Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New Adventures in Good Music

As we have related in a couple of previous posts, we have been experiencing intermittent connectivity issues.  We have had a line tech and his supervisor out here all afternoon and we still have issues.  Now they want us to run a new cat 6 Ethernet cable directly from their modem to Will's computer.  As he is the network administrator he must administer the testing they want us to do for the next 48 hours.  After I get this post up I will be incommunicado for the foreseeable future.  Hopefully this will be solved long before it is time for the Sunday Morning Concert. However, there will be no post until then, if then.  Stay tuned for further technological adventures. 

Now all week on Sirius XM76, one of the night time programs has been exploring the relationship between Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms.  When the Schumanns met Brahms, he was yet an unknown.  Robert and Clara, when they first heard Brahms play for them, loved his music.  Clara was a Concert Pianist and was the first to publicly perform his works and both became champions of Brahm's compositions.  Today, though, I want to look at the life and music of Clara Schumann who was ahead of most women of her time:

Clara Schumann (née Clara Josephine Wieck; 13 September 1819 – 20 May 1896) was a German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era. She exerted her influence over a 61-year concert career, changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital and the tastes of the listening public. Her husband was the composer Robert Schumann. Together they encouraged Johannes Brahms. She was the first to perform publicly any work by Brahms.[1] She later premiered some other pieces by Brahms, notably the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel.[2]

Clara Josephine Wieck was born in Leipzig on 13 September 1819 to Friedrich Wieck and Marianne Wieck (née Tromlitz).[3] Marianne Tromlitz was a famous singer in Leipzig at the time and was singing solos on a weekly basis at the well-known Gewandhaus in Leipzig.[4] The differences between her parents were irreconcilable, in large part due to her father's unyielding nature.[4] After an affair between Clara's mother and Adolph Bargiel, her father's friend,[5] the Wiecks divorced in 1824 and Marianne married Bargiel. Five-year-old Clara remained with her father.

From an early age, Clara's career and life was planned down to the smallest detail by her father. She daily received a one-hour lesson (in piano, violin, singing, theory, harmony, composition, and counterpoint) and two hours of practice, using the teaching methods he had developed on his own. In March 1828, at the age of eight, the young Clara Wieck performed at the Leipzig home of Dr. Ernst Carus, director of the mental hospital at Colditz Castle. There she met another gifted young pianist who had been invited to the musical evening, named Robert Schumann, who was nine years older. Schumann admired Clara's playing so much that he asked permission from his mother to discontinue his law studies, which had never interested him much, and take music lessons with Clara's father. While taking lessons, he took rooms in the Wieck household, staying about a year. He would sometimes dress up as a ghost and scare Clara, and this created a bond.[6]

In 1830, at the age of eleven, Clara left on a concert tour to Paris via other European cities, accompanied by her father. She gave her first solo concert at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. In Weimar, she performed a bravura piece by Henri Herz for Goethe, who presented her with a medal with his portrait and a written note saying: "For the gifted artist Clara Wieck". During that tour, Niccolò Paganini was in Paris, and he offered to appear with her.[7] However, her Paris recital was poorly attended, as many people had fled the city due to an outbreak of cholera.[7]
The appearance of this artist can be regarded as epoch-making.... In her creative hands, the most ordinary passage, the most routine motive acquires a significant meaning, a colour, which only those with the most consummate artistry can give.
An anonymous music critic, writing of Clara Wieck's 1837–1838 Vienna recitals[8]

From December 1837 to April 1838, Clara Wieck performed a series of recitals in Vienna when she was 18.[8] Franz Grillparzer, Austria's leading dramatic poet, wrote a poem entitled "Clara Wieck and Beethoven" after hearing Wieck perform the Appassionata sonata during one of these recitals.[8] Wieck performed to sell-out crowds and laudatory critical reviews; Benedict Randhartinger, a friend of Franz Schubert (1797–1828), gave Wieck an autographed copy of Schubert's Erlkönig, inscribing it "To the celebrated artist, Clara Wieck."[8] Frédéric Chopin described her playing to Franz Liszt, who came to hear one of Wieck's concerts and subsequently "praised her extravagantly in a letter that was published in the Parisian Revue et Gazette Musicale and later, in translation, in the Leipzig journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik."[9] On 15 March, Wieck was named a Königliche und Kaiserliche Kammervirtuosin ("Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuoso"), Austria's highest musical honor.[9]

In her early years her repertoire, selected by her father, was showy and popular, in the style common to the time, with works by Kalkbrenner, Henselt, Thalberg, Herz, Pixis, Czerny, and her own compositions.

