Clara Schumann is hardly ever talked about without making reference to her husband, Robert Schumann, or her friend (possibly with benefits) Johannes Brahms. In fact, I’ve just done it. Whoops.
Clara Schumann was a great pianist — vaunted both by her husband and by Brahms. She was famous. Other great musicians of the day knew and respected her. Chopin, who was probably a better pianist, often recognized her publicly. And Clara Schumann even composed (listen to that — it’s good).
Yet Clara Schumann’s true legacy is neither her pianism nor her compositional skill.
Clara Schumann was one of the West’s great feminist icons of the 19th century, a century that could have used more. She helped make it publicly respectable for women to perform big, serious works. She was also one of the first pianists to play exclusively from memory — a technique that was first seen as an extravagance, then later became the standard for pianists desiring a closer relationship with their music.