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The story of the intense relationships between Robert Schumann, his wife Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms has always fascinated music lovers. This programme of music and readings brings their history to life. It chronicles the sometimes troubled marriage of Clara and Robert, the arrival in their household of the dynamic, 21-year-old Brahms, Robert’s decline into mental illness and the deepening relationship between Clara and Brahms, the exact nature of which has never been established. Music by all three is performed by the award-winning pianist Lucy Parham, interspersed with extracts from their letters and diaries, which are read by two celebrated actors.
Beloved Clara’s creation was inspired by Lucy Parham’s lifelong passion for the music of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Originally compiled from the wealth of existing correspondence between Brahms and the Schumanns by Lucy Parham and Jessica Duchen, Lucy Parham has subsequently updated Beloved Clara with new material and it is also constantly evolving through the many contributions from the actors involved.
Beloved Clara was premiered at the Wigmore Hall Masters Series in 2002. It has since been performed throughout the country in numerous festivals, concert halls and theatres. Highlights include performances at the Chichester, Yvonne Arnaud, Harrogate and Salisbury Theatres, BAFTA, Oxford, Rye, Newbury, Belfast, Canterbury, North Norfolk Festivals and Chelsea Festivals, Royal Hall Harrogate, St John’s Smith Square, Cadogan Hall Celebrity Recital Series, Kings Place, and both the 2006 and 2010 Schumann Festivals in London. Beloved Clara made a critically acclaimed return to the Wigmore Hall in December 2010.
The international premiere of Beloved Clara took place at the Bergen International Festival in June 2007. The US première took place with a series of concerts in Los Angeles for LA Theatreworks in December 2008. It was broadcast across the USA on National Public Radio in 2010.
Actors who have appeared with Lucy Parham include Juliet Stevenson, Simon Russell Beale, Lesley Sharp, Harriet Walter, Eleanor Bron, Henry Goodman, Edward Fox, Patricia Hodge, Joanna David, Stanley Townsend, Rosalind Ayres, Gabrielle Drake, Robert Glenister, Samuel West, Derbhle Crotty, Malcolm Sinclair, Timothy West, Martin Jarvis, Charles Dance, Sebastian Koch, Tim McInnerny, Niamh Cusack and Alex Jennings.
Beloved Clara has been widely featured in the Independent, the Times, the Guardian, BBC Radio 4 (Woman’s Hour), BBC World Service, Classic FM, BBC Music Magazine, BBC Radio 3 (In Tune) and Pianist Magazine.
The CD of Beloved Clara, featuring actors Martin Jarvis and Joanna David, has been released to critical acclaim by Sanctuary/ASV. It was chosen as “CD of the Week” in the Sunday Times, the Guardian and the Observer.
“I much enjoy performing these concerts. Why? Well, let’s face it, I have a free seat listening to Lucy Parham’s sublime playing!”
“Audiences have told us that because of music and words they gain extra insight into the composers’ lives – and to the creativity behind the music. Which is just what’s intended! “
“Performing in Lucy’s shows is very special, and sharing the stage with a brilliant concert pianist is a pleasure and a privilege. Each one is much more than just reading a selection of letters and diary entries, as Lucy’s plays (that is how I think of them) require complete immersion in the character. The music and the words carry both actor and audience on a great journey. What she has created is remarkable. I always look forward to the next opportunity.”
“I really love doing these concerts with Lucy. The letters and journals of these two 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.”
“Lucy Parham is a true artist and these unique concerts enable the listener to connect to the spirit and soul of the composer.”
“The readings combine great dignity with a delicate poignancy. The changing moods of the Schumann and Brahms repertoire, from the capricious and turbulent to the reflective and haunting, are deftly interpreted by Lucy Parham. The whole is an intimate portrait, with the passions of the presenters as palpable as those of their subjects.”
“This is a beautifully put – together portrait of one of classical music’s most romantic and tragic marriages and it’s every bit as glamorous and star crossed as Romeo and Juliet. Brahms’s description of Schumann’s death, with Clara kneeling by his bed is almost unbearably moving. Kleenex required”
“There’s no better version (of the Robert and Clara Schumann/Brahms story) than the one devised and presented by pianist Lucy Parham. A lovely entertainment, flawlessly performed”
***** (5 stars)
“Narrating George Sand or Clara Schumann and then hearing the music they inspired really makes what I have to say more vivid. I love working with Lucy because she plays so beautifully and she delights in collaboration…which I delight in too”
“It is a great treat and privilege to sit so close to Lucy Parham at the piano and hear this wonderful music. It stimulates the emotions and brings one closer to the composers we play. It is also exciting to give some kind of living presence to these fascinating musical geniuses who lived so long ago”
“It is a pleasure to perform these highly original shows. With such an irresistible combination of letters, diary entries, observations of the period – and the music – audiences are drawn closer to the composers’ often turbulent lives. Tears, laughter and a pin-drop atmosphere are testament to the validity of this heartfelt approach.”