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Clara: Sex, Love and Classical Music

by on 6 August 2019

Celebrating a Towering Figure

Clara: Sex, Love and Classical Music

by Elena Mazzon

Ram Jam Records, Kingston, 1–3 August 2019

A review by Helen Astrid

Nancy Reich’s book Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman was the basis for Elena Mazzon’s portrayal of the composer and wife of Robert Schumann, Clara Wieck, in her 60-minute show.

Clara DSC_4891

A towering figure in the German Romantic movement, Clara’s gifts as a pianist, composer, teacher, wife and mother were multifaceted. In her bicentenary year, we are gently reminded of her significance in the musical oeuvre of the early 19th century. Born in Leipzig in 1819, she was by the age of thirteen already undertaking concert tours to Paris, Weimar and Vienna, celebrated as a phenomenon wherever she went. And at just 18, she was engaged to Robert, much to the annoyance of her fiendish father Friedrich.

It was a tall order to master the stage both dramatically and musically in this one-woman show. Mazzon’s ambitious performance was dissipated and erratic, meandering through various characters, settings and languages. The ambience of the Ram Jam Records cabaret room, however, was superbly intimate, transporting us to another era. At times audience participation was also – surprisingly – called for.

Clara London Premiere 1

The concept is smart and sensitively executed, and credit must be given for the creative endeavour, not least the way it exemplifies Clara’s own detailed and exemplary piano compositions. But it was perhaps unnecessary for the music to be adulterated, as it was for instance at the end of Robert Schumann’s liedWidmung’ (‘Devotion’).

Not only did Clara juggle an international solo career with being a mother of eight and a teacher, she also inspired a huge amount of music-making among her contemporaries. Such an icon was Clara that she even featured on the 100-deutschemark banknote from 1989 until the adoption of the euro in 2002. The back of the note shows a grand piano she played, and the exterior of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt where she taught.

It has indeed taken too long for Clara Schumann’s full significance as a prodigious, all-round musician to be recognised. Events such as Clara: Sex, Love and Classical Music rightly bring her to the forefront of our culture in 21st century.

Further performances are scheduled for later this year.

Helen Astrid
August 2019

Photography by Elena Mazzon

From → Drama, Music

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  1. Clara | Mark Aspen

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