Clara Schumann (1819-1896)

Born on this day 200 years ago, Clara Schumann has moved slowly but decisively from the periphery to the centre of the music history canon, now included in music history survey courses alongside composers such as Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Robert Schumann of the Romantic generation. A brilliant virtuoso pianist, as famous in her day as Franz Liszt, she performed her own compositions in concert and premièred almost every composition with piano by her husband Robert. Clara’s relationship with Robert provided her with an intense, generous, and, at times, conflicting musical partnership. Even as she continued honing her compositional technique to produce several exceptional instrumental works, such as her op. 17 Piano Trio or her op. 22 Drei Romanzen, she expressed ambivalence about her own creations. Although she stopped composing after Robert’s death in 1856, she remained active as a musician for decades, maintaining a demanding performance and teaching schedule in order to provide for her seven surviving children and her grandchildren.

Clara Schumann, age 35. Daguerreotype by Franz Hanfstaengl (1854). Wikicommons.

Lithography of Clara Wieck by Andreas Staub, c. 1840. Wikicommons.

Through the work of many dedicated musicologists, music theorists, and performers, Clara Schumann’s legacy as a composer, pianist, editor, and pedagogue is emerging more clearly. Nancy Reich’s meticulous biography, which sensitively explores Schumann’s struggles and successes as a professional musician, remains a foundational text. Clara and Robert’s complete correspondence edited by Eva Weissweiler allows us to better understand the relationship between these two artists, their influence on one another, and their historical context. Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers and Michael Baker have recently published insightful analyses of Schumann’s compositions. Several new recordings have been released this year: Isata Kanneh-Mason’s debut album Romance is entirely devoted to Clara Schumann’s piano compositions, while Ragna Schirmer’s Madame Schumann reproduces two of Schumann’s concert programmes to provide a better sense of her presence as a concert pianist.

To celebrate Clara Schumann’s 200th birthday, we have curated a playlist on Naxos Music Library featuring some of her most cherished compositions.

Please note: Access to Naxos Music Library is restricted to the McGill community; be sure to authenticate using EZproxy or VPN when off-campus.

Barbara Strozzi @400

Celebrating the 400th anniversary of composer and singer Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677).

Resource obtained from Wikimedia Commons

Barbara Strozzi launched her career as a professional composer in 1644 with the publication of Il primo libro de madrigali a due, tre, quattro e cinque voci.

Strozzi, Barbara. Il primo libro de madrigali a due, tre, quattro e cinque voci. Stuttgart: Cornetto-Verlag, 2002. Marvin Duchow Music Library, M1549 S77 M3 2002

You can listen to a selection of Strozzi’s madrigals in Opera McGill’s 2019 performance of Francesca Caccini’s opera, La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina.

Moon Dreams

Fifty years ago, on July 20th, 1969, astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission captivated earthly onlookers as they landed on the moon. The event was famously televised, but did you know it was also captured for posterity on LP, narrated by Walter Cronkite?

CBS News. Man on the Moon. Narrated by Walter Cronkite. CBS Enterprises EL 161, [1969]. Audiovisual Archives, Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University

The moon, celestial bodies, and astronomical phenomena have long been topics of interest to musicians, composers, and theorists alike. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, we wanted to share some moon-related items from our collection!

  • Haydn, Joseph. Il mondo della luna: dramma giocoso. Orchestre de chambre de Lausanne conducted by Antal Dorati. Philips 6769003, 1978, 4 LPs. Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University
  1. Haydn_luna
  2. Clair_de_lune
  3. Moon_dreams
  4. Epic
  5. Introduction_moon
  6. Ives
  7. Rusalka
  8. Fellini

Music also played an important role in early space missions. During their long voyage to the moon, the Apollo astronauts took comfort in listening to their favourite tunes, compiled into mixtapes by Mickey Kapp. You can listen to the Apollo 11 playlist here. What music would be on your playlist if you could travel to the moon?

Women, Work, and Song in Nineteenth-Century France: new exhibition

The Marvin Duchow Music Library’s new exhibition, Women, Work, and Song in Nineteenth-Century France, explores women’s work and the cultural work about women in popular music, drawing on a selection of pieces from the Library’s 19th-Century French Sheet Music Collection.

Album 1842 de Melle L. Puget. Paris: J. Meissonnier, [1842].

Women contributed in important ways to the popular music industry in nineteenth-century France. They worked as composers, poets, and performers; they also hosted salons, directed theatres, and earned a living as pedagogues and publishers. The exhibition highlights women’s activities not only within the popular music industry but also more generally within French society, as women joined the workforce, participated in revolutions and armed conflicts, and supported the burgeoning women’s movement.

 

 

Les étudiantes: chanson-marche. Saint-Gilles & V. Damien (lyrics); Léopold Gangloff (music). Paris: F. Brondert, [1894].

 

 

The exhibition follows a chronological narrative, tracing the shift in genres, venues, and means of dissemination of French song over the course of the century. It begins on the third floor by considering the culture of music-making in salons in the early nineteenth century, and highlighting women’s compositions and performances of romances and other song genres. The fourth floor explores the development of the commercial entertainment industry in Paris in the second half of the century, with the café-concerts of the Second Empire and the music halls and cabarets of the Third Republic. A map of Paris along with illustrative material and songs from some of the more famous venues and performers help to acquaint the public with the atmosphere of the café-concerts and cabarets. The influence of the Parisian café-concert industry reached all the way to Montréal: the exhibition displays the rise and fall of Montréal’s Eldorado café-concert, and follows the Parisian cabaret star Yvette Guilbert on her tours to the city over a twenty-year period. The fifth floor analyzes the musical responses to the women’s movement in the final decades of the century, and investigates the instrumentalization of women’s images for ideological and political purposes.

La femme s’émancipe: chansonnette. Léo Lelièvre (lyrics); Gustave Dreyfus (music).Paris: F. Brondert, [1894].

The exhibition seeks to open new avenues of music research by asking compelling questions about the circulation, commercialization, and consumption of nineteenth-century popular music in France. In conjunction with the virtual exhibition, curated by Kathleen Hulley and Kimberly White in 2017, the exhibition provides access to a wide selection of nineteenth-century French popular songs, and supplies the public with an intellectual framework for understanding the various musical genres and the social issues at play in the music industry during the period. Commercial sheet music provides an exceptional window into experiences of daily life. Not only do many songs reflect on and respond to contemporary events and cultural concerns, but each piece of music also presents an opportunity to trace a complex network of agents who contributed to its creation, performance, and circulation.

 

 

Women, Work, and Song in Nineteenth-Century France opens November 8, 2018, and will run until June 2019. The exhibition is located on all three floors of the Marvin Duchow Music Library, Elizabeth Wirth Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke Street West (library entrance on the 3rd floor).