1794 - 1873
Caroline Schleicher was born on December 17, 1794 in the town of Stockach, which was then still part of Upper Austria. Her father Franz Joseph came from near Heilbronn. On one of his art trips he traveled to Lake Constance as a bassoonist. He met the Strassburger family at a church music event in Mannenbach. Caspar Strassburger's eldest daughter Josepha not only sang, but also played the violin and clarinet. The two married in 1787 and had 13 children in the following years, of which only three girls survived childhood. At that time, the so-called bourgeoisie was just emerging; musicians were often still considered craftsmen. Caroline Schleicher's parents probably belonged to both of these milieus.
“A deep emotion came over me that only the producing artist can feel.” - This quote from Caroline Schleicher-Krähmer is of particular interest because it is the only statement that reflects her self-image as an artist. Caroline Schleicher-Krähmer felt like a “producing artist” and chose two instruments that were considered inappropriate for women at the time: the clarinet and the violin.
Several women before her had already dared to appear in public on the violin, even though the shape of the instrument was associated with a female body. With the clarinet, however, she seems to have been the first and for a long time the only one who not only performed publicly but also went on concert tours through Europe all the way to Russia. She can therefore rightly be considered the first solo clarinettist known by name. In addition to these two instruments, she also mastered the guitar and the piano. An appearance with the guitar has not yet been documented, but she publicly accompanied her nephew and later her sons on the piano.
Caroline Schleicher-Krähmer was also active as a composer. However, there is no record of any institutional training, so it must be assumed that she learned to compose from her father Franz Joseph Schleicher; possibly her first piano teacher Johann Melchior Dreyer, who was himself a respected composer; and Franz Danzi, who gave her free lessons in figured bass and composition. Since there were no institutionalized training opportunities for women at that time, it was extremely advantageous for Caroline to grow up in a family of musicians. In this way she was able to acquire musical skills that went beyond domestic use.
Thanks to the International Encyclopedia of Women Composers, Caroline Schleicher was known to have composed and published several works. Several of these compositions have now been found again. These are works for piano and for voice with piano accompaniment as well as two smaller compositions for piano. The publication of all works discovered so far and their chronological classification is already in progress.
Newspaper reviews show that Caroline Schleicher-Krähmer appeared several times with her own compositions for clarinet. However, these were apparently not published and no handwritten manuscripts have yet been found.
Biography adapted from composer’s website, courtesy of Dr Nicola Buckenmaier.
Photo courtesy of Zurich Central Library