Clarinet HERstory is a new retrospective series on Jenny Clarinet which celebrates women throughout clarinet history (aka HERstory).
Do you have a recommendation for a clarinetist to feature in an upcoming post in Clarinet HERstory? Contact me here.
Caroline Krähmer (née Schleicher, 1794-c. 1873) was an international soloist and toured all throughout Europe, performing works by Weber, Tausch, Mozart, and more.
Born to musical parents who also performed concert tours, Caroline and her two surviving sisters (there were 13 children in total, only 3 of which survived infancy) were taught violin, singing, piano, and clarinet.
Caroline began studying the clarinet with her father at the age of nine. Being a part of a musical family was an integral part of Caroline’s success, as she would not have similar opportunities for musical education or instruction as a woman during this time. She also benefited from her parents’ colleagues and musical circle, receiving violin lessons from one of her father’s colleagues. Additionally, the family also went on tour together as the “Musikalische Kleeblatt” (“Musical Trefoil”), including father Franz Joseph, Caroline, and her sister Cordula (also a clarinetist who will be featured in a future Clarinet HERstory post).
These tours in Switzerland and Germany gave Caroline great experience to help her establish a career as a professional musician, with experience as a soloist, orchestral musician, musical director, teacher, and other valuable skills she would later use.
After the death of her father in 1819, Caroline was able to establish a name for herself as an individual (instead of a member of the Schleicher family). She embarked on her first soloist tour, which led her to several cities in Germany and Austria, ending in Vienna. Here, she performed a “dedicated concert in a hall of the Musikvereinsgesellschaft (Musical Society of Vienna) on February 27, and a concert in the Kärtnerthor Theater on March 4. Eventually she gave a concert for the royal family at the Wiener Hofburg (Vienna Imperial Palace) on March 25, 1822.”
In order to fund her concert in Vienna, she was put in contact with Johann Ernst Krähmer, an oboist and csakan player. The two were married in 1822 in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, and they began embarking on concert tours together throughout Germany, Austria, and as far away as Russia. During these concerts, each musicians played two instruments – Ernst performed on oboe and the csakan, and Caroline performed on the clarinet and violin.
The duo also gave annual concerts in Vienna, and their wide network of colleagues and patrons led them to become important figures in Viennese musical society. They were friends with Beethoven, Danzi, and several other noted composers, instrument makers, and musical figures.
While she was garnering international acclaim, she managed to raise her 10 children. After Ernst’s death in 1842, she supported her family through teaching members of aristocratic families. Caroline continued performing until the age of 62, and according to the Augsburger Anzeigenblatt in 1856:
“The concert of the famous Viennese clarinet player Mrs. Karoline Krähmer, which took place on May 20 of this month in the Pompeian Hall of the Drei Mohren for a distinguished audience, offered initially by the perfect play of this master, high enjoyment of art. The phantasy of her motives from The Prophet, later the Potpourri were played by Mrs. Krähmer with rare virtuosy and exceptional softness of the tone on the clarinet and cheering applause followed these accomplishments.”
Caroline was also a composer (she wrote her Clarinet Sonatine in 1825), and she was included in Sauer & Leidesdorf’s 1825 list of fifty of “the most considerable composers, whose procession is led by the Prince of Music, our genius, Beethoven.” Also in this list were Beethoven, Schubert, and other famous composers.
Caroline Schleicher-Krähmer is widely considered to be the first female clarinet soloist, and her life and legacy continue to inspire clarinetists of today.
- An interview I did with Dr. Nicola Buckenmaier on the life and legacy of Caroline Schleicher-Krähmer
- Pamela Weston More Clarinet Virtuosi of the Past