Pianist makes strong case for Clara Schumann's works

This year marks the 200th birth anniversary of Clara Schumann (1819 to 1896). Born Clara Wieck, she was the wife of German composer Robert Schumann, mother to eight children and a child prodigy who became one of the world's greatest concert pianists. She was also a composer, albeit far overshadowed by her husband, whom she survived by some 40 years.

British pianist Isata KannehMason, born in Nottingham of parents from Antigua and Sierra Leone, makes the strongest case possible for Clara Schumann's major compositions for piano.

Piano Concerto In A Minor, completed when Schumann was just 16, is very accomplished, even if somehow derivative for the early Romantic age. Technical virtuosity is given in the fast outer movements, but the slow movement is the most touching. Her use of a significant cello solo predates that of both Liszt and Brahms in their second piano concertos.

Here, Kanneh-Mason is partnered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Holly Mathieson.

The other major work is the 20-minute-long Piano Sonata In G Minor, in four movements, published as recently as 1991. It is as serious as a sonata can get, but still an enjoyable listen. Also included are Three Romances Op. 11, Three Romances For Violin And Piano Op. 22 (with violinist Elena Urioste) and Scherzo No. 2 In C Minor Op. 14, lyrical works that remind one of her husband as well as Mendelssohn.

Schumann, as a transcriber of her husband's works, such as Widmung (Dedication) and Mondnacht (Moonlit Night), is ever sensitive and never vulgar. Essential listening for romantics.

  • OBSCURE CLASSICS

    ROMANCE: THE PIANO MUSIC OF CLARA SCHUMANN

    Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano

    Decca 485 0020

    4.5 stars

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2019, with the headline 'Pianist makes strong case for Clara Schumann's works'. Print Edition | Subscribe