Lyrical Echoes couples second symphonies of Robert Schumann and Brahms with a dozen exquisite songs by Clara Schumann, performed by acclaimed Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka and pianist Liz Upchurch

DECEMBER 3, 2021 – OTTAWA, CANADA Music history might have taken a different turn if female musicians of Clara Schumann’s calibre had received the same opportunities as her husband Robert and their protégé Johannes Brahms. Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra and its Music Director Alexander Shelley raise the ‘what if’ question with their ongoing recording project Clara – Robert – Johannes, placing works by each composer in context to highlight their collective contribution to nineteenth-century culture. The second title in the four-volume series, being released by Analekta on December 3, 2021, couples the Second Symphonies of Robert and Johannes with two groups of Clara’s songs.


Alexander Shelley has worked with Clara Schumann scholar Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers and Brahms biographer Jan Swafford to create programmes that illustrate the lives and works of the three composers. Each album couples one of the four symphonies of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms with a representative selection of Clara Schumann’s chamber works, songs and extant orchestral pieces, including several rare and special gems.


Clara – Robert – Johannes – Lyrical Echoes explores the flowing lyricism and heartfelt expression common to every composition on the album. The new release opens with Robert Schumann’s Symphony No.2 in C major Op.61 (1845-46), its dramatic intensity, vivid emotional contrasts and