The city of Bonn has hosted an annual Schumannfest since 1998 to celebrate the lives and music of two of the city’s most famous residents: Robert Schumann and Ludwig van Beethoven. However, in 2007 the name of the festival changed from the Bonn Schumann Festival to Schumannfest, “to illustrate the core concerns of the festival: the memory of Robert and Clara Schumann.” Robert spent the last two years of his life in the city, and he and Clara are buried in the Old Cemetery in Bonn.
Though the festivals always incorporate a wide variety of genres and performances – including screening of films, readings, and theatrical performances – the heart of the festival remains on the lives and legacies of the namesakes.
This year, in honor of Clara’s 200th birthday, the festival is dedicated specifically to her memory. The festival, which runs June 1 through the 15, has adopted the motto “Beloved Clara” for this anniversary year, and a letter from the directors of the Festival to their patrons shares their motivation to celebrate Clara so intentionally this year:
It was seldom so easy to find a suitable and sustainable motto for the Schumann Festival in Bonn, as this year: “BELOVED CLARA” – which represents the 200th birthday of Clara Schumann and the living memory of a woman, who is an exception not only in the history of music. Clara Schumann can not be denied any roles: she was a wife (by Robert Schumann) and mother (of eight children), she was the most famous pianist of the 19th century, she was a composer and manager of her own career, pedagogue and counselor. The Schumann Festival will try to convey this richness of facets of an unusual personality.
“I like to study new things, that’s what excites me, rejuvenates me,” said Clara Schumann in the 1870s, when she was a celebrated artist throughout Europe. This attitude determines the program of this year’s festival. It is a Schumann festival of discoveries, not only in terms of the compositions (much and much more unknown is heard from Clara Schumann), but also in terms of the artists. Let yourself be surprised and inspired by the young soloists, who in our opinion have a great career ahead of them. And let yourself be “rejuvenated” by the youngest contributors this year, to whom we like to give a lot if space with a musical (Clara-Schumann-Gymnasium), orchestral concert (Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Gymnasium) and our singing contest “Show what you can do”.
Clara’s legacy is far beyond the tropes included in most history books – that of a child prodigy, the wife of one “great” composer, and the romantic interest of another. This year’s Schumannfest will include many of her works, as well as performances of music by other women composers. Also included in the program are pieces by Sophia Guabaidulina, Pauline Viardot-Garcia, Maria Theresa von Paradis, Emilie Mayer, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Ann Ronell, and others.
As we celebrate Clara and her 200th year, let’s also remember the work and legacy of Clara’s biographer, Dr. Nancy Reich who passed away January 31 of this year. Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy has established a special fund in her memory to support performances of works by women composers.
Listen in to some of Clara’s most beloved works: