Ehnes, Altstaedt & Kanneh-Mason

FOCUS: Clara, Robert, Johannes

2023-09-21 20:00 2023-09-21 23:59 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Ehnes, Altstaedt & Kanneh-Mason

In-person event

Join us for a free pre-concert talk at Peter Herrndorf Place in the NAC, featuring composers Sarah Slean and Cecilia Livingston in conversation with Hannah Chan-Hartley. *** Our season-opening festival FOCUS: Clara, Robert, Johannes​ celebrates the abiding friendship between Clara and Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms who encouraged and inspired each other through lives of prolific creativity, troubling uncertainty, and perhaps even unrequited love. Performing new arrangements of...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
Thu, September 21, 2023

≈ 1 hour and 30 minutes · With intermission

Our programs have gone digital.

Scan the QR code at the venue's entrance to read the program notes before the show begins.

Last updated: October 17, 2023


(orch. Sarah Slean)
(5 min) 

“Am Strande” (“On the shore”) 

“Der Mond kommt still gegangen” (“The moon rises silently”), Op. 13, No. 4 

CLARA SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7 (21 min) 

I. Allegro maestoso 
II. Romanze: Andante non troppo, con grazia 
III. Finale: Allegro non troppo 


(orch. Cecilia Livingston)
(6 min) 

“Die gute Nacht” (“To the good night”) 
“Die Lorelei” (“The Loreley”)

JOHANNES BRAHMS Concerto in A minor for Violin and Cello, Op. 102 (31 min) 

I. Allegro 
II. Andante 
III. Vivace non troppo 

Isata Kanneh-Mason appears by arrangement with Enticott Music Management 
Isata Kanneh-Mason records exclusively for Decca Classics 

Clara Schumann Lieder – Texts and Translations

Am Strande 
German source: Wilhelm Gerhard 

Traurig schau ich von der Klippe 
Auf die Flut, die uns getrennt, 
Und mit Inbrunst fleht die Lippe, 
Schone seiner, Element! 

Furcht ist meiner Seele Meister, 
Ach, und Hoffnung schwindet schier; 
Nur im Traume bringen Geister 
Vom Geliebten Kunde mir. 

Die ihr, fröhliche Genossen 
Gold’ner Tag’ in Lust und Schmerz, 
Kummertränen nie vergossen, 
Ach, ihr kennt nicht meinen Schmerz! 

Sei mir mild, o nächt’ge Stunde, 
Auf das Auge senke Ruh, 
Holde Geister, flüstert Kunde 
Vom Geliebten dann mir zu. 

Der Mond kommt still gegangen 
German source: Emanuel Geibel 

Der Mond kommt still gegangen 
Mit seinem gold’nen Schein. 
Da schläft in holdem Prangen 
Die müde Erde ein. 

Und auf den Lüften schwanken 
Aus manchem treuen Sinn 
Viel tausend Liebesgedanken 
Über die Schläfer hin. 

Und drunten im Tale, da funkeln 
Die Fenster von Liebchens Haus; 
Ich aber blicke im Dunklen 
Still in die Welt hinaus. 

Die gute Nacht 
German source: Friedrich Rückert 

Die gute Nacht, die ich dir sage, 
Freund, hörest du; 
Ein Engel, der die Botschaft trage 
Geht ab und zu. 

Er bringt sie dir, und hat mir wieder 
Den Gruß gebracht: 
Dir sagen auch des Freundes Lieder 
Jetzt gute Nacht. 

Die Lorelei 
German source: Heinrich Heine

Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten, 
Daß ich so traurig bin; 
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten, 
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn. 

Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt, 
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein; 
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt 
Im Abendsonnenschein. 

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet 
Dort oben wunderbar, 
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet, 
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar. 

Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme 
Und singt ein Lied dabei, 
Das hat eine wundersame, 
Gewalt’ge Melodei. 

Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe 
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh; 
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe, 
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’. 

Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen 
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn; 
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen 
Die Lorelei getan. 



orch. Sarah Slean

“Am Strande” (“On the shore”)
“Der Mond kommt still gegangen” (“The moon rises silently”), Op. 13, No. 4

orch. Cecilia Livingston

“Die gute Nacht” (“To the good night”)
“Die Lorelei” (“The Loreley”)

All throughout her career as a composer, Clara Schumann (née Wieck, 1819–1896) wrote Lieder (songs for voice and piano), from when she was a child right up until Robert Schumann’s death. Today’s audiences know 28 of her Lieder, but many more were lost. 

This program’s selection of lieder showcases Clara Schumann’s consummate ability to intertwine piano, voice, and poetry in her art. The Lieder deal with quintessentially Romantic themes: the power of nature and the elements in “Am Strande” and “Lorelei,” and the night in “Der Mond kommt still gegangen” and “Die gute Nacht.” 

In “Am Strande,” nature imagery is intended to represent human emotion. The ebb and flow of the endless sextuplets represents both the tides separating two lovers and the character’s emotions that oscillate between hope and despair. In “Die Lorelei,” Schumann eloquently reimagines the famous legend of a baneful nymph, the Loreley, who lures sailors on the Rhine to their deaths. Schumann clearly delineates between the narrator of the poem, the sailor and the Loreley by creating distinct tones and textures. She employs and emotional and musical crescendo that comes to a climax at the end of the song. The roiling piano score in these two Lieder, presented this evening in arrangements by Sarah Slean and Cecilia Livingston, are a credit to Schumann’s talents as a virtuoso. 

“Der Mond kommt still gegangen,” Op. 13, No. 4 (“The moon rises silently,” 1843, arranged by Sarah Slean) opens with the tranquil image of a golden moon watching over the slumbering world. The gentle sway of the piano part is reminiscent of nocturnes and barcarolles, those instrumental lullabies of the Romantic era. The last stanza of the Lied, however, brings a subtle note of bittersweetness, as the narrator observes their beloved’s home from afar and then turns away to be embraced by the night. Does this mean the beloved is out of reach? Schumann emphasizes the moment’s ambiguity with rhythmic acceleration, chromatic harmonies, and the highest note of the Lied’s song. 

“Die gute Nacht” (“To the good night,” 1841, arranged by Cecilia Livingston) reveals the power of music to transcend time and space. Here, the poem’s narrator sends out wishes for a good night through an angelic messenger, and in the form of a song—yes, Schumann’s Lied contains its own Lied!—Schumann gives the first stanza leisurely and spacious phrasing, as if to call forth images of the vast distances the goodnight wishes have crossed. The Lied finishes, infinitely peaceful, with a long and serene postlude, as if the solo piano is giving voice to everything that words cannot convey. 

Program note by Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers (translated from the French) 


Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7

I. Allegro maestoso 
II. Romanze: Andante non troppo, con grazia 
III. Finale: Allegro non troppo 

Clara Wieck (1819–1896)—she was not Clara Schumann yet—composed her Piano Concerto during her teenage years. Not unlike to Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms with their first symphonies, this concerto was something of a rite of passage: large-scale, orchestral genres were the prerogative of professional composers, considered well beyond the creative abilities of women. Clara initially wrote the third movement as a standalone work but soon decided to integrate it into a fully-fledged concerto, achieving coherence through astute thematic connections and a unique large-scale design.

The opening “Allegro maestoso” is a sonata form that daringly omits its recapitulation, deferring closure to the end of the finale. The middle “Romanze” sounds an intimate duet for piano and cello, and foregrounds tone and touch rather than the fiery virtuosity of the outer movements. As musicologists David Keep and Larry R. Todd have observed, Robert directly quoted the “Romanze” at the opening of his 1840 Dichterliebe, a song-cycle that epitomizes longing and desire. This is a fitting tribute since the concerto’s genesis, from 1833 (the year of Brahms’s birth) to 1836, witnessed the blossoming of their love story.

Wieck’s concerto was at the forefront of innovative formal techniques that later Romantic composers further developed. She attempted only one other concerto in 1847, which remained unfinished.

Program note by Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers 


Concerto in A minor for Violin and Cello, Op. 102

I. Allegro 
II. Andante 
III. Vivace non troppo 

In the spring of 1887, Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) wrote to Clara Schumann, coyly informing her that he had the “amusing idea of writing a concerto for violin and cello. If it is at all successful, it might give us some fun.” He revealed he was insecure, however, about writing for the two stringed instruments. For his Violin Concerto (1878), he consulted and worked with his friend Joseph Joachim, but they had since become estranged for years. (In 1881, Brahms had sided with Joachim’s wife, Amalie, against her husband during their divorce proceedings, when the violinist was convinced she was having an affair with the music publisher Fritz Simrock.) Seeing an opportunity to make peace, Brahms cautiously approached Joachim in the summer about his plans for the “double concerto”, with the cello part to be played by Robert Hausmann for whom Brahms had written his Second Cello Sonata. His efforts appeared to have worked; as Clara, who attended an early rehearsal of the piece in September, reflected in her journal, “This concerto is a work of reconciliation—Joachim and Brahms have spoken to each other again for the first time in years.”

The Double Concerto, Brahms’s final orchestral work, was premiered in Cologne on October 18, 1887, with Joachim and Hausmann as the soloists, and the composer on the podium. They performed it several more times during the concert season though reception of the piece remained mostly lukewarm. Even Clara was doubtful: “I do not believe the concerto has any future…nowhere has it the warmth and freshness which are so often to be found in his works.” Today, it is much more appreciated—for its beauty and masterful construction, not to mention as a grand showcase for two top-notch soloists.

