Clara,Robert & Co with Alessandra Pompili in Velletri for Giancarlo Tammaro :”Il ‘Suono di Liszt “ Concert Series

A fascinating concert in the series in Velletri on Ing Tammaro’s 1879 Erard .Alessandra Pompili a voice from the past for me as I remembered her performance as a teenager at the Ghione Theatre in our young artist’s series .Her mother was in administration and knew Electra Moro.We were fortunate to have la ‘Signora Moro’ as administrator as she had formerly been the administrator of the Teatro degli Arti under the historic theatrical impresario Tolomei.Alessandra’s mother had spoken about her talented daughter,a student of Marcella Crudeli and Sergio Calligaris and so we were delighted to allow her to be heard in Rome in our concert series.

Clara Wieck Schumann was very much in evidence in Alessandra’s programme.Starting with works written later in life during her years married to Robert Schumann.
She was finally united in marriage with Robert in 1840 and this beautiful Larghetto was written in 1845. It was played with mellifluous beauty and delicacy and is a Nocturne of exquisite beauty and simplicity.Including also an early work from before her marriage written in 1835/6 :’Danza delle streghe’ from four characteristic pieces op 5.A work of great effect that she would have used in her recitals as a child prodigy.Alessandra’s ten year old daughter on listening to her mother practice this piece was sure that she was playing wrong notes but this is all part of the salon type character of the work that Alessandra played with great relish!
A curiosity was the Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann op 20 .A work from around 1854 and one of the few of her own compositions that she would love to play in her recitals.It is based on the theme from Schumann’s ‘Bunte Blatter’ op 99 n 4.
It was dedicated to her husband and was one of the very few compositions that she wrote before Robert was committed to an asylum where he died .Leaving Clara to bring up alone their eight children when in order survive financially she had to maintain her concert activity to the exclusion of composition.
Robert Schumann suffered from a mental disorder that first was manifested in 1833 as severe depression recurring several times alternating with phases of “exaltation” and increasingly also delusional ideas of being poisoned .After a suicide attempt in 1854, Schumann was admitted at his own request to a mental asylum in Endenich (now Bonn ).Diagnosed with psychotic melancholia he died of pneumonia two years later at the age of 46, without recovering from his mental illness.
The Variations on a theme of Schumann op 20 were dedicated to her already sick husband and were completed just in time for his 43 birthday with a dedication :’For my dear husband a renewed and weak attempt to compose from your dear old Clara ‘.It was infact completed just in time as in 1854 Robert attempted suicide and was admitted to an asylum.
The theme is from Robert’s own ‘Bunte Blatter’ and it is the same theme that Brahms ,a close family friend ,was to use for his own Variations on a Theme of Schumann op 9.Seven variations from Clara where Brahms had written sixteen that he had dedicated to Clara.
There was a great fluidity to Clara’s variations which suited the sweet sound of this Erard piano of 1879.There was the chordal simplicity of the second alternating with the slow harmonically varied third.Alessandra found sumptuous beauty in the fourth with the theme in the tenor register surrounded by embellishments played so delicately.There was great drama in the octave variation with the pompous chordal declamation of the theme.It dissolved so beautifully into the delicately shadowed mellifluous theme.A delicate ending of arpeggiando chords was spread over the keyboard with great delicacy.
It was fascinating to hear this rarely performed work especially from the delicate hands of Alessandra with the sweet tone of this Erard piano.
It might have been very similar to the one the greatest woman virtuoso of her day would have beguiled her audiences with in a intimate conversation with her beloved but prematurely departed Robert.Alessandra write :’ apparently Brahms studied Clara’s unpublished score and on his own manuscript he wrote, “Little variations on a theme by him dedicated to her”.
Yesterday I also tried to explain another little curiosity of the composition: in the last variation she quoted – in an inner voice – a theme from her Romance variee. On that work Robert based his own Impromptu on a romance by Clara Wieck. Fabulous connections!’
The rest of the programme was made up of Robert Schumann ,Brahms,Mendelssohn and Chopin.A noble Brahms Rhapsody op 79 n.2 was played with the passion that Brahms had asked for,but also with the delicacy and calm of the central episode.As Alessandra explained Brahms had changed his indications several times as he obviously wanted the work to be played with passion but with orchestral sounds rather than pianistic virtuosity.It was exactly this that Alessandra managed to portray with her aristocratic sense of tempo.Alessandra had added a ‘Sorbet’ of Mendelssohn between the passionate outpourings of Schumann’s own ‘In der Nacht’ and ‘Aufschwung’.Both were played with dynamic rhythmic energy but allowing the beautiful mellifluous contrasting episodes the time needed to relax before entering the fury of Robert’s passionate ‘Florestan’ temperament.It was the beautiful Mendelssohn Barcarolle op 30 that created the calm of the lapping Venetian waters that Robert Schumann had so admired as such a gift from a noble spirit.
Chopin’s beautifully gentle Ballade n. 3 op 47 closed her programme .It was played with searching beauty obviously influenced by Chopin’s own reference to the water maiden Ondine inspired by the poetry of Mickiewicz.
Choosing very slow tempi that allowed the music to unfold so naturally on this gentlest of instruments.
A fascinating encore that paid homage to Mozart who had stayed overnight in Velletri in 1770.
Passing from Rome to Naples he and his father had stopped over on the 9th May during the four day journey.No one is sure where but their presence is obviously an historically important one.Mozart had come from Rome where he had heard a performance of the Miserere by Allegri in the Sistine Chapel stored held in the secret library of the Vatican.The prodigy Mozart after listening to it twice was able to write it down note perfect!
It was this together with the Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart that Liszt had incorporated in a work that Alessandra now offered as an encore.The last part of the ‘Évocation à la Chapelle Sixtine, S658’ by Liszt .A fascinating finish to a stimulating recital of informed beauty.
A history lesson to cherish indeed !
‘A great insight into the Schumanns can be found in the memoirs of one of their children, Eugenie. It is a bit of a disjointed reading, but revelatory of the inner dynamics within the family. It seems I cannot sit down and learn a piece without doing some research, it is the historian in me!’
Composed around 1638, Allegri’s setting of the Miserere was amongst the ‘falsobordone’ settings used by the choir of the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week liturgy, a practice dating to at least 1514.From the same supposed secrecy stems a popular story, backed by a letter written by Leopold Mozart to his wife on April 14 1770, that at fourteen years of age, while visiting Rome,his son Wolfgang Amadeus first heard the piece during the Wednesday service, and later that day, wrote it down entirely from memory.

Évocation à la Chapelle Sixtine, S658 by Liszt
The music falls into four sections which metamorphose alternately the Miserere of Allegri and the motet Ave verum corpus by Mozart, both of which were in the repertoire of the Sistine Chapel Choir. The first and third sections, taking merely the essence of the Allegri, work it up into ever more tortured and searing climaxes and represent, in the composer’s words, ‘the misery and anguish of mankind’. This is contrasted with the second and fourth sections where, through the medium of Mozart’s exquisite motet ‘the infinite mercy and grace of God’ reveals itself in song.

Euromusica created in 1982 the year we opened the theatre with the idea of giving a platform to all the young and distinguished old artists who were excluded from Rome for lack of venues suitable for concerts.The 80’s and 90’’s were golden years for music at the Ghione Theatre before the opening of the three wonderful new halls of Renzo Piano at the Parco della Musica.Unique halls for music that had been missing for too long from the Eternal City.

Alessandra is now a distinguished artist with a family in Manchester and added to her concert activity is her dedication to humanitarian causes and for music in hospitals.An activity that together with the American pianist and philanthropist Martin Berkovsky has raised millions of dollars for good causes.

Ing Tammaro thanking Alessandra for returning to play for him after many years absence.She now resides with her husband and daughter in Hayle,Manchester
Portrait by Franz von Lenbach, 1838
Clara Josephine Wieck

13 September 1819
20 May 1896 (aged 76)
Piano teacher
Dr Hoch’s Konservatorium
Robert Schumann

(m. 1840; died 1856)
8, including Eugenie
Friedrich Wieck (father)
Mariane Bargiel (mother)

