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Clara Schumann and the Art of Interpretation
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Clara Schumann and the Art of Interpretation (Paperback)

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The prevalent opinion of Clara Schumann today is that whilst she was 'undoubtedly a great talent' she was the 'chief disaster of the nineteenth century's prejudice against female composers'. This view of her career captured the popular imagination in the recently acclaimed novel, Clara, by Janice Galloway. It is an inevitable response to the extraordinary quality of Clara Schumann's compositions, which have re-emerged to public scrutiny in the last decade, as well as being a reflection of the sensibilities of our own age in relation to the past. In reality the story of Clara Schumann's working life was much more complex, subject to influences which went beyond the boundaries of gender and affected the lives of contemporary male musicians too. This book explores these influences, finding fresh interpretations of Clara Schumann's choices and re-evaluating her role in musical history. It goes further than previous studies in looking at her career in context and making comparisons with other leading musicians of the nineteenth century. Clara Schumann was born into the age of the composer-pianist, a world of virtuosity, improvised performance and showpieces written by performers to display their own talents. She quickly rose to the top of the profession but was among the first musicians to tire of such superficial fare and to introduce 'historic' repertoire and the serious avant garde music of Chopin, Schumann and others. Gradually the famous pianists of the age all quit the international stage: Moscheles, Thalberg, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Chopin and Clara Schumann. Clara Schumann was the only one who would re-emerge as an international performer in the 1850s, and she did so with a clear agenda to educate the taste of the audience and introduce them to the difficult music of new composers such as Brahms. She saw the need to give numerous performances of new repertoire at a time before recording, when lack of immediate success might lead to a work never being heard again. In comparison to previous generations, Clara Schumann's career reflected the increased participation of women in music. Musicians were no longer in the employ of the aristocracy and needed to teach in order to live; their pupils were principally women of the middle and upper classes. As interpretation became more important, women like Clara Schumann could play a leading role because male pianists would not be seen to play the music of their contemporary rivals too often. As a pianist she won critical acclaim equal to the best of her male rivals. Her abilities as an improviser made her unique among female performers and her compositions were rivalled only by those of Fanny Mendelssohn. Clara Schumann was not aware of feminism in the way that George Sand or George Eliot were, but she constantly transcended expectations and broke boundaries by sheer force of talent. She also suggested that women could not have a virtuoso technique like Liszt's, but in truth she found his pianistic display vulgar and chose not to cultivate it herself. Whilst demonstrating an opposing polarity of vision, Clara Schumann and Liszt were both extremely important in transforming the role of the performer in the nineteenth century. The tension and symbiosis that emerged between extreme virtuosity and musical integrity, between creativity and interpretation, are issues that, over a century later, still preoccupy musicians today.

Music & DanceSheet Music Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd Publication Date: 01/01/2021 ISBN-13: 9780754656753  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
Availability: Pre-order for despatch on publication. Pre-Order

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