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Created to celebrate 200 years since Clara Wieck Schumann’s birth in 1819, I, Clara tells her extraordinary life story in her own words.
It is the sixth Composer Portrait created by Lucy Parham and it received its London premiere at Kings Place in October 2019, as part of both the London Piano Festival and the Venus Unwrapped Festival.
Clara Schumann was a truly exceptional woman, not just a devoted wife to the composer Robert Schumann, but a groundbreaking musician in her own right. Over a period of 60 years she gave over 1,500 concerts and determined the format of the kind of piano recital that is familiar to us today.
As a child prodigy, she was groomed for stardom by her piano-teacher father, Friedrich Wieck. By the age of eight she was dazzling audiences throughout Europe. Having married Robert against her father’s wishes, she became the mother of eight children. When her husband declined tragically into mental illness and an attempt at suicide, she continued both to run the household and to make an international concert career to support the family.
Clara Schumann championed the works of her husband and of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Brahms and many others. She herself was also a talented composer, producing a piano concerto, numerous solo piano works, chamber music and songs.
The narrative of I, Clara, drawn from letters and diaries, is interspersed with live performances of her works, and of music by Robert Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Mendelssohn and Chopin.
Among the actresses who narrate I, Clara are Harriet Walter, Gabrielle Drake, Juliet Stevenson, Patricia Hodge, Lesley Sharp, Gemma Jones, Sheila Hancock, Niamh Cusack and Joanna David.
Recent and forthcoming concerts of I, Clara include performances at the Stratford-upon Avon Festival, Canterbury Festival, Summer Music in City Churches Festival, Lady Margaret Hall Oxford, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, Dora Stoutzker Hall Cardiff, St George’s Bristol, Wimbledon Literary Festival, Hertford Theatre, Beaminster Festival, Chichester Festival Theatre, Llandeillo Festival, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and Kings Place, London. In December 2019 I, Clara made a highly successful international debut at Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall in Istanbul, narrated by acclaimed Turkish actress Tilbe Saran.
The CD of I, Clara (narrated by Dame Harriet Walter) was released in October 2019. In November it was chosen as Record of the Week by Andrew McGregor on BBC Radio 3’s Record Review. It was also highly praised by Gramophone Magazine and named Album of the Month with a 5 star review from Pianist Magazine.
I, Clara has been recently featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and Woman’s Hour, as well as on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and was Pick of the Week in the Sunday Times.
“Hearing Clara’s story in her own words, interspersed with relevant music, is a joy. Harriet Walter’s delivery is utterly compelling. Performing on a glorious Fazioli, Parham’s playing is eloquent and engaging.”
“The first movement of the Sonata in G minor, phrased as if by a singer, with a touch of rubato and dextrous fingerwork, makes one yearn for a complete recording. Parham’s Arabesque smiles in the way that we’re told London audiences experienced when Clara Schumann played it to them. The Fazioli is admirably suited to this repertoire, as Lucy Parham’s heartfelt performances make clear.
Harriet Walter delivers a blessedly undevout reading of Lucy Parham’s narration, her timing impeccable, her manner untheatrical.
This celebration of her life, with the music fitting the narrative so well, is another fine tribute to this remarkable woman in her bicentenary year.”
“Parham gives us a beautifully-crafted tribute to the composer, in both words and music. This album, which deserves repeated listening, is a fitting tribute to an extraordinary woman. Be prepared to shed a tear.”
Album of the Month – December 2019
***** 5 stars
“It’s my favourite thing for Clara’s 200th anniversary – her life story beautifully told in her own words, read by Harriet Walter, brought to life with music picked and played by Lucy Parham. A beautifully designed portrait of Clara. If you are not moved to tears by Clara’s account of his death and by Parham’s choice of music you are made of stronger stuff than I am. It’s a seriously moving tribute – and my Record of the Week”
“Lucy Parham’s trailblazing evening concerts 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 on the musical calendar.”
“Lucy has a real gift for drawing her audience into the music through these beautifully crafted programmes. I always feel as if I am performing chamber music, such is the intimacy of each show. To sit by her whilst she plays transports me to another world.”
“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.”
“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”
“The music has been so well chosen to illustrate the life story. The story itself has been beautifully constructed by Lucy Parham and narrated with a combination of tenderness and strength by Harriet Walter that feels just right.”