her music.
The biography is based on original research in German archives and first-hand consultation of letters, music autographs, diaries, and other primary sources. To this meticulous scholarship, Dr. Reich adds intelligent, compassionate analysis of Clara Schumann's life and music, the influences that shaped her, her inspirational marriage to Robert Schumann, and Clara's breathtaking, at times unbelievable strength and ongoing artistry amidst the sometimes horrific adversities in her life.
Rarely is such a magnificent feat of scholarship accompanied by such gripping and graceful writing.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a unique biography that, while absolutely holding its own as an important scholarly work, remains lively and engaging enough to satisfy any reader. A brilliant performer (one of the first to play from memory), mother of seven, teacher, and devoted wife of a(nother) musical genius, Clara Schumann maintained an amazing sense of focus and personal identity throughout her life: navigating with aplomb her relationship with her overbearing father, and holding her own in a man's field. Ms. Reich brilliantly captures all of this in this book. Both her husband and Johannes Brahms claimed Clara as inspiration for some of their greatest works. And Ms. Reich devotes a thoughtful chapter to Clara's enigmatic relationship with Brahms. The insights offered in the last chapter on Clara's (and her father's) techniques as a performer and teacher would be invaluable for any piano student.
If reading any book on Robert Schumann or Brahms, get this book as well because it will complete the pictures of those composers lives. While reading this book one quickly becomes aware that Clara deserves much more than to be a footnote in her husband's life as she has often been designated. In fact, this work should be required reading in Women's Studies Programs for an interesting (albeit minor) point seems to have been overlooked: Clara Schumann was a contemporary of the great suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). And Clara, in her more private way, also lived a life filled with integrity and passion. She rightfully deserves a place in that same pantheon on trailblazers. This is a wonderful book about an incredible woman.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Fox in a Box on September 12, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reich's beautifully written, thoroughly researched and objective book is certainly the best biography on Clara Weick Schumann in English. It is also one of the finest biographies I have read of any subject by any author.

From her childhood as a piano virtuoso through her 50 year performing career, Schumann was an international star of the concert stage, a composer and champion of the composers close to her, a woman who astounded and compelled those who knew her, a legend in her own time.

She was, as we know, beset by personnal tragedies of the most anguishing kind, beginning with her complex relationship with her taskmaster father, who taught her, drove her mercilessly, and made her a star at the age of 12, then refused to allow her to marry the love of her life,

She defied him at a dear price and married Robert Schumann anyway. The book explores at length her life as a beloved, then shunned daughter; as a lover, wife, mother, composer and performer.

She suffered terribly Robert Schumann's early and probably syphilis-induced insanity and death, the deaths of most of her seven children at a young age, and extreme financial straits in which she found herself most of her life.

Reich takes us step by step through all of the contingencies of her professional life: her lifelong celebration of Schumann's work; the 'Young Werther' relationship with her beloved Johannes Brahms, whose career she promoted tirelessly; her complex personality and deep involvement in her career and their effect on her maternal relationship with each of her children.

Throughout, Reich draws a richly variegated picture of the world of classical music in Europe from the early 19th century onward -- its characters, creations, rivalries, performances, highs and lows.
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