Friday, 30 April, 2021 | 5:00 PM

Christina Dahl

In the Orbit of the Schumanns

Pianist Christina Dahl shows how a circle of illustrious composers and performers influenced each others’ works and 19th century musical culture.

The Schumanns stood at a particularly rich and important intersection during the early to mid-nineteenth century, and Clara Schumann’s influence on taste and programming throughout the century continued well beyond Robert Schumann’s death in 1856.   Although the four composers most frequently championed by Clara Schumann on recitals were Mendelssohn, Beethoven, R Schumann, and Chopin, she had an important effect on Brahms, for example, that extended throughout their long and complicated relationship. And Robert Schumann was a champion of Schubert, collecting manuscripts following Schubert’s death that enabled works like the Great Symphony to come to light.   Through programming, letter-writing, editing, and editorializing (through the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik) both Robert and Clara exerted an outsized influence on contemporaneous composers and performers, pushing back against other large trends in the century both explicitly and through omission (it is interesting to study what Clara Schumann decided not to play, as well as what she did program).   This program will look at several gorgeous Romances composed by Clara Schumann, as well as a sonata composed by Schubert following what may have been one of the last exuberantly happy summers of his life, and will touch upon a significant work of Brahms.  Both Mendelssohns figured in Clara Schumann’s life, and while she programmed Felix Mendelssohn frequently, it was a brief correspondence with Fanny Mendelssohn that seems most touching in terms of comparing the lives of those two contemporaneous women. The talk will also feature a brief work by Fanny Mendelssohn, as well as a Prelude and Fugue of Felix Mendelssohn.   Clara Schumann was one of the most prominent pianists of the nineteenth century, in a dominant career that spanned decades. Robert Schumann died at 46, but left a legacy of opinion and works that were carried forward in through the century by Clara’s faithful stewardship. Together they crafted a way of viewing German music which remains remarkably resilient in the 21st century, despite multiple trends that might shake that particular hegemony. 

About the artist

Christina Dahl is a chamber musician, soloist and teacher who has been on the piano faculty at Stony Brook University for twenty-six years.  She has spent summers at the Aspen Music Festival, been a collaborating artist at the Steans Institute of the Ravinia Festival, and was a fellow both at the Tanglewood Center and at the Banff Center.  Christina was both a faculty member and chair of the piano department at the Eastern Music Festival for nine years, and subsequently joined the faculty at the Icicle Creek Music Center and Yellow Barn Festival and School. She has been a visiting faculty member variously at the Cleveland Institute, Peabody Conservatory and Ithaca College. She has twice been a cultural ambassador for the US State Department.  She is in frequent demand as a master class teacher, regularly appearing on such distinguished series as the Steinhardt Piano Series at NYU and the Art of the Piano at CCM.   She is a core member of Ensemble HD, which was founded by Joshua Smith. And which includes members of the Cleveland Orchestra. The Ensemble performs in concert halls as well as nontraditional venues, including bars, parks, festivals and schools. Ensemble HD released its first double vinyl album in May 2013, Live at the Happy Dog. It was recorded at The Happy Dog, a local bar/restaurant in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District, which has provided both an inspiring home base and an enthusiastic crowd for many appearances. The album was hailed by Audiophile Review as“a recording of lovingly performed chamber music” and by the Economist, which noted that the “challenging, ambitious pieces by 20th-century composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Anton Webern and Arvo Part divert the crowd from their beers and the awed silence after a piece, before the applause, can be as beautiful as the music itself.” Ensemble HD has been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition, BBC and PBS, and in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, among others.   Her work with Gilbert Kalish at Stony Brook, crafting an artisanal graduate program for pianists that emphasizes collaboration, immersion in new music and a comprehensive performance outlook has yielded a staggering number of successful pianists who have gone into the profession as university professors, chamber music players and members of new music ensembles such as Yarn/Wire and Bang on a Can.  Despite the versatility of the pianists coming out of Stony Brook in a steady stream, the program has steadfastly adhered to a performance emphasis, and does not offer specific degrees in collaboration or education, focusing instead on a holistic approach to both performance and teaching.   Christina has recently taken the position of Graduate Program Director in the Music Department at Stony Brook, and helps to oversee and run that distinguished graduate program in addition to her work on the piano faculty. Administrative work has proven intensely interesting during a year when most work must be done from home and at the computer.   Christina Dahl is married to trombonist Richard Stout, a member of the Cleveland Orchestra.

This concert will be broadcast at on Friday, 30 April, 2021 | 5:00 PM.