She was initially interested in the works of Liszt, but later developed an outright hostility to him. She ceased to play any of his works; she suppressed her husband's dedication to Liszt of his Fantasie in C major when she published Schumann's complete works; and she refused to attend a Beethoven centenary festival in Vienna in 1870 when she heard that Liszt and Richard Wagner would be participating.[7]

She was particularly scathing of Wagner. Of Tannhäuser, she said that he "wears himself out in atrocities"; she described Lohengrin as "horrible"; and she wrote that Tristan und Isolde was "the most repugnant thing I have ever seen or heard in all my life".[7]

In 1878 she was appointed teacher of the piano at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, a post she held until 1892 and in which she contributed greatly to the improvement of modern piano playing technique.

She held Anton Bruckner, whose 7th Symphony she heard in 1885, in very low esteem. She wrote to Brahms, describing it as "a horrible piece". She was more impressed with Richard Strauss's early Symphony in F minor in 1887.[7]

Clara Schumann played her last public concert in Frankfurt on 12 March 1891. The last work she played was Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Haydn, in the piano-duet version. Her partner was James Kwast.[33]

She suffered a stroke on 26 March 1896, dying on 20 May at age 76. She is buried at Bonn's Alter Friedhof (Old Cemetery) with her husband.

Although for many years after her death Clara Schumann was not widely recognized as a composer, as a pianist she made an impression which lasts until today. She was one of the first pianists to perform from memory, making that the standard for concertizing. Trained by her father to play by ear and to memorize, she gave public performances from memory as early as age thirteen, a fact noted as something exceptional by her reviewers.[34

As part of the broad musical education given her by her father, Clara Wieck learned to compose, and from childhood to middle age she produced a good body of work. Clara wrote that "composing gives me great pleasure... there is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound". At age fourteen she wrote her piano concerto, with some help from Robert Schumann, and performed it at age sixteen at the Leipzig Gewandhaus with Mendelssohn conducting.

As she grew older, however, she lost confidence in herself as a composer, writing, "I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?" Robert also seemed somewhat worried at Clara's composing output:

Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But to have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing. She cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost because she cannot work them out.
— Robert Schumann

In fact, Clara's compositional output decreased notably after she reached the age of thirty-six. The only compositions that exist from later in her life are cadenzas written to two concertos – one by Mozart and the other by Beethoven – and some sketches for a piece that never reached completion.[38] Today her compositions are increasingly performed and recorded. Her works include songs, piano pieces, a piano concerto, a piano trio, choral pieces, and three Romances for violin and piano. Inspired by her husband's birthday, the three Romances were composed in 1853 and dedicated to Joseph Joachim, who performed them for George V of Hanover. He declared them a "marvellous, heavenly pleasure".[39]

Clara was the authoritative editor of her husband's works for the publishing firm of Breitkopf & Härtel.

I have posted below a play list of Clara Schumann's most popular works which include:

0:00 Sonate in G minor: I Allegro
8:20 Sonate in G minor: II Adagio
11:30 Sonate in G minor: III Scherzo
14:06 Sonate in G minor: IV Rondo
19:36 Romanze in B minor (Langsam)
25:04 Impromptu in E major (Allegro ma non troppo)
27:29 Romanze in A minor
32:20 Scherzo Op.10 in D minor (Scherzo con passione Presto)
37:04 Deuxieme Scherzo Op.14 in C minor (Con fuoco)
41:12 Präludium in F minor (Im lebhaften tempo)
42:55 Soirees musicales Op.6 I Toccatina in A minor (Presto)
44:55 Soirees musicales Op.6 II Notturno in F major (Andante con moto)
49:42 Soirees musicales Op.6 III Mazurka in G minor (Moderato)
53:18 Soirees musicales Op.6 IV Ballade in D minor (Andante con moto)
59:27 Soirees musicales Op.6 V Mazurka in G major (Con moto)
1:01:53 Soirees musicales Op.6 VI Polonaise in A minor (Non troppo Allegro)
1:05:33 Etude in A flat major
1:07:25 Marsch in E flat major (Lebendig)

The performance is by Jozef De Beenhouwer recorded in 2001.  Over on my tumblr, I have an play list encompassing Clara's Piano Concerto, Opus 7 performed by Franceso Nicolosi and an unnamed orchestra.  In addition I have a marvelous live performance by Sviatoslav Richer of Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel from 1988 when Richter was 73 years old.  The Variations are dedicated to Clara and she also gave the Variations their first public performance.

Finally for today. it is Wet Wednesday and the splash fest is posted down below.  Over on my tumblr, Your Hottie of the Day!, Marco,  is steaming up his shower big time!  Thanks for your patience, hopefully we will see you on Sunday for your Morning Concert.  Until next time as always, Enjoy!

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