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1800-1899 Europe, Russia

1 January 2001

1800s. Germany. Clara Schumann (1819-1892)
Clara Schumann’s father Friedrich Wieck had resolved before her birth that she should become a piano virtuoso to profit by her financially. This is the reason, why she got an intensive musical education contrary to the most female musical coevals. Already as a teen she did many concert tours and was acknowledged throughout Europe as a phenomenally talented child prodigy. Simultaneously she started to compose mainly piano pieces, but also a piano concerto, a piano trio with violin and cello, and three Romances for violin and piano. In 1836 she got to know her later husband Robert Schumann, but her father prohibited this connection and tried to prevent every contact. A fierce battle between him and the couple began.
Her artistic producing suffered her whole life from the power struggle between these two men. Robert Schumann wanted her to be a dutiful housewife and to give up her musical activity. When her concert for piano was published in 1937, she hoped for a review by her husband in the Neuen Musikzeitung, but he kept silent. Instead a small note appeared saying that a review is out of the question, because it concerns the work of a woman. Her father was pathologically jealous of Robert and thus tried to corrupt her career.
The psychological pressure by her father and husband and additionally the difficult conditions women had anyway to assert themselves in the man dominated music world, let Clara finally doubt her own compositional abilities.
Source: Eva Rieger, ‘Frau, Musik und Männerherrschaft – zum Ausschluβ der Frau aus der deutschen Musikpädagogik, Musikwissenschaft und Musikausübung’, Frankfurt / M. Berlin. Wien. Ullstein, 1981.

1800s. Germany. Fanny Hensel (1805-1847)
The sister of Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Hensel, was very gifted in composing, but her family was against a professional musical career and refused the publishing of her works. Her early works were published under the name of her brother, which had a debilitating effect on her motivation and creative power. 1838 she wrote to her brother: “Dear Felix, This winter I have composed nothing at all (…), But by the way who cares about? Nobody cares two hoots about it and nobody do my bidding”.
It was only in the last year of her life that Fanny, encouraged by the family friend Robert von Keudall and despite her brother’s explicit objections, found the courage to start systematically having her works printed. But whereas the compositional rediscoveries of her brother Felix are celebrated in all professional journals, the works of her was getting dusty in the Mendelssohn archive in Berlin for a long time.
Source: www.fannyhensel.de and Eva Rieger: ‘Frau, Musik und Männerherrschaft – zum Ausschluβ der Frau aus der deutschen Musikpädagogik, Musikwissenschaft und Musikausübung’, Frankfurt / M. Berlin. Wien. Ullstein, 1981.

1800s. Germany. Cosima Wagner (1837–1930, wife of Richard Wagner), Alma Mahler-Werfel (1879–1964, wife of Gustav Mahler) and a lot of other female composers and instrumentalists shared similar experiences.

1800s. Austria
The text for the choral movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is drawn from Schiller’s poem ‘An die Freude’ – To Joy. As Schiller originally wrote it, it was ‘An die Freiheit’ – To Freedom. This was in the days of Metternich whose reputation for oppression had grown progressively since 1815. He imposed harsh censorship in Austria. Writers and musicians suspected of liberal views were blacklisted. To speak of freedom was dangerously unacceptable. Whilst an Ode to Joy would pass the censors, an Ode to Freedom would certainly not. Beethoven’s liberal thinking emphatically supported the original spirit of the French Revolution, and in his use of Schiller’s text – widely recognised for what it truly meant – was an act of defiance characteristic of Beethoven.

1850s. Italy. Giuseppe Verdi
In Naples and Rome, the phrase in ‘La Traviata’ which says ‘He took the desired prize, in the arms of love’ is considered too suggestive, and is changed.

1899. Russia / Finland. Sibelius
The enigmatic composer Sibelius wrote ‘Finlandia’ in 1899 as a piece that would help to stir up the nationalistic feelings of his native country during a time when it was ruled by Russia. In fact, this music became so popular that it was banned by the Russian authorities.

 


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