I, CLARA Will Have its London Premiere at King's Place and Tour
Internationally renowned pianist Lucy Parham celebrates the bicentenary of Clara Schumann's birth on Friday 13th September with a Composer Portrait concert 'I, Clara:Clara Schumann - A Life in Music', touring nationally.
'I, Clara', Lucy Parham's new show celebrating the exceptional life of Clara Wieck Schumann will continue to tour in Autumn & Winter 2019 with the London premiere at King's Place on Sunday 6th October.
Created by the pianist, writer and Schumann aficionado and scholar Lucy Parham, and telling her extraordinary story in her own words, 'I, Clara' features Juliet Stevenson narrating the role of Clara, a role which she will share with Lesley Sharp, Patricia Hodge, Dame Harriet Walter, Niamh Cusack and Joanna David.
"I really love doing these concerts with Lucy. The letters and journals of these great artists enable the audience to hear their music freshly, illuminated by the insights into their personal and domestic lives. Lucy's passion for these great composers infuses the whole evening, and her playing is glorious." Juliet Stevenson
Clara Wieck Schumann was the child prodigy who toured Europe at age 11 and enthralled concert audiences for 60 years after; a piano virtuoso, noted composer of numerous solo piano works, chamber music and songs and multi-tasking mother-of-eight. She was married to the composer Robert Schumann, and passionately loved by another classical legend, Johannes Brahms.
Clara was born in 1819, but her exceptional life charted 21st century issues. The love letters she shared with her husband Robert remain famous to this day. But as his career foundered and he succumbed to mental illness, she shouldered the role of family bread-winner, only to see some critics accuse her of callousness.
The narrative of 'I, Clara', is drawn from these letters and diaries including the famous "marriage diary" she kept with Robert. It is punctuated with live performances of her works as well as music by Robert Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Mendelssohn and Chopin.
"Clara Schumann's story should be much more widely known. Her formidable talent (not only as a ground-breaking pianist but as a composer too) her inner strength and life-long devotion to music are inspirational. I have had a deep love of the music of Robert Schumann since I was a child. I always identified with his music and felt a profound connection with it," Parham said. "It was this love of his music that initially drew me into their story, as well as into the music of Brahms, which I adore. I have huge respect for Clara Schumann. She changed the path not just for female pianists but for all pianists and hopefully now she is being fully recognised for her extraordinary achievements. "
Clara Schumann remains a powerful and sometimes polarising figure in today's charged sexual politics. The actress Katherine Hepburn famously played Clara Schumann in the film 'Song of Love'. "The first year of our marriage you should forget the artist, shouldn't live for anything but yourself and your house and your husband..." Robert Schumann, her father's music student, wrote to her on their marriage in 1840, the day before her 21st birthday.
She first met Robert at the age of nine, when he was nine years older. She became his muse, passionate lover, and wife, and the performer who took his music to the public, and published and promoted it after his death.
"Music was always the true home of my soul. A materialisation of everything divine; it was my religion and my temple. The sanctuary in which it was the only God" Clara Schumann wrote. "There are those who regard it only as a way to earn money. I do not. I have always felt a calling to reproduce great works, above all, also those of Robert, as long as I have the strength to do so...Robert, the man whom I always carry in my heart."
'I, Clara' is the 6th Composer Portrait by Lucy Parham. One of Britain's best known pianists, she won the 1984 'BBC Young Musician of the Year' and made her Royal Festival Hall concerto debut at the age of 16. It was her life-long passion for the music of Schumann that inspired the original concept of the words and music evening, 'Beloved Clara'. Her portrait concerts of Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy and Rachmaninoff have been performed around the world and seen numerous recordings and collaborations with Juliet Stevenson, Harriet Walter, Dominic West, and Edward Fox to name a few. Lucy is also in demand as a professor, artistic director, writer and broadcaster.
"Lucy Parham's trailblazing concert, in which she fuses music and words with the help of some of our most distinguished thespians, have become one of the must-see events of the musical calendar" BBC Music Magazine
"Fate has destined us for one another" Robert wrote to her. "I knew that long ago, but my hope was not bold enough to tell you of it earlier, or for you to understand."
Into a marriage that would end in tragedy, came the figure of Robert Brahms, who would live with Schumann and care for her children as she toured. "Oh Clara, what have you done to me?" Brahms would write. "Can you not remove the spell you have cast over me?" She would play Brahms' work in her last public recital, at the age of 72.
22 September - Hertford Theatre - Juliet Stevenson
29 September - Music at Linton, Cambridgeshire - Harriet Walter
4 October - Little Missenden Festival - Harriet Walter
6 October - Kings Place - Harriet Walter *London premiere* Venus Unwrapped
17 October - Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds - Patricia Hodge
20 October - Canterbury Festival - Juliet Stevenson
3 November - St George's, Bristol, St George's Bristol - Patricia Hodge
6 November - Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff - Patricia Hodge