Clara Schumann was born into a musical family to Friedrich Wieck, a music teacher, and Marianne Tromlitz Wieck, a soprano and student of Wieck. Clara’s father had resolved before her birth that she would be a great musician and child prodigy. Her first public appearance was in 1828 (age 9) and her first complete piano recital was at age 11 in 1830. She performed extensively and studied piano, voice, violin, instrumentation, score reading, counterpoint, and composition. Robert Schumann came to live and study with Wieck in 1830, and asked permission to marry Clara in 1837; Wieck objected, and did all he could to prevent the wedding before Clara’s 21st birthday when she would be legally able without his consent; Robert and Clara filed a lawsuit, and won, but out of spite went ahead and married the day before her birthday, September 12, 1840.
Although Clara’s ambitions as a concert pianist and composer were hindered by the responsibilities of family life, Robert encouraged her to compose. Clara’s songs in this set are either simple and heartfelt, or dramatic displays of piano virtuosity. Her expression of text is direct but full of nuance.