Robert Schumann and Vienna

Reason for the first stay of Schumann in Vienna was probably the condition of Friedrich Wieck, who would agree to a marriage with his daughter Clara, if Schumann founded a new life outside Leipzig. Clara Wieck was a few months before received with great enthusiasm by the Viennese audience; what seems more likely was the idea to establish the “Neue Zeitschrift für Musik” in Vienna, where the lack of such a magazine seemed to be promising in the media landscape of Metternich’s police state.
The artist initiated the necessary steps with great care, assured himself of the protection by influential people and arrived in Vienna on 3 October 1838 to pursue his case personally. Despite personal appearance at Metternich and his police chief Sedlnitzky, who warmly accommodated him, Schumann received a harsh rejection based on the surveys of a “dignified expert” in Leipzig after almost a half year of grueling waiting. Schumann’s plan opposed the commercial interests of the local music publisher Haslinger and also those of the jealously from the distance on the failure of the company intended Friedrich Wieck, who was not afraid for tangible intrigue. The correspondence of Robert Schumann with the at that time the first time alone on a concert tour in Paris located Clara Wieck, documented the full range of hope and despair. Among the positive results of the stay in Vienna were the participation in the cultural life of the city as well as the friends for life he made, including Johann Vesque von Püttlingen, Mozart’s son Franz Xaver Wolfgang and his girlfriend Julie von Webenau. The encounter with Franz Schubert's brother Ferdinand, who gave him his dead brother's works, resulted in the publication and performance of the symphony in C major by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra a few months later. From personal importance were the excursions to the sights of Vienna and in particular the visit of the cemetery in Währing with the graves of Beethoven and Schubert. The compositions from this period give an impression of the emotional state of the artist: Kinderszenen (Children’s scences), Arabesque, Blumenstück (floral piece), Humoresque, Ein Faschingsschwank aus Wien ("Carnival scenes from Vienna")


After Schumann’s departure from Vienna on 5 April 1839, his dreams and desires did not fulfill, but there is also no trace of disappointment.

In the winter of 1846/47 Schumann accompanied his wife to Vienna, where they hoped for the continuation of Clara‘s success from 1838. The weak interest of the audience was interrupted by one concert, in which Jenny Lind, the “Swedish nightingale” participated. The financial disappointment is barely caused by the change in Vienna’s musical taste, but more likely due to the depressing and desperate atmosphere of the city before the revolution.

(Klaralinda Ma-Kircher, translated by Katharina Ma)

[fig. 1]

Fig. 1 and 2: Schönlaterngasse 7a in Vienna, where Robert Schumann stayed from October 1838 to April 1839. (Photos: Ma Jian, Vienna, 2006)

[fig. 2]

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