Jena – a Schumann town

Jena, Steel engraving, around 1840 (StadtMuseum Bonn)
[Fig. 1] Jena, Steel engraving, around 1840 (StadtMuseum Bonn)

1. Robert Schumann’s doctorate in Jena.
Stays and concerts of Clara Schumann in Jena


The university town of Jena has so far not really been mentioned in connection with the music essayist and composer, but here is where Schumann’s life took a decisive turn. Robert Schumann had already met his future wife, Clara Wieck, whilst a piano student of her father in Leipzig. Since 1835, when Clara was 16 years old, their relationship had grown more and more intense. This encountered fierce resistance on the part of Friedrich Wieck who forbade Schumann in February 1836 to keep any contact to his daughter and accused the young artist of being dull. In spite of intermittent rapprochements, the dispute culminated eventually in a lawsuit in 1839, as Schumann rejected the conditions for marriage (stable social security) imposed by Wieck and wished to substitute the father’s consent by court decision. In this he succeeded at the beginning of 1840, after Wieck’s appeal had been dismissed by the court on 28th March.

Against this background, the doctoral procedure pursued in Jena gained particular importance. A first attempt in Leipzig to acquire this title had failed. In Jena, his friendship with Deacon Gustav Adolf Keferstein, who was writing contributions for Schumann’s “Neue 
Zeitschrift für Musik” [“New Journal of Music”] and who, in addition, recommended Schumann for a doctorate to the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Christian Ernst Gottlieb Reinhold, turned out to be a favourable factor. Keferstein had been moving in academic circles since his appointment in Jena in 1824. Along with this work as a cleric, his took part in an outstanding manner in the musical life of this town on the river Saale. He was thus an ardent admirer of the pianist Clara Wieck who, incidentally, gave one of her last piano concerts under her maiden name in Jena, at Jenaer Rosensäle [Jena Rose Halls].

Promotionsurkunde von Robert Schumann Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, UAJ, M 262 Bl. 46r
[Fig. 2] Promotionsurkunde von Robert Schumann Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, UAJ, M 262 Bl. 46r

In a letter dated 7th February 1840, Schumann approached Dean Reinhold with a request to accept him for the doctorate. Enclosed were a hand-written curriculum vitae, probably the only one conveyed by Schumann’s hand, and various certificates of good conduct. This procedure was prescribed in the Statutes of the Faculty for doctorates “in absentia”. In addition, Schumann submitted several essays written by him, which were assessed as “doctoral thesis”. 
In a letter addressed to his colleagues, the Dean commented on the applicant from Leipzig in very benevolent terms: “Herr Robert Schumann, sowohl in Deutschland als im Ausland durch seine musikalischen Kompositionen, und durch seine ästhetischen Abhandlungen und Kunsturtheil im Fache der Musik, namentlich auch diese seit einer Reihe von Jahren von ihm redigierten „Neuen Zeitschrift für Musik“ auf das rühmlichste bekannt, hält um unsere Doctorwürde an.” [“Mr Robert Schumann, well-known in the most laudable manner both in Germany and abroad through his musical compositions and his aesthetic treatises and judgements of the arts in the field of music, notably the “New Journal of Music”, edited by him over a number of years, requests the doctorate from us”] (UAJ, M 292/1 sheet 37r).
The faculty members deemed Schumann worthy of the doctorate unanimously.

The successful award of the doctoral title was confirmed to Robert Schumann by the corresponding certificate dated 24th February 1840, that is, still in the middle of the legal dispute with Friedrich Wieck. The evil accusation of “dullness” was thus completely invalidated. Similarly to Schumann, the famous botanist Matthias Jakob Schleiden had been awarded the doctorate “in absentia” in Jena in 1827, and Karl Marx also completed the doctoral procedure only a few months after Schumann, through an academic achievement that was equally approved of.

