In honor of the 200th anniversary of Romantic-era composer Robert Schumann’s birth, High Desert Chamber Music chose to include one of the composer’s works in its upcoming concert.
The Crown City String Quartet, which includes HDCM’s founder Isabelle Senger on violin, will play the piece at the concert Tuesday at the Tower Theatre (see “If you go”).
Schumann led a tumultuous — though brief — life.
As David Dubal describes in “The Essential Canon of Classical Music,” the composer was born in Saxony (modern-day eastern Germany) in 1810 and began taking piano lessons at age 6. At around age 20, he began studying with Friedrich Wieck, an acclaimed piano teacher. Soon, the young man fell in love with Wieck’s daughter, Clara.
But Schumann, like others in his family, suffered from mental illness. Though he went through periods of great productivity as a composer, he often drank heavily and attempted suicide a number of times, according to Dubal. In one unsuccessful attempt, he jumped from his fourth-floor window.
Wieck refused to consent to Clara marrying Schumann — consent that was required under German law.
“Though Wieck admired Robert’s talent, he also considered him (not without reason) to be a raving lunatic, and he was not about to let his jewel, whom he had polished and cultivated, fall into the hands of such a man,” Dubal said.
Clara and Schumann eventually took the issue to court and married. Clara and Robert had eight children in the ensuing years, though one died in infancy.
But after Robert again attempted suicide, this time by throwing himself into the icy Rhine River and trying to fight off the fishermen who came to his rescue, Clara agreed to have her husband sent to an asylum where he was forbidden to see his family. Clara was finally permitted to see him the day before he died of self-starvation.
Clara, who outlived her husband by 41 years, spent much of the rest of her life touring, performing and promoting his work.
Often called “the most romantic of the Romantics,” Schumann’s work is noted for its richness in an era marked by expressive, emotional, effusive music.
The piece that will be played at the concert — String Quartet in A Minor Op. 41, No. 1 — is, according to Senger, one of his lesser-played pieces. “But in my opinion it’s one of his most beautiful.”
The concert will open with “Italian Serenade,” by Hugo Wolf. In notes, a musician friend of Senger’s, Eric Bromberger, explains how many have interpreted the piece: “Some commentators have taken the title quite literally: They claim to hear in this music an actual serenade sung by a young man to his love on a balcony above. They cite the opening pizzicatos (plucked strings) as the sound of a guitar being tuned and hear the voice of the young man in the earnest cello, and the voice of the young woman in reply.”
The group will also be joined on stage by clarinetist Don Foster on Carl Maria von Weber’s Quintet in B-flat Major for clarinet and strings, Op. 34.
Foster’s appearance will mark High Desert Chamber Music’s first foray into wind instruments, having featured exclusively stringed instruments since its inception in 2008.
Foster has played music on soundtracks for film and television in addition to his appearances with the San Diego Symphony, the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
“He is one of my absolute favorite performers,” Senger said. “He is a consummate musician.”
The first movement of the Weber piece, also from the Romantic era, is described in program notes as polka-like. The second movement, as described in program notes by Joseph Way, the artistic director of the Sierra Chamber Society, is “thoroughly operatic, sounding like a somber scene for the heroine.” The piece closes with a movement that Way says “gallops cheerfully to its conclusion.”
As part of HDCM’s burgeoning educational outreach program, two young musicians will entertain concertgoers in The Tower’s lobby.
The members of the Spotlight Duo, 16-year-old violinist Taylor Gatley and 17-year-old cellist Landon Miller, have each been playing for seven years. They were paired by HDCM through the educational outreach program a few months ago. The duo will perform selections by Bach and Jean-Baptiste Breval.
Miller, who has played in the lobby of HDCM concerts with a different group in the past, said playing in the lobby while people gather for a concert is a different sort of experience.
“I was surprised by how much people paid attention,” he said.
If you go
What: High Desert Chamber Music presents the Crown City String Quartet
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Tower Theatre, 835 N.W. Wall St., Bend
Cost: $30 general, $15 children and students
Contact: 541-317-0700 or www .highdesertchambermusic.com