Celebrate Women’s History Month! Clara Schumann’s “Liebst du um Schönheit” is the perfect way to spotlight this virtuoso pianist and composer, by featuring one of the most famous and lovely German art songs of the Romantic era. Clara Schumann was the wife of famed composer Robert Schumann https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Schumann but carved out her own place in music history, which included creating this iconic piece. Music was a male-dominated field in the 19th century, but Clara’s career flourished for more than sixty years. In many ways, she changed the course of piano composition and performance, and paved the way for female musicians who followed. She graced us with almost 40 beautiful lieder, or German art songs, in addition to her instrumental compositions.
A Forbidden Romance!
She was a child prodigy from a musical family, who studied voice, violin and piano, and began performing piano concerts as a young girl. She fell deeply in love with one of her father’s students, composer Robert Schumann, for whom she wrote this tender composition. Her father forbade their romance, but she and Robert kept seeing each other in secret, and after years of petitioning the court to override her fathers’ wishes, finally married. Clara was Robert’s muse, and inspired many of his compositions, where he hid secret messages and musical themes for her in his many songs and piano pieces. She was the foremost promoter of her husband’s works, during his lifetime, and even after his tragic death.
Clara kept her own performing and composing career going throughout their marriage, with the money she made from playing concerts supporting their large family. With Robert’s serious mental health issues and the demands of raising eight children, this was an amazing feat, especially in the 19th century, a time when women did not work outside the home after marriage, no less concertize publicly! But nothing dulled the fervent love and almost mystical connection Clara shared with Robert.
Their Love in Song
Read the lyrics, below, of Liebst du um Schönheit, by German poet Friedrich Rückert, both in German and in English translation, and then listen to Clara’s gorgeous setting, with its gently rolling piano, purity of vocal line, and simple declaration of love for love’s sake:
Liebst du um Schönheit, If you love for beauty
O nicht mich liebe Oh do not love me!
Liebe die sonne, Love the sun,
Sie trägt ein gold’nes Haar! It has gold hair!
Liebst du um Jugend, If you love for youth,
O nicht mich liebe! Oh do not love me!
Liebe den Frühling, Love the spring-time
Der jung ist jedes Jahr! That is young each year!
Liebst du um Schätze, If you love for wealth,
O nicht mich liebe. Oh do not love me!
Liebe die Meerfrau, Love the mermaid,
Die hat viel Perlen kla Who has many limpid pearls!
Liebst du um Liebe, If you love for love,
O ja, mich liebe! Oh yes, love me!
Liebe mich immer, Love me forever;
Dich lieb’ ich immerdar. I will love you forevermore.
Celebrate Women’s History Month! With its eternal message and sublime music, Clara Schumann’s “Liebst du um Schönheit” stands the test of time for lovers everywhere, and stands as an enduring reminder of the talent and character of one of the most pivotal women in music history.