Clara Schumann’s Lieder – A Classical Cousin

Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has me currently entranced with its gentle, yet poignant questions about women’s history – not just in fiction, but in culture and arts generally.

According to a Washington Post quiz (which, given its loaded questions, ought to be taken with a pinch of salt), I come under the umbrella of “Yes, but…” feminists, meaning I identify as somewhat feminist but am also critical of feminism as it stands today.  Without getting deeply into the topic – I am trying, by a thread, to stay apolitical on this blog – I would say that’s a fairly accurate summary of my outlook.

My main concern for women’s rights are those basic ones which are still lacking in other countries.  In Woolf’s book, I am reminded that women in the West underwent similar struggles.  For example, as lately as 100 years ago, a choice of career was limited:

…I had made my living by cadging odd jobs from newspapers, by reporting a donkey show here or a wedding there; I had earned a few pounds by addressing envelopes, reading to old ladies, making artificial flowers, teaching the alphabet to small children in a kindergarten. Such were the chief occupations that were open to women before 1918.  (ch. 2)

More to come on this later.  (This will be Monday’s podcast episode!)

Here I just wanted to share a piece by Clara Schumann, the talented pianist and composer, best known (for better or worse) as the wife of composer Robert Schumann.  Like Robert, Clara composed lieder, or songs, which put German poetry to music.  (I picture the German gentry gathering around of a summer’s evening, listening to a talented family member performing these songs, though whether that is totally accurate, I cannot say.)

These are the lyrics, translated by David Kenneth Smith:

Der Mond kommt still gegangen  The moon so peaceful rises
Emanuel Geibel (1815-1884)  Op. 13 No. 4

Der Mond kommt still gegangen  The moon so peaceful rises
mit seinem gold’nen Schein,  with all its golden shine,
da schläft in holdem Prangen  there sleeps in lovely glitter
die müde Erde ein.  the weary earth below.

Und auf den Lüften schwanken  And on the breezes waft down
aus manchem treuen Sinn  from many faithful hearts
viel tausend Liebesgedanken  true loving thoughts by the thousand
über die Schläfer hin.  upon the sleeping ones.

Und drunten im Tale, da funkeln  And down in the valley, there twinkle
die Fenster von Liebchens Haus;  the lights from my lover’s house;
ich aber blicke im Dunkeln  but I in darkness still look out –
still in die Welt hinaus.  silent – into the world.


  1. That is wonderful music. Thanks for posting. I have been meaning to read A Room of One's Own for a while.Womens' rights in the developing world is a critical issue. Women have been bravely fighting against horrendous oppression all over the planet. Many have taken their cause to social media. podcasts, etc. That is where I have kept up with developments concerning several women' rights campaigns in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. Things are changing, but there is a long way to go.


  2. quite lovely… i've been impressed and surprised by the number of oriental musicians that have appeared in western music circles in the last few decades… keeping the flame alive, as it were, while musicians in the west succumb occasionally to political issues and associated distractions… and it's great that Clara is being performed now, whereas Robert used to be the only representative of the Schumann family… of course my perspective is over the last 60 years or so; it may result in my observations being a bit out of date…


  3. I think you have something there, Mudpuddle… I've had the chance to perform with Korean musicians, and one gets the sense they deeply treasure the music. Tenor Yonghoon Lee, who has graced the Met Opera stage, can be watched on YouTube singing classic hymns. It's wonderful to see.And…it's not like we aren't playing classical music in the West – certainly, the Pacific Northwest has a classical community. But listening to some of these Asian musicians, I almost feel like I'm listening to the piece for the first time. They've rejuvenated repertoire that perhaps has grown a little stale here. 🙂


  4. Glad you enjoyed it! The book itself is a nice, quick read.On Reddit, I've read horror stories of life in certain Middle East countries, from dissenting young women and men. Family pressure is a huge part of it…to question the system often means being disowned (or worse) by one's family. One woman said she was prepared to enter a marriage of convenience, just to be able to leave the country. It's very disturbing.


  5. That reminds me… I don't often go to concerts, but last month I did attend Seattle Symphony playing Saint-Saens's Organ Symphony, conducted by Kazuki Yamada. He was excellent. They also played Chopin, featuring Benjamin Grosvenor, a young British pianist. The entire program was classical, no modern pieces sneaked in. It was refreshing!


  6. the organ symphony is a rouser… which Chopin was it? i haven't been to a concert in a very long time: $$$$ + we live 70 miles from portland… i actually think i played in more concerts than i attended, but that was a long time ago…


  7. I played flute for about 5 years, then played violin for another 5 or so. Sadly, there wasn't enough spare time to practice in college, so I was forced to quit at that point. I keep promising myself to come back to violin, one of these days.


  8. I'm not so familiar with Clara's compositions but Schumann's one of my favorites. People lament that she was not given the same credit as her husband, but she is the one who showcased all of his piano pieces and that is no small thing. She is also the one who started the practice of playing from memory. As a pianist, I don't know if I should thank her for that or not. I have not considered posting Youtube on my blog, although I do link to it. I guess I need to figure out how to do that.You've encourage me to read Virginia Woolf. I've never been motivated to do so for the reasons you mention. I believe in respect for each gender and I don't \”identify\” through my sex. I'm a child of God and that's all I care about.And you're right. Where is the hue and outcry for the horrible deprivation of rights in so many parts of the world? Human rights as well as specifically women's rights. But I will stop there. I could easily go off on a long rant. 🙂


  9. Same here; I never had a great interest in reading Woolf except to experience the stream-of-consciousness style (which I've already done via Faulkner). Having finished this book now, I do think it's worth reading. I don't agree with all of her views, but it reminded me to be grateful for the opportunities I have…I personally came away feeling *more* contented. I have the two things Woolf recommends – income and a personal space. I've had some challenges as a female in the tech industry, but they are nothing compared to what others experience(d). Glass half-full!


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