This new CD, Obsidian, pays homage to the piano music of Clara Schumann. Clara Schumann’s music has been neglected in recordings. The album also pays homage to the two men in Clara Schumann’s life, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms, interwoven with her as they were into a close friendship and kind of love triangle.
The album takes its name from Obsidian Liturgy, written by composer Max Grafe on the occasion of the 120th and 160th birthday of Clara and Robert Schumann in 2016 and in honor of Clara Schumann and Mika Sasaki, our piano soloist on this recording. Grafe’s 10-minute work includes several sections: “Invocation”, “Canticle”, “Incantation”, “Trance”, “Peal”, “Benedictus” and “Ite, missa est.”
The intense musical language and the pianist genius of Clara Schumann are particularly evident in the Scherzo in C minor, op. 14, the Three Preludes and Fugues Op. 16, and the variations on a theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 20. Taking inspiration from her husband’s Bluten Blätter, Clara returned to the “longing motif,” which she developed and gave to Robert to his birthday in 1853.
Brahms’ monumental Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 9, takes and develops this same theme, which he wove into this set of variations a year after Robert’s suicide attempt and hospitalization. Brahms dedicated this work to Clara, who was pregnant at the time with the Schumanns’ seventh child.
Mika Sasaki is a fabulous pianist and this album makes great programmatic sense. Mika’s musical choices illuminate the artistic inspiration and creative exchange between these three Romantic souls.
Violinist Petteri Iivonen joins Mika in Clara’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano Op. 22. These pieces mark the early end of Clara Schumann’s compositional life. She was only 34 years old. The album offers its singing conclusion with the Clara’s Chopin-inspired Notturno from her Soirées musicales Op. 6. Robert Schumann later used the opening melody as a “voice from a distance” in his Noveletten Op. 21.
Clara Schumann spent much of her life as the widowed mother of eight children. This is a daunting task, unimaginable to many of us today. Despite her daily struggles, and to her great credit, Clara Schumann’s commitment to the music “of her two men” cannot be overstated. As an editor, pianist and lecturer, Robert Schumann’s musical heritage was secure in her hands.
This new, cleverly arranged and artistically interpreted CD is, however, primarily dedicated to Clara herself, a great and genuinely creative composer of Romantic masterpieces. This is an important album and the recording engineering quality does justice to all of these great works.
–Dr. Ingobert Waltenberger, October 10th, 2016 Online Merker, Austria
Please read the original German review in Online Merker here