Sunday, September 19, 2010

Robert Schumann 1810-2010 - Art of Time Ensemble

Robert Schumann 1810 - 2010
The Art of Time Ensemble
Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront
September 18, 2010

The Art of Time Ensemble aims to open up the world of classical music, examining its power and range via a combination of performance and contextualized readings, with a couple of twists along the way. They opened their 2010/11 season with a presentation of the work of Schumann.

Given the size of the ensemble, they naturally left out the larger orchestral works, but instead performed a survey of pieces for solo piano, voice and chamber works, including the Andante from his Piano Quartet Op.47, selections from Kreisleriana, a selection of lieder, and the entire Piano Quintet Op.44. The instrumentalists (listed below) were flawless and very expressive in their execution of Schumann's gorgeous repertoire. If nothing else, I was reminded of just how beautiful his work was.

Art of Time performances proceed with a casual kind of sensibility. It was jeans and jacket for Artistic Director Andrew Burashko, and the pieces were interspersed with his readings of letters and Schumann's own writings to put the music into the man's life. The intimacy of the performance makes it a bit like spending the evening with friends who just happen to be incredible musicians.

The "twists" of the evening came in the form of songs. Schumann's lieder were sung with English words by Soulpepper's Mike Ross, and Andy Maize, (founder of the Skydiggers). The English lyrics and popular modern singing technique breathed a whole new dimension into the elegant melodies and harmonies in a way that truly seemed timeless.

Along with his stellar career as a composer, Schumann's life was marked by two major elements - his long and enduring love affair with his wife Clara, and the tragic mental and emotional deterioration that led him to attempt suicide. He spent the last two years of his life in an asylum, shut away even from his Clara. It's a sad ending to such a wonderful output of music - sad that somehow he couldn't have known there would be this level of understanding and appreciation for it two centuries after he was born.

Benjamin Bowman Violin
Andrew Burashko Piano
Steven Dann Viola
Andy Maize Singer
Mike Ross Singer
Timothy Ying Violin
Winona Zelenka Cello

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