Inside the Music: Clarinet Magic

Discover more about classical music with our new video series and interactive programme notes.

An explosive start to Colston Hall’s International Classical Season

Colston Hall’s resident ensemble, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, kicks off an incredible season of concerts to suit all tastes, from thrilling concertos to sumptuous ballet scores and majestic symphonies, all played by the finest orchestras and soloists from around the world. This high-octane opening concert welcomes one of today’s most spectacular clarinettists in two very different but equally thrilling concertos. There’s high romance in the air, too, from Schumann’s impassioned Fourth Symphony and, to open, Brahms’s masterly variations on a beautiful theme by the 18th-century composer Joseph Haydn.

10 things you didn’t know about… Schumann

  • Schumann became a composer because he admitted that he had failed as a pianist – in the era of Chopin and Liszt, successful performers had to possess a formidable virtuosic technique.
  • Schumann very nearly became a writer, thanks to his bookseller and publisher father who gave him a thorough grounding in literature.
  • In his twenties, Schumann gradually crippled his right hand using a contraption that he himself had designed to help his fingers move independently on the piano.
  • Schumann fell deeply in love with his piano student, Clara Wieck, when she was just 13 (he was 22). They married eight years later, but it was to be another two years after that that Clara’s father finally accepted their relationship.
  • Schumann was a devoted father, and spent large amounts of time with his seven children, keeping diaries of his activities with them. His Kinderszenen are regarded as some of the most charming and evocative descriptions of childhood innocence ever written.
  • Schumann’s 1837 Symphonic Studies for piano were dedicated to a promising young composer, the Englishman William Sterndale Bennett.
  • In his so-called ‘year of song’, 1840, Schumann wrote an incredible 138 songs.
  • In February 1854, Schumann attempted suicide by walking into the River Rhine. He was rescued by fishermen.
  • Schumann spent his final few years in a mental asylum, and was barely visited by friends and family. He died there in 1856 at the age of just 46.
  • Schumann would often compose with one of two alter egos in mind – Florestan, his outward, optimistic character; and Eusebius, his darker, more intense, mercurial side.

VIDEO: Oliver Condy on Schumann

VIDEO: Jonathan James on Brahms – Variations on Theme by Haydn

Listen out for… 5 key moments

Brahms – Variations on Theme by Haydn
The seventh variation is a beautifully-scored, graceful waltz. Listen to how Brahms combines Haydn’s theme with his own melodic genius.

Hindemith – Clarinet Concerto
The second movement’s first few minutes feature some mischievous interplay between the soloist and orchestra; listen out for the piccolo.

Hindemith – Clarinet Concerto
Wallow in the sumptuousness of the opening bars to the following ‘Quiet’ movement as Hindemith creates a dream-like atmosphere, solo clarinet soaring above the orchestra.

Weber Concertino
In amongst the whirlwind passages, Weber places a beautiful aria-like melody for the solo clarinet, of the quality you’d hear in a Mozart opera.

Schumann – Symphony No. 4
Schumann keeps the listener hanging on for nearly two whole minutes before unleashing his great theme in the final movement. An explosion of joy.

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