Women you ought to hear
In illustrious pianist Clara Schumann's bicentennial year, a music competition and fest extends its tribute to 45 women composers whose stellar music remains little known
He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era." "[She] is considered one of the most distinguished composers and pianists of the Romantic era." The online bios of Robert Schumann and Clara Schumann are separated by a mere choice of synonymous adjectives. However, chances are, you have heard the former's works but not even heard of the latter. Celebrating "the other great Schumann" in her bicentenary is the 10th edition of Con Brio – The John Gomes Memorial Piano Competition & Festival.
But a tribute to Schumann alone wouldn't have done justice to the theme, Schumania: Celebrating Women. For, the presence of male composers in Western classical music is "beyond just dominance", says Parvesh Java, who has directed Con Brio since its inception. So, while Schumann's music will be performed on all four days — Pune-based pianist Sonam Lodhi will play Schumann's unfinished concerto — the festival includes 45 women composers, whose works are hardly performed. "A lot of research went into finalising the list, which stemmed from discussions, and suggestions from the performers," Java explains, referring to his conversations with pianists Marialena Fernandes and Mark Troop, who will lead the festival, and special guests, soprano Patricia Rozario and pianist Ranko Markovic. The composers including Bonis, Choi, Clarke, Hensel, Netzel, Tann and Viardot come from the Romantic, Baroque and French Impressionist eras to modern times.
"Most of these musicians are new to me. In those times, it was the male composers who were better known. So, while Felix Mendelssohn is celebrated, his equally talented sister Fanny was overlooked; likewise with Mozart's sister Nannerl," shares Martina Joy Peter, a 20-year-old viola player from Bengaluru who will perform a work of Luise Adolpha Le Beau at the festival. Java elaborates, "While men were professionals, who had to make money out of their music, most women were composing within their communities and couldn't go beyond the amateur composer barrier."
Eshvita Menezes, Martina Joy Peter and Jennifer Son
American cellist Jennifer Son, who has seen the event grow from its initial years, speaks of the uncalled for the distinction between "masculine and feminine" styles of playing works by men and women, while Goa-based violinist Eshvita Menezes shares how she relates to compositions by women better. "Clara Schumann wrote the piece I am performing after she gave birth to her eighth child. Women's power over their thoughts is deeper."
FROM August 1 to 4
AT Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Entry Rs 300 onwards
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