BBC Music Magazine
The Schumann clan
Robert and Clara’s eight children
Marie Schumann (18411929) devoted herself to her mother, who relied heavily on her support, both personally and professionally – Marie was chief teaching assistant for her piano class in Frankfurt. Eugenie Schumann recalled: ‘Thanks to Marie, [Clara] could live entirely for her profession, untroubled by the onerous demands of everyday life, which were kept from her so as not to hinder her in the pursuit of her art… My mother fully repaid her devotion with tenderest love, to which gratitude gave a touch of pathos.’
Elise Schumann (18431928) also served as a teaching assistant to
Clara and in 1877 married the businessman Louis Sommerhoff. After two years in the US, she settled in Frankfurt, teaching the piano. Julie Schumann (1845-72) drew the special affection of Brahms, to the point that he was somewhat in love with her. When Julie married Count Vittorio Amadeo Radicati di Marmorito in 1869, Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody was his wedding present to them. Julie was in a delicate state of health – like Felix, she suffered from tuberculosis – but she died giving birth to her third child.
Emil Schumann (1846-47) died tragically at the age of just one. Ludwig Schumann (1848-99) succumbed to mental illness at the age of 20. He was confined thereafter to an asylum at Colditz. His mother did not visit.
Ferdinand Schumann (1849-91) was the only one of the Schumann descendants to pass on their name. He worked as a clerk and married Antonie Deutsch, with whom he had seven children. He appears to have been cursed with some of the family’s mental health issues: he became addicted to drugs and died at 42. Clara provided for his family.
Eugenie Schumann (18511938) was a teaching assistant to her mother, and later a piano teacher in her own right. Her lifelong partner was the singer Marie Fillunger; Clara proved remarkably accepting of this then-unusual situation. Eugenie’s memoirs are essential reading. One of her earliest memories is of watching an energetic young man performing acrobatics on the banisters of the Schumanns’ home in Düsseldorf to entertain the children; it was, of course, Johannes Brahms. Felix Schumann (1854-79) was born after his father was hospitalised and Clara named him after their late friend Mendelssohn. Felix showed talent for music and writing; Brahms, his godfather, set some of his poems to music, notably Mein Liebe ist grün. His death aged 25 came as a terrible blow to Clara – and also to Brahms.