by Jarrett Hoffman
IN THIS EDITION:
•Today: Dana Ensemble plays music by Dave Morgan in “Remember to Remember”
•Announcements: paintings by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but also by Akron Public Schools students in conjunction with Tuesday Musical’s “Mexico, A Musical Journey” program from Cuarteto Latinoamericano (pictured)
•Interesting read: Weston Sprott on why there hasn’t been more progress diversifying orchestras
•Almanac: the many sides of Clara Schumann
At 7:30 pm at Youngstown State’s Ford Theater, the Dana Ensemble presents “Remember to Remember,” a 70-minute program by faculty composer Dave Morgan that will feature fourteen Dana faculty members, including soprano Misook Yun, as well as four guest improvisers. It’s free.
Visual art will play an important role in Tuesday Musical’s season-opening program “Mexico, A Musical Journey” (October 24) — and not just through artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, whose works are part of that multimedia program from Cuarteto Latinoamericano and scholar Benjamin Juarez. Thanks to a collaboration between Tuesday Musical and art teacher Patrick Dougherty, audience members will also have the opportunity to see paintings inspired by the concert and created by students from Akron Public Schools’ Firestone Community Learning Center.
“This was a particularly gratifying experience for my students as well as for me,” Dougherty said in a press release. “While I knew of the work of Rivera, Kahlo, and Leonara Carrington, I was not aware before of the diversity and beauty of so much of Mexican art.”
Speaking of arts education, we’re currently in the midst of National Arts in Education Week, and as part of that, Americans for the Arts is hosting a free webinar on Thursday, September 14 at 3:00 pm about the opportunities and challenges involved in arts education this year. Register here.
In an interview with Tom Jacobs for San Francisco Classical Voice, Weston Sprott (Dean and Director of Juilliard’s Preparatory Division and a trombonist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) discusses why there hasn’t been more progress in increasing the racial diversity of orchestras.
“For the handful of people who have managed to surpass all of those hurdles, it often means — I’m quoting my friend Titus Underwood, principal oboe of the Nashville Symphony — that their desire to play is stronger than their desire to belong.” Read here.
First, a quick nod to composers Arnold Schoenberg and Robert Ward (a Cleveland-born Pulitzer winner), who were both born on the 13th of September, and to conductor Leopold Stokowski, who died on this date in history. But today we delve into the life of German pianist and composer Clara Schumann, née Wieck, who was born on September 13, 1819.
It was at the piano where Schumann achieved international stardom during her lifetime, becoming one of the foremost virtuosos of the 19th century. A child prodigy, she was touring Europe by age 11, and a series of recitals in Vienna at age 18 inspired a glowing response from all corners.
Audiences sold out venues to hear her play. Fellow musicians sang her praises — including Franz Liszt in a letter that was later published — as did leading poets such as Franz Grillparzer. State officials gave her Austria’s highest musical honor. And as one critic wrote:
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.
Early on, her father chose showy repertoire for her, but later she championed the music of her contemporaries, including Brahms, Mendelssohn, and her husband Robert Schumann. Indeed one of the under-recognized elements of her legacy lies in the art of programming: the shift away from virtuosic displays to serious works.
She also made important contributions to piano pedagogy. As an influential professor at Dr. Hoch’s Konservatorium in Frankfurt, where she was the only woman on the faculty, she attracted students from around the world, emphasizing in her teaching such qualities as expression, tone, and the subordination of technique to the composer’s intentions.
Such subordination to a composer’s vision was central to her philosophy about performing. That was a key sticking point later on in her professional relationship with Liszt, who welcomed the spotlight with his emotional, and physical, interpretations.
Another element of hostility between them (part of a larger conflict in that era that has become known as the “War of the Romantics”) lay in disagreements about the direction of composition: the tradition of Beethoven (a camp that generally included herself, her husband, and Brahms) vs. transcending older forms (a desire held by Liszt and Wagner).
Clara Schumann wrote music since her early childhood, thanks in part to the broad musical education provided by her exacting father: daily, hour-long lessons covering a range of topics, from piano and composition to violin, voice, and theory. Her early programming, as was customary at the time, included her own works. And as Nancy Reich wrote in her 1985 biography Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman, she “astonished audiences as much by her compositions as by her playing.”
Her output was relatively small, since she mostly stopped composing at age 37 after her husband’s death. Even before that point, composition was at times crowded out by other responsibilities. As Robert Schumann wrote,
Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But…she cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost…
A great place to immerse yourself in her music is the 2019 debut album of British pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, Romance, entirely devoted to music by Clara Schumann.
“I think the fact that we don’t hear much of her music has nothing to do with the quality of the music,” Kanneh-Mason told NPR. “It’s all to do with the history and the fact that female composers are not recognized as much by musicians.”
Watch Kanneh-Mason perform a favorite of hers — the Scherzo No. 2 in c — on YouTube.