The Double Concerto has a few notable precedents—Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for violin, cello, and piano, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, and J.S. Bach’s Double Concerto for two violins—that Brahms likely studied as models. From what he had absorbed, he forged a strikingly distinctive work. He opens with two dramatic cadenzas for the soloists, thus turning the typical structure of a concerto’s first movement completely on its head. Soon after full orchestra announces a fragment of the main theme, the cello interrupts with the first of these (“to be played like a recitative”). Woodwinds and horns later respond with the “sigh” motif of the second theme, after which the violin enters alone, and following a few musing phrases, is joined by the cello. Together, in the second cadenza, they revel in the depth and breadth of their sonorities—through resonant double stops and chords, then a magnificent arpeggio, displaying their entire range as if one “super instrument”. Finally, they unite to climb an ascending scale, which arrives at the orchestral exposition to properly reveal, at last, the movement’s main elements. As the soloists return to develop these throughout the movement, listen to how Brahms explores every facet of their relationship through spirited dialogue ranging from imitation to commentary, from argumentation to the completion of each other’s phrases. Near the end, at the point a cadenza is expected, violin and cello instead come together to state the main theme, then join in a marvellous unison octave passage—the musical embodiment of reconciliation—that emphatically closes this weighty movement. 

Continuing their united front, the soloists introduce the gorgeous song of the “Romanze” in unison octaves (violin in its low register), with orchestral strings adding harmonic richness. Woodwinds later intone a serene chorale, which, as the movement progresses, alternates with the soloists’ increasingly elaborate ruminations on the song. In the reprise, violin and cello sing only the first part of the song, then recall past musings, after which an exquisitely dreamy passage draws the movement to a peaceful finish. 

Cello and violin take the lead again to present the recurring theme of the third movement, which Brahms laces with elements of the “style hongrois” (Hungarian-Romani style)—a nod to Joachim’s heritage. The tune sounds delicate, slightly melancholy at first, but attains confidence when the orchestra takes it up. With subsequent returns, the soloists exchange its phrases, adding embellishments and flourishes. By contrast, the second theme is robust and boisterous, featuring resonant double stops, as does the assertive melody appearing mid-movement; with its juxtaposition of snappy and fluid rhythms, the “style hongrois” is most obvious here. In the epilogue following the reprise of the first two themes, the soloists trade gossamer arpeggios, extending to new heights in a soaring phrase. Finally, they merge once more in unison octaves to proclaim a transfigured version of the main theme and end the movement in triumphant joy. 

Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD 


  • Conductor Alexander Shelley
  • isata-kanneh-mason
    Piano Isata Kanneh-Mason
  • Violin James Ehnes
  • Cello Nicolas Altstaedt
  • midori-marsh-headshot-1-scaled-e1654794134734-cropped
    soprano Midori Marsh
  • Mezzo-Soprano Alex Hetherington
  • Composer Sarah Slean
  • livingstoncsmall-1.1-cropped
    Composer Cecilia Livingston


NAC Orchestra

First Violins  
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster) 
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster) 
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster) 
Jeremy Mastrangelo 
Emily Westell 
Zhengdong Liang 
Manuela Milani 
**Marjolaine Lambert 
*Martine Dubé 
*Erica Miller 
*Andréa Armijo Fortin 
*Oleg Chelpanov 
*Renée London 

Second Violins 
*John Marcus (guest principal) 
Emily Kruspe 
Frédéric Moisan 
Carissa Klopoushak 
Winston Webber 
Leah Roseman 
Mark Friedman 
Karoly Sziladi 
**Edvard Skerjanc 
*Heather Schnarr 
*Sara Mastrangelo 

Jethro Marks (principal) 
David Marks (associate principal) 
David Goldblatt (assistant principal) 
Tovin Allers 
David Thies-Thompson 
Paul Casey 
*Sonya Probst 

Rachel Mercer (principal) 
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal) 
Leah Wyber 
Marc-André Riberdy 
Timothy McCoy 
*Karen Kang 
*Desiree Abbey 
*Daniel Parker 

Double Basses 
Max Cardilli (assistant principal) 
Vincent Gendron 
Marjolaine Fournier 
*Paul Mach 
*Doug Ohashi 

Joanna G'froerer (principal) 
Stephanie Morin 

Charles Hamann (principal) 
Anna Petersen 

English Horn 
Anna Petersen 

Kimball Sykes (principal) 
Sean Rice 

Darren Hicks (principal) 
Vincent Parizeau 

*Spencer Park (guest principal) 
Julie Fauteux (associate principal) 
Lawrence Vine 
Lauren Anker 
Louis-Pierre Bergeron 

Karen Donnelly (principal) 
Steven van Gulik 

*Steve Dyer (guest principal) 

*Simón Gómez (guest principal)

Jonathan Wade 

Principal Librarian 
Nancy Elbeck 

Assistant Librarian 
Corey Rempel 

Personnel Manager 
Meiko Lydall 

Orchestra Personnel Coordinator 
Laurie Shannon 

*Additional musicians 
**On leave 

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees