Clara Schumann Piano Circle

Out of the shadow: Clara Schumann workshop

Clara Schumann
Clara Schumann

It was fitting to round off 2019 by focussing our discussions and playing on a female composer. Clara Schumann, composer, concert pianist, teacher and of course, wife of Robert Schumann.

We recalled that Clara was one of the first true classical concert pianists. She brought Bach Mozart and Beethoven to large audiences in Europe. She was a true classicist and was uncomfortable with the trend towards a new bravura and often ostentatious style of pianism, particularly, Liszt.

We played Clara’s prelude and fugue in B flat, an apparent joint collaboration with Robert as they explored the polyphonic style together. We also played from her beautiful lieder, Das ist ein Tag, der klingen mag and Der Mond kommt still gegangen. How exquisite the piano writing in these songs.

We reflected on the importance of Clara, the teacher. She attracted very talented students from far and wide. Included in the long list of students was Mathilde Verne from Southampton. Mathilde studied with Clara for four years in Frankfurt before returning to London and setting up her own piano school. She brought the Schumann musical legacy back to the UK and was influential in launching the careers of Dame Moura Lympany and Solomon Cutner CBE.

We also shared fond memories of Joan Last OBE who studied with Mathilde Verne and who dedicated her life to teaching, promoting the music of Schumann and composing educational piano music.

We rounded off our reflections by travelling forward to the 1980’s and the film Madam Sousatzka. Shirley MacLaine plays the leading role of that eccentric piano teacher!. Was she really playing Mathilde Verne? Let history and provenance decide.

A Happy Practising New Year to all readers.

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