Robert’s own story had no such ending, as the Düsseldorf situation and his health – physical and mental – deteriorated together. Robert attempted suicide in 1854 and spent the last two and a half years of his life in a sanatorium in Endenich, a suburb of Bonn. Clara was only allowed, on his doctors’ orders, to see him during his final days, when it became clear that he was dying.
1853, however, had been a relatively good year for both, musically productive and culminating in an inspiring month-long visit from the 20-year-old Brahms. Clara herself began to compose that summer, having written little since 1846 and the period of her Piano Trio. The Three Romances, Op. 22, were among the last pieces that Clara ever wrote. After Robert’s death, she composed almost nothing more herself, instead keeping Robert’s music alive through her touring and editing.
The romance was one of Clara’s favorite character genres, and these make complementary companions to Robert’s Märchenbilder. The Andante molto has hints of gypsy pathos amid lyrically supple sentiments, and the merry spirits of the Allegretto likewise have a darker center. Almost as long as the other two together, Clara’s final romance, marked Leidenschaftlich schnell (passionately quick), features a long-limbed melody over rippling pianism, developed with assurance.