While many of her compositions are for solo piano, Clara also wrote many fine German art songs, Lieder, now rarely heard. To put the record straight, Clara Schumann Festival opens (22 Feb, 7:30PM) with these 29 settings, performed by Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser and British tenor Alessandro Fisher (winner of 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Competition and a BBC New Generation Artist). They are accompanied by Eugene Asti.
Soprano Sophie Karthäuser sings Clara Schumann's neglected lieder. Photo: Alvarez Yanez
Asti continues the theme of song with a Lieder Masterclass and three emerging singer-pianist duos from Oxford Lieder Young Artists (23 Feb, 11AM).
In their early years of marriage, Robert and Clara devoted considerable time to the study of fugue and counterpoint, notably Bach’s complete Well-Tempered Clavier which Robert referred to as his 'daily bread'. An afternoon recital (23 Feb, 3:30PM) juxtaposes Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No 3 in C sharp BWV848 with three of Clara’s own works from 1845, performed by Gamal Khamis. The concert ends with Brahms’s Handel Variations Op. 24, which was dedicated to Clara, whom Brahms adored, played by Mishka Rushdie Momen.
Mishka Rushdie Momen plays Brahms. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
The second day of the Clara Schumann Festival concludes (23 Feb, 7:30PM) with familiar numbers from Robert’s Myrthen, which he presented to Clara as a gift on their wedding day, and some Rückert settings jointly composed by Clara and Robert. Also played will be Clara’s early Variations a Theme by Robert Schumann Op. 20, Beethoven’s song cycle An die Ferne Geliebte Op. 98, with its longing for a distant loved one, and Robert’s Fantasy in C which includes a brief quotation from the Beethoven cycle, undoubtedly penned with Clara in mind.
One of her best works, Clara’s Piano Trio in G minor Op. 17 (her only piano trio) opens the last day of the festival. This one-hour recital (24 Feb, 11:30AM), entitled Clara & Brahms, pairs Clara’s lyrical trio with one of her personal favourites – Brahms’s dramatic and turbulent Piano Trio in C minor Op. 101. Playing are the Busch Trio, winners of 2012 Royal Overseas League Competition, and prize winners at the 2013 International Schumann Chamber Music Award.
The Busch Trio are Schumann experts. Photo: Kaupo Kikkas
Felix Mendelssohn and his close friendship with the Schumanns and Brahms is celebrated in The Mendelssohn Connection on (24 Feb, 3:30PM). The tight-knit nature of this friendship group is reflected by the opening works – two Brahms settings of poetry by Felix Schumann, son of Clara and Robert, whom they named after Felix Mendelssohn. The rest of the programme consists solely of works by Mendelssohn.
The final concert (24 Feb, 7:30PM) begins with two pieces as a memento of her friendship with the violinist Joseph Joachim: firstly, Clara’s own 3 Romances, one of her more frequently performed works nowadays; and secondly, the F-A-E Sonata which the composers dedicated to Joseph. This piece was first played through at a friendly get together by Clara and Joseph at Clara’s home. Both works will be performed by the Busch Trio.
The Clara Schumann Festival ends with Brahms’s Vier Ernste Gesänge, written towards the end of his life. The songs were first played to a group of close friends at a private gathering immediately after Clara’s funeral in 1896. Performers include baritone Stephan Loges.
Baritone Stephan Loges sings in the Clara Schumann Festival's final concert. Photo: Alexander Barnes
Festival curator Beverley Vong says: 'Many will recognise Clara Schumann as the wife of Robert Schumann. However, in reality, she seems to have been so much more: not only did she juggle an international solo career with being a mother of eight (a feat in itself), Clara inspired a huge amount of music and this short festival features only a fraction of it.
an age when women endured endless inequalities, Clara Schumann
displayed remarkable resilience, determination, and devotion to
|What||Clara Schumann Festival, St John's Smith Square|
|Where||St John's Smith Square, 30 Smith Square, London , SW1P 3HF | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Westminster (underground)|
22 Feb 19 – 24 Feb 19, six concerts, times vary
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|