Composer Couples - Robert and Clara Schumann, and Gustav and Alma Mahler

Liz Knowles & Harry Williamson
Part of St Andrew's Cathedral at Noon Recital Series
St Andrew's Cathedral

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This recital presents the fruits of two contrasting relationships.  Robert and Clara Schumann respected each other’s musical talents (by the time of her marriage to Robert Schumann in 1840, Clara Schumann had acquired considerable fame as a concert pianist.)  Despite Clara’s doubts about her own compositional abilities, Robert encouraged her to compose.  The first six songs presented today are taken from Liebesfrühling, published as Robert Schumann’s opus 37.  This was a joint project consisting of twelve Rückert settings, to which Clara contributed three songs.

The Mahler’s marriage was very different.  Gustav Mahler’s attitude to his wife’s ambition to be a composer contrasts sharply with Schumann’s.  He wrote in 1901, shortly before their marriage, and without having heard any of her compositions:

The role of the ‘composer’…is mine; yours is that of the loving partner.

One may speculate that Alma’s resentment at this belittling of her talent may have fuelled her many infidelities.  Gustav relented in 1910, in the last months of his life, when he found some of Alma’s songs, and perhaps in an effort to repair their marital difficulties, helped her to get them published.  The two songs presented today were among those ‘discovered’ by Gustav, and reveal a compositional style very different from his.

The recital ends with three of Gustav Mahler’s Rückertlieder, composed in 1901-2.  His setting of Liebst du um Schönheit was intended as a wedding present for Alma.


  • Clara Schumann (1819-1896) Liebst du um Schönheit
  • Clara Schumann (1819-1896) Er ist gekommen
  • Clara Schumann (1819-1896) Warum willst du and’re fragen?
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856) Der Himmel hat eine Träne geweint
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856) Flügel, Flügel
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856) O, ihr Herren
  • Alma Mahler (1879-1964) Laue Sommernacht
  • Alma Mahler (1879-1964) Die stille Stadt
  • Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft
  • Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder
  • Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) Liebst du um Schönheit
Liz Knowles Mezzo-soprano
Harry Williamson Piano
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