There is a romantic and lovely event in February. Someone confesses one’s love or goes out on a date with a special someone or even remembers past loves. Do you know which day I am talking about?
Valentine’s Day in the past was a day only for lovers, but now it is a day for exchanging chocolates regardless if between lovers, friends or family. Some say it is a day established by the chocolate business to sell their products. Some say it is like any other normal day. However, it is definitely a nice day to remember, especially when most of us are exhausted from the pandemic. To celebrate the recent Valentine’s Day this year, I share the most impressive 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 did not 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 did not attend school because he could not disregard that his heart beat for music.
After much thought, 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 took lessons from a popular teacher in the town.
That teacher was the father of highly regarded concert pianist Clara Wieck. Because she was also a pianist, they shared musical opinions and gave musical advice to each other. Despite the nine-year age difference, they had thorough discussion and debates whilst maintaining a good friendship. Their relationship grew serious over time and they finally became lovers. Because of the age difference and Schumann’s lack of financial resources, Clara’s father opposed their union. However, their love was very strong. Eventually, they got married without her father’s consent.
Many years later, after Schumann had become an influential musician and music critic, a young Johannes Brahms came calling unannounced at his house with an intent to perform in front of Schumann.
After listening to Brahms play, Schumann brought in his wife 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 fell in love instantly with the woman 14 years his senior.
Brahms knew this love was not right and it was impossible.
However, he could not 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 problems, Brahms genuinely cared for his wife. Sometimes, Brahms took care of her family. Brahms expected that after Robert Schumann’s early death at 46, his own love for Clara would come true and he could marry her.
But Clara lived for Robert and his music. Maybe she dreamed of a future with Brahms. However, she could not betray Robert because she truly admired and loved him. Brahms respected her and stayed with her until she died, aged 76. He never married -- Clara Schumann was the only woman he truly loved. The year after her death, he also passed away, as if he was following her to heaven.
I recommend two pieces of music: Robert Schumann’s Widmung of Myrthen and Brahms’s Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2.
Widmung of Myrthen was a wedding gift prepared by Robert for his then-betrothed Clara. Because Robert lacked the money to buy a gift, he created a work of musical art for her. The melody is brilliant and shining. l could feel how much he loves her in the lyrics.
Johannes Brahms’s Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2 was also made for Clara and was dedicated to her. He composed the piece with all his feeling and heart for her. Clara played it when they met for the last time before her death. The music expresses loneliness, sadness and longing. When I listen to or play it, I am reminded of heartbreaking movies. Since the music has a different atmosphere, I hope you will listen to both when you have a 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 both in Korea and the United States. She currently resides in Los Angeles. -- Ed.
By Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org