Newsletter no 13: Clara Schumann revival – London Song Festival award – actress Lucy Stevens

by Elizabeth Mucha

On Monday July 10th at the Buckingham Summer Music Festival, we will be shining the spotlight on Clara Schumann. Until quite recently, she was mainly remembered as a distinguished pianist and the spouse of the quintessential Romantic composer Robert Schumann. However, the bicentenary of her birth in 2019 prompted new research and interest in her compositions and her life including our own Art Sung – Clara Schumann,  commissioned by the London Song Festival.

At the heart of this dramatized recital are her songs, alongside works by her husband Robert, her great friend, Johannes Brahms, her colleague Felix Mendelssohn, and her lifelong friend, singer Pauline Viardot. Clara’s piano composition, Variations on a theme of Schumann, acts as a leitmotif scattered throughout, binding the programme together. This, together with Mendelssohn’s gracious “Spring Sonata” from his many “Songs without Words” which accompanies Clara’s first ever trip to Russia in 1844 with a somewhat petulant Robert in tow, gives Elizabeth Mucha, our pianist, an opportunity to indulge in some solo piano playing!

Accompanying the recital is a rich kaleidoscope of projected images: artwork by German Romantic painters, letters, diary entries, newspapers clippings, original manuscripts, live film and voice-overs. Linking these are images of flowers, especially those from Clara’s ‘Book of Remembrances’ – a beautiful collection of pressed flowers that she collected during the time that Robert was confined to the asylum in Endenich. She believed optimistically that he would recover from his mental illness and that the meaning of the flowers would build a bridge from the past to the present for him. The narrative is drawn from her many letters, diary entries and, the most intimate of all, the wonderful marriage diary which she and Robert kept in the early years of their marriage.

 Clara’s colourful and eventful memories are beautifully narrated by the well-known actress Gay Soper whose extraordinary career in theatre, operetta, pantomime and on TV spans over 50 years.

Portraying the young Clara is award-winning soprano Lorena Paz Nieto. She was recently featured in the online classical music magazine Interlude in a beautifully heartfelt interview –

The two most important men in Clara’s adult life, Schumann and Brahms, are expertly negotiated by baritone Malachy Frame. His depiction of Schumann’s descent into madness at the premiere in 2019 is still remembered vividly.

The story of Clara and Robert’s legendary marriage is well known but what of Brahms’ infatuation for Clara! You will need to come to the performance to find out more!


All of us at Art Sung are thrilled to hear that the London Song Festival has been chosen as the ‘Small Performing Arts Event of the Year 2023 by the 7th annual ‘Greater London Enterprise Awards 2023’. The London Song Festival’s mission has been to ‘fly the flag’ for the wonderful genre of Art song since 2007. Nigel Foster, the director, works tirelessly to create imaginative, meticulously researched and inventive recitals which combine song and narrative, often uncovering music by forgotten or neglected composers. The London Song Festival also gives audiences the opportunity to hear both young ‘up-and-coming’ singers as well as prizewinners and internationally acclaimed singers. This year, in addition to the usual autumn LSF Festival, there will be a mini summer festival this August entitled “Summer Love”.

Finally, we are delighted that actress/contralto Lucy Stevens will be taking on the role of Edith Sitwell in our latest project, Art Sung – Edith Sitwell, Behind her Façade. This will premiere at the London Song Festival on Friday 24thNovember 2023 with further performances planned in 2024!

Meantime if you would like to catch a glimpse of Lucy Stevens, you can catch her performing her latest show “A lovely way to spend an evening” about Noel Coward’s favourite leading lady, actress Gertrude Lawrence. She is accompanied by her long-standing collaborator, pianist Liz Marcus at the Phoenix Arts Club in London on Monday 19th June and Monday 9thJuly, 7pm.

Anyone heading up to Edinburgh for the Festival can see her at the Assembly Rooms in George Street at 4pm, 3rd – 27th August 2023. We saw the show when it first premiered in London in April and it really was a lovely way to spend an evening. Highly recommended!

Elizabeth MuchaNewsletter no 13: Clara Schumann revival – London Song Festival award – actress Lucy Stevens