From the The Oxford Times, first published Thursday 27th Jul 2006.
I am the happiest wife on earth. Should something not be right for you,
tell me straight away." Thus wrote Clara Schumann to her composer
husband Robert soon after their marriage the couple were sometimes
apart as Clara continued her career as an internationally successful
Had everything in the Schumann household remained so rosy, Beloved
Clara would never have come into existence. For this is the story of
their married life, as told through their letters and diaries. And, it
seems, some domestic cracks did begin to appear: Clara is soon heard
complaining about the thin walls' in their house, which made it
difficult for these two differing musicians to work under the same
roof. There were sharp remarks too: "One nice word from Mendelssohn
makes her glow for hours," wrote Robert following a visit from the
famed composer and conductor.
But Mendelssohn was nothing compared with the seismic effect caused
by the arrival on the doorstep of Johannes Brahms, then aged 20. Both
the Schumanns worshipped him, and Brahms was to prove a tower of
strength to Clara when Robert fell ill, attempted suicide, and went
into an institution. Beloved Clara skirts round the question of whether
there was any sexual aspect to the relationship for the perfectly good
reason that nobody knows the answer.
Beloved Clara has been compiled by Jessica Duchen, who is also
responsible for the adroit choice of musical excerpts which break up
the extracts from diaries and letters. Besides the two Schumanns Clara
was herself a considerable composer Duchen includes Mendelssohn and, of
course, Brahms. In every case the music fits seamlessly into the
surrounding narrative particularly touching is Brahms's Intermezzo Op
118, No 1, carefully crafted so that Clara could play it after her
hands had become riddled with arthritis.
In this engrossing performance, given as the opening concert in
this year's Oxford Philomusica International Piano Festival, pianist
Lucy Parham precisely captured every varied mood as the story unfolded,
while the extracts were read with great feeling by Joanna David and