Clara Wieck was an accomplished concert pianist, trained by her father Friedrich Wieck.She was already making international tours at age eleven and composed piano pieces for her recitals.Regarded as one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era, she exerted her influence over the course of a 61-year concert career, changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital by lessening the importance of purely virtuosic works She started receiving basic piano instruction from her mother at the age of four but after her mother moved out, she began taking daily one-hour lessons from her father. They included subjects such as piano, violin, singing, theory, harmony, composition, and counterpoint.She then had to practice for two hours every day. Her father followed the methods in his own book, Wiecks pianistische Erziehung zum schönen Anschlag und zum singenden Ton (“Wieck’s Piano Education for a Delicate Touch and a Singing Sound.”)Clara Wieck made her official debut on 28 October 1828 at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, aged nine.The same year, she performed at the Leipzig home of Ernst Carus, director of the mental hospital at Colditz Castle.There, she met another gifted young pianist who had been invited to the musical evening, Robert Schumann , who was nine years older. Schumann admired Clara’s playing so much that he asked permission from his mother to stop studying law, which had never interested him much, and take music lessons with Clara’s father. While taking lessons, he rented a room in the Wieck household and stayed about a year.From December 1837 to April 1838, at the age of 18, Wieck performed a series of recitals in Vienna She performed to sell-out crowds to great critical acclaim; Chopin described her playing to Franz Liszt and a music critic, describing her Vienna recitals, said: “The appearance of this artist can be regarded as epoch-making… In her creative hands, the most ordinary passage, the most routine motive acquires a significant meaning, a colour, which only those with the most consummate artistry can give.” Clara Schumann first toured England in April 1856, while her husband was still living but unable to travel. She was invited to play in a London Philharmonic Society concert by conductor William Sterndale Bennett, a good friend of Robert’s to whom he had dedicated the Etudes Symphoniques op 13.In May 1856, she played Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the New Philharmonic Society conducted by Dr Wylde, who as she said had “led a dreadful rehearsal” and “could not grasp the rhythm of the last movement”.Still, she returned to London the following year and continued to perform in Britain for the next 15 years.It was in January 1833, at age 13, she began composing a Piano Concerto in , completing it in November a single-movement Konzertsatz that she orchestrated herself. In February 1834, her future husband Robert revised the orchestration,and the 14-year-old prodigy then performed it in several concerts.She then expanded the work by adding two more movements, using the Konzertsatz as the finale. The new first movement was completed in June 1834, and the slow second movement “Romance” with its extended cello solo was finished the following year. She again orchestrated the work herself, including undoing Robert’s revisions of the original Konzertsatz, completing her new three-movement Piano Concerto on 1 September 1835, twelve days before her 16th birthday.Clara premiered the full concerto on 9 November 1835 as soloist with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, conducted by Mendelssohn

Robert and Clara Schumann’s children (photo taken in 1853 or 1854); from left to right: Ludwig, Marie, Felix, Elise, Ferdinand and Eugenie

Her life was punctuated by tragedy Not only did her husband predecease her, but so did four of their children.Their first son, Emil, died in 1847, aged only 1.Their daughter Julie died in 1872, leaving two small children aged only 2 and 7, then raised by their grandmother.In 1879, their son Felix died aged 24.In 1891, their son Ferdinand died at the age of 41, leaving his children to her care.In 1878, she was appointed the first piano teacher of the new Dr Hoch’s Knservatorium in Frankfurt.Among her 68 known students who made a musical career were Natalia Janotha,Fanny Davies,Nanette Falk,Amina Goodwin,Carl Friedberg,Leonard Borwick,Ilona Eibenschutz,Adelina de Lara,Marie Olson and Mary Wurm .She played her last public concert in Frankfurt on 12 March 1891. The last work she played was Brahms’s Haydn Variations , in a version for two pianos, with James Kwast.

Clara and Robert Schumann had eight children:

  • Marie (1841–1929)
  • Elise (1843–1928)
  • Julie (1845–1872)
  • Emil (1846–1847)
  • Ludwig (1848–1899)
  • Ferdinand (1849–1891)
  • Eugenie (1851–1938)
  • Felix (1854–1879).
Alessandra with the superb piano technician
With Linda Giorgi Alberti from Manchester to nearby Frascati where she lives.Alessandra from Velletri to Manchester where she now lives.Small world on the Hills around Rome.


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