Ehnes, Altstaedt & Kanneh-Mason

FOCUS: Clara, Robert, Johannes

Thu, September 21, 2023
10:15 AM
Isata Kanneh-Mason
James Ehnes © Benjamin Ealovega
Nicolas Altstaedt © Marco Borggreve
Isata Kanneh-Mason © John Davis
Music Classical music Masterworks Violin Cello Vocal Piano Festival events
  • CLARA SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7
  • JOHANNES BRAHMS Concerto in A minor for Violin and Cello, Op. 102
  • In-person event
  • ≈ 1 hour and 30 minutes · With intermission

In recognition and thanks for invaluable donor support, the NAC Orchestra and NAC Dance grants insider access to donors to audit a working rehearsal in Southam Hall. Often, an artist or member of the artistic team gives insights into the creative process and invites questions from donors. Seating is limited.

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 Clara's works by composer/arrangers Sarah Slean and Cecilia Livingston, are soprano Midori Marsh and mezzo Alex Hetherington

Alongside his wife Clara, Robert Schumann composed many Lieder (art songs). Their marriage was vehemently opposed by Clara’s father, and in the year leading up to a court decision that finally allowed them to marry, an outpouring of creativity led Robert to compose nearly 140 Lieder, some of the most beautiful and poignant art songs ever written.

Astonishing as it seems in hindsight, Clara Wieck Schumann often doubted her own ability to compose. “I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but…a woman must not desire to compose—there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?” Her Piano Concerto in A minor leaves no doubt about the depth and breadth of her musical imagination. Guest pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, whose debut album Romance—the Piano Music of Clara Schumann won popular and critical acclaim around the world, makes her debut with the NAC Orchestra to perform this lovely concerto.

Johannes Brahms wrote his Concerto for Violin and Cello at the request of his friend, cellist Robert Hausmann, but he also used the commission as an opportunity to extend an olive branch to another close friend, violinist Joseph Joachim. The two had broken over Brahms’s support of Joachim’s wife in divorce proceedings years earlier. Joachim accepted the peace offering, leading Clara Schumann to call the concerto a work of reconciliation. By featuring both violin and cello, Brahms creates a kind of single “super-instrument” that conveys a special power neither could offer alone. Guest violinist and NACO Creative Partner James Ehnes joins forces with guest cellist Nicolas Altstaedt for this performance.

Performance is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes including intermission


  • Alexander Shelley ©Curtis Perry
    Conductor Alexander Shelley
  • Isata Kanneh-Mason ©John Davis
    Piano Isata Kanneh-Mason
  • James Ehnes ©Benjamin Ealovega
    Violin James Ehnes
  •  ©
    Cello Nicolas Altstaedt
  •  ©
    soprano Midori Marsh
  •  ©
    Mezzo-Soprano Alex Hetherington
  •  ©
    Composer Sarah Slean
  •  ©Daniel Alexander Denino
    Composer Cecilia Livingston