One of the most exceptional female artists of the 19th century celebrates her 200th birthday in 2019. The acknowledged Clara Schumann expert Ragna Schirmer has devoted a special act of homage to her artistic predecessor, taking two original concert programmes selected from Clara’s decades of concert performance and recording them to provide insight into the life and work of this very special woman.
In 1847, Clara and her husband Robert Schumann gave a matinee concert in the Berlin salon of Fanny Hensel. The programme featured two songs and the premiere performances of the piano quartet by Robert and the piano trio by Clara Schumann. 25 years later, on a tour of England, she played a solo piano recital (an unusual practice at that time) featuring all the works that meant most to her: her husband’s “Scenes from Childhood” and works by Beethoven, Scarlatti, Chopin, Brahms and Mendelssohn, a programme that delighted her audience.
She was announced as “Madame Schumann”. From over 1300 printed programmes, collected and preserved by the celebrated pianist over the course of her performing career, Ragna Schirmer opted for just these two. “The number of great works she studied and performed in the course of her life is quite amazing,” says Ragna Schirmer. “Another thing that fascinated me was the form, sequence and planning of her concerts. She played alongside the most important musicians of her time and most of her concerts reveal themselves to be varied compilations of different music genres.”
Ragna Schirmer has long been recognized for her intimate engagement with the life of Clara Schumann. In April 2019, she will receive the Robert Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau. “I have all her diaries at home, I have all her letters at home, I have all the biographies ever written, her children’s reminiscences … I find it incredibly exciting to be involved with this life and I regard her as an essential role model.”