Australia Ensemble | Robert and Clara broadcast June 4, 1pm
Robert & Clara
Clara Schumann composed nothing after the age of 36. Her husband Robert passed many years before her (alone in an asylum, self-starved to death, while she performed recitals), and she outlived four of her eight children too (each of whom lived out wretched tragedies of their own). Five months after Johannes Brahms blazed into the Schumann household as a composition student, Robert tried to drown himself in the Rhine. As her family’s main breadwinner, exceptional pressure was placed on Clara to be professionally successful while also a nurturing spouse and mother. Juggle as she might, her highly sought-after concert tours were often cancelled due to her pregnancies and her husband’s scandelous ill mental health.
Clara is often remembered as the child prodigy pianist who pioneered memorized performance. She’s famed for having collaborated with another great virtuoso, Niccolo Paganini, in a Paris concert that no one heard, as thousands fled the city’s cholera outbreak. As action-woman, in the May Uprising in Dresden, Clara bravely whisked Robert and one of her sons to a safe hideaway before returning into the heart of danger to rescue her other children and servants. Despite her courage in ongoing complicated circumstances, her story is frequently told only in relation to the men in her life, and particularly those with whom she shared romances. Clara was not so fussed by age differences in relationships. She married syphilitic Robert, nine years her senior, then bonded deeply with Brahms, fifteen years her junior. Musically, her romances with these two are documented in their scores, as we will hear tonight. She and her contemporaries changed the nature of piano recitals and reformed expectations of chamber music.
This program celebrates the work of Clara and her men. Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet, forming our second half, is one of the finest and most satisfying formally of his chamber works. Our program of Clara and Robert’s music is augmented by a brand new Australian commission by Natalie Williams titled ‘Letters to Clara’. Written in Clara’s honour for a mixed septet, William’s work flags the excellence of composing women past, present and into the future.
Robert & Clara
Robert Schumann | Märchenerzählungen Op. 132 (1853)
David Griffiths, clarinet; Irina Morozova, viola; Ian Munro, piano
Natalie Williams | Letters to Clara (2017) - first performance
Geoffrey Collins, flute; David Griffiths, clarinet; Dene Olding, violin; Dimity Hall, violin; Irina Morozova, viola; Julian Smiles, cello; Ian Munro, piano
Clara Schumann | Piano Trio in G minor Op. 17 (1846)
Ian Munro, piano; Dene Olding, violin; Julian Smiles, cello
Robert Schumann | Piano Quintet in E flat major Op. 44 (1842)
Ian Munro, piano; Dene Olding, violin; Dimity Hall, violin; Irina Morozova, viola; Julian Smiles, cello
Broadcast Monday June 4, 2018 at 1pm on ABC Classic FM