Chamber Music of Clara Schumann

Byron Shenkman and Friends play Clara Schumann

Byron Schenkman, Jesse Irons, Kate Wadsworth
58:02
www.byronandfriends.org BSF 191

A CD devoted to music by Clara Schumann is always welcome, and there are some genuine treasures here. The most substantial work is her op 17 Piano Trio in C minor, a work of genuine originality and consummate craftsmanship. Unsurprisingly, to us, her music sounds very similar in style to that of her husband with perhaps more than a passing flavour of Mendelssohn, but it is important that more of her music be recorded so that we may begin to identify her unique voice. Her op 22 Romances for violin and piano, composed in 1853 after she had met and been influenced by the young Brahms, hint at the originality she is capable of. The CD concludes with the Romance from the op 7 Piano Concerto, which again gives us a tantalising glimpse of Clara’s potential. After the untimely death of her husband, Clara devoted her life to editing, transcribing and performing his music, a decision which eclipsed her own compositional talents. It is perhaps a pity that the present performers devote about a third of the present CD to Robert Schumann’s op 15 Kinderszenen, music already familiar and which. unfortunately to my ear in its ease of composition and its visionary qualities. slightly outshines Clara’s music. There is a lot of extant and largely unexplored music for solo piano by Clara, including transcriptions of her husband’s music, which could have completed the programme and further informed our understanding of her oeuvre. Having said that, there is an engaging freshness about these performances, with a particularly evocative sound coming from Byron Schenkman’s 1875 Streicher piano. I found the portamento of Jesse Irons’ violin playing a little overdone – the study of contemporary descriptions of performance style will undoubtedly have informed these accounts, but the universal concept of ‘less is more’ might also have been applied. This CD is a valuable part of the current exploration of the music written by female composers which has been unjustifiably overshadowed by that of their male contemporaries – time indeed to let more of the flowers in the garden bloom.

D. James Ross