The Travelling Clara

‘The Travelling Clara’

A trilogy of concerts spaced out over 2019, reimagining concerts of the virtuoso Clara Schumann as she travelled across Europe, performing the most significant piano concertos of the nineteenth century.

1) Clara in Leipzig

Robert Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor.

Clara premiered her husband’s only completed piano concerto 1 January 1846. Her performances helped make the concerto one of the most popular in the repertoire. Mendelssohn conducting Leipzig Gewandhaus

Orchestral music could include: Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture; Beethoven symphonies

The place of her birth, Clara spent her childhood in Leipzig and, following the unhappy period of enforced separation from Robert imposed by her father, returned to the city for the blissful early years of their marriage. She made her debut performance as a child prodigy here, and when circumstances later required them to move away, Clara returned frequently throughout her performing career.

2) Clara in Hamburg

Clara Schumann Concerto in A minor, Op.7 Clara began composing this virtuosic yet lyrical concerto when she was just 13. Brimming with vitality and inventiveness, the work shows Clara’s early maturity and imagination as a composer. Premiered 1835, Mendelssohn conducting Leipzig Gewandhaus

Orchestral music could include: Schumann Overture to Genoveva op.81; Brahms Theme and Variations on a Theme by Haydn

Letter from Clara to Robert:
“May I send you the whole of Hamburg with its beautiful Elbe and seaships! […] Oh, Robert, we have to go together! I tell you to live at the Jungfernstieg and see the Alster early in beautiful sunshine with the many swans on it, that is a heavenly sight.”

Clara’s wish came true – they spent time together in Hamburg in 1842 and again in 1850. During the latter visit, Schumann conducted and Clara played his piano concerto. In later years, Clara gave concerts here with Brahms.

3) Clara in London

Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 (Emperor)

Clara performed this concerto in London in 1865, to ‘enormous applause’, her first ‘complete success’ there. Conducted by William Sterndale Bennett (a friend of Clara and Robert Schumann)

Orchestral music could include: Sterndale Bennett, Brahms symphonies

Clara travelled for the first time to London in 1856 ie. not as a child prodigy. At first, she found England strange and disliked the musical conditions; nevertheless, she stayed for three months giving 26 concerts in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Dublin. Clara returned to London on many further occasions and became a dominant element on the musical world, including over 100 appearances at the Crystal Palace “Popular Concerts”. Together with the legendary violinist Joseph Joachim, they introduced Schumann’s wonderful chamber music to English audiences.

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