Both Robert Schumann and his wife Clara left their mark on the cultural memory of the Jena graduate circles. In fact, Schumann had demonstrably stayed in Jena as a sixteen-year-old youth only when in transit. His wife, instead, had travelled several times to this town on the river Saale for concerts and had then either stayed with the Keferstein family or at Hotel “Zur Sonne” [“To the Sun”] in the market place. The pianist thus gave a concert at the Rose Halls on 24th September 1836 with the following programme:

1. Overture
2. Quartet songs
3. Johann Peter Pixis: concert op. 100 2nd and 3rd movement
4. Compositions for the pianoforte in historical order
a) Johann Sebastian Bach: Fugue in C-sharp major
b) Ludwig van Beethoven: Final of the sonata in F minor Op. 57 (Appassionata)
c) Frederic Chopin: Nocturne F-sharp major op. 15 No. 12
d) Frederic Chopin: great concert etude from Op. 10
5. Quartet songs
6. Henri Herz: Neueste Bravourvariationen (Newest Bravour Variations) Op. 76

2.  The sons of the Schumann family, Ludwig and Ferdinand, at Stoy Boarding School in Jena

Starting with a suicide attempt by Robert Schumann in February 1854 and his subsequent committal to the mental home of Bonn-Endenich, Clara Schumann was already confronted with the task of organising her family life with seven children and taking care of their education and subsistence, at her sole responsibility. When Robert Schumann deceased on 29th July 1856, the youngest children, Ludwig (aged eight), Ferdinand (aged seven), Eugenie (aged four), and Felix (aged two), were living at their parental home at Poststraße in Düsseldorf. In the absence of the mother, their custody rested with the housekeeper, Bertha Boelling, who was soon no longer able to cope with such demands. Planned future concert tours forced Clara to reach a decision regarding their future education, especially of Ludwig and Ferdinand. Between 1856 and 1861, Ludwig and Ferdinand changed reformatories four times. This was owing to Clara Schumann’s constant endeavours to provide her children with the very best education possible. At Easter 1857, Ludwig and Ferdinand moved to Stoy Boarding School in Jena, successfully passed their entrance examination on 7th May 1857 and stayed there until October 1859. The impending move, the good reputation of Stoy School and not least the friendly relationship with the Preußer family from Robert and Clara Schumann’s time in Dresden might have favoured such decision. Gustav Preußer also maintained close relations with Karl Volkmar Stoy. 

About 50 to 80 pupils were living at the boarding establishment of the Jena School at Löbdergraben at the time. During their two and a half year stay, Ludwig and Ferdinand Schumann successfully completed their third year of the curriculum and were taught German, history, religion, French, natural sciences, geography, arithmetic, singing, drawing, writing, and gymnastics. They probably did not greatly enjoy their classes and age-related schoolboy pranks were also not alien to them. Clara had to pay separately for piano lessons for the two boys, to which she attached great importance. The long separation from their mother and siblings was rarely interrupted. The mother once went to see her sons in Jena: “Von mir kann ich Ihnen nicht viel sagen, ich habe meine Reise schnell und glücklich zurückgelegt, war in Jena, wo ich meine Knaben prächtig fand […]” [“There is not much I can tell you about myself, I completed the journeyquickly and smoothly and was in Jena where I met my boys who were in splendid health and mood […]”. The contacts between Clara Schumann and the boarding school were limited to communication by letter, the occasional sending of parcels for the boys, and the quarterly payments of the boarding school fees.

Clara Schumann’s decision to take Ludwig and Ferdinand out of the Stoy Boarding School in 1859 in the middle of the school year, hit Minna and Karl Volkmar Stoy hard and was perceived as a personal affront. Their endeavours to convince Clara to let the brothers at least complete their school year or leave the payment made already with the School, were to no avail. Clara Schumann’s announced soiree at the School did no longer take place. Around 14th October 1859, the boys travelled by train from Apolda to Frankfurt am Main and sent notice from the private school of Dr Breusing in Bonn as early as 21stOctober. 

Dr Thomas Pester (University of Jena)
Margit Hartleb (University of Jena)
Dr Christine Haustein (Jena)

Literature: Joachim Bauer/ Jens Blecher (editor): Der “akademische” Schumann und die Jenaer Promotion von 1840 [The “Academic” Schumann and the Doctorate in Jena of 1840]. Leipzig 2010; ISBN [International Standard Book Number]: 978-3-86-530-7.

(Translated by Thomas Henninger)

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