May 11, 2019

Schumann and Tomoko's Turns in Life

Tomoko often performs pieces from the Romantic era, when music became more complex and expressive. This music’s themes typically touched on nature and the fantastic.  

German composers were the vanguards of Romantic music, and the Robert Schuman was considered one of the best German composers of that time.  Yet his life took several turns.

Even before formally studying music at age seven, Schuman was composing. Nevertheless, after his father died when Schumann was 16 years old, he studied law instead of music as part of the terms of his inheritance and because his surviving family did not support his musical dreams.

Schumann still took piano lessons, and his teacher thought he had a great future as a concert pianist. However, Schuman’s hand became afflicted so he focused on composing instead. There is a certain irony about Schumann’s affliction, as Tomoko points out: “Schumann can be hard to play because of the expertise needed by both hands.”

Schumann eyed blossoming pianist Clara Wieck when she was only 15 years old. Her father was strictly against their courtship, and it took almost six years of legal battling for them to marry. However, that delay motivated Schumann to write at least 138 songs in one year, inspired by his love to Clara during that delay. Clara proved to be a great business partner and confidante for Schumann. After he died at age 46, Clara performed professionally and became the main editor of his work. Tomoko praises Clara, “Schumann himself didn’t play the piano; his wife did. His wife was accomplished in everything.”

About his compositions, Tomoko explains, “ “His mind becomes the melody, but it is hard to teach a student to play his music. You need a lot of spirit and imagination.” Therefore, Tomoko recommends that players should be in their thirties before attempting Schumann.

For these reasons, it is not surprising that Tomoko performs Schumann since her fingers are agile and her own spirit is so expressive. And as Tomoko’s own life has taken many turns since she was born in Japan, it is fitting that one of her favorite Schumann compositions is “Scenes from Childhood #1: From Foreign Lands and People,” which Tomoko performs on her album Baroque-20th Century, available at

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