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Exploring a Ménage of Music

Fest 08: Steven Isserlis-_Schumann

Date 1 November 2007

Media release

Exploring a Ménage of Music

Steven Isserlis, one of the most erudite, accessible and exciting cellists of today, returns to New Zealand for a week of chamber music concerts as part of the NZ International Arts Festival in 2008.

“The music world—and music itself—is infi-nitely richer for the presence of Steven Isserlis.” Gramophone Magazine

Celebrated in the music capitals of the world, the 2007 Classic FM Gramophone Award-winning cellist continues to demonstrate an extraordinary ability to communicate with audiences and in doing so has established his unique presence on the international concert scene.

The cellist is renowned among musicians, critics and enthusiasts, not only for his quality of performance, but also for putting together intriguing and satisfying programmes.

Performing a varied ensemble of music over four concerts, Isserlis will showcase the life and loves of Schumann - one of the many composers that he actively champions.

Schumann and Friends
This concert will delve in depth, through diary readings and performance, into the ménage of the composer, his wife Clara Schumann and the impact on their lives and music of the arrival of good-looking young composer Johannes Brahms.

Schumann was overwhelmed by Brahms's musical charisma; Clara was overwhelmed by his music - but also by his other attractions.

As Clara Schumann said in her diaries, “Here again is one [Brahms] who comes as if sent from God.” She goes on to describing Brahms’ music as “all rich in fantasy, depth of feeling and mastery of form” .

Isserlis describes Schumann as, “The ultimate romantic composer, resolute and energetic, he lived a short but stormy life, packed full of intense joys and devastating sorrows. The most literary and autobiographical of composers - even his instrumental works are full of descriptive allusions to the people and the fiction he loved.”

Works performed will include piano solos and chamber music by Brahms, Clara and Robert Schumann.

Also featuring in this concert will be New Zealand’s foremost pianist, Michael Houstoun and former NZSO Concertmaster, Wilma Smith – currently co-concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, who last collaborated with Isserlis in 2004.

Awarded a CBE in 1998 in recognition of his services to music as well as being named Time Out magazine’s Classical Artist of the Year 2002, Steven Isserlis has received many honours, including the 2000 Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau (Schumann’s birthplace); previous recipients include Gilels, Masur, Richter and Fischer-Dieskau.

Isserlis will bring to New Zealand the Feuerman Stradivarius, dated 1730, crafted when Stradivarius was around 86 years of age. Isserlis describes this instrument as his “dream cello … it has everything.”
This special concert will take place on 8 March at the Town Hall at 7.30pm.

Programme for ‘Schumann and Friends’ Concert
Brahms: Scherzo in E flat minor Op 4
Schumann: Declamation op 122 No 2 (Die Flüchtlinge)
Brahms: Scherzo from FAE sonata (sonatensatz)
Schumann: Intermezzo from FAE Sonata (arr - cello & piano)
Schumann: Frühlings Ankunft op 79 No 19
Schumann: E flat variations for Piano Solo
Schumann: Gebet Op.135 no.5
Clara Schumann: Romance Op 21 No 1
Schumann: Chorale Prelude
Brahms: C minor Quartet No 3 Op. 60

Steven Isserlis - cello
Wilma Smith - violin
Caroline Henbest - viola
Michael Houstoun - piano
Sara Macliver - soprano
Tbc - narrator

Praise for Steven Isserlis

“This unbridled passion then gave way to the abundant joy of the Allegro, in which Isserlis captivated the audience with his near-personification of the work's blissful ecstasy.” 2006 on Schumann concert

“Isserlis is a passionate musician, but never thoughtless or frivolous, and the delicacy of his responses sometimes takes the breath away.” The Times on Schumann concert

"This is the most wonderful cello-playing, surely among the most consistently beautiful to have been heard in this demanding music, as well as the most musically alert and vivid” Gramophone Magazine 2007


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