We all know -or at least have heard- about Mendelssohn or Schumann. But in particular, you’ve heard about Félix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann. But what about Fanny and Clara? But first of all: who were Fanny and Clara?
Well, Fanny was Felix’s sister. As her brother, she had one of the best music teachers in Berlin; she composed songs, music works for piano and some cantatas. The difference? She was a woman. And what’s more, a woman of the high society. For this reason, her family didn’t allow her to work as a pianist, nor as a composer, nor even to publish and commercialize her works. Actually, some of her works were originally published signed by Felix, and the only time that Fanny Mendelssohn played in public, she didn’t play one of her works, but a concert composed by her brother. She’s now considered one of the best composers in the XIX century, but at that time, nobody knew about her.
Clara was Robert Schumann’s wife. But she was so much more than this: she was also a composer and a concert, but once she got married, she was just “Robert Schumann’s wife” and the mother of their children. She was considered as the muse of the famous musician, but she would never compose again. And again, at that time, she was hardly known further than as Robert’s wife.
They were not the only women in these circumstances, of course. Maud Tortelier, for example, was Paul Tortelier’s wife, who was a famous cellist. She was a cellist too, and actually, a really good one. Despite of her abilities, she was hardly known because her professional career was subordinated to her husband’s. Actually, if you search her name on Google, most of the results are directly related to Paul Tortelier, and there’s hardly a biography of just her.
Again, she was not known at her time. But what’s important is to consider if nowadays they are known or if at least, we talk as much as we should about them. They weren’t recognized as good musicians at their time, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t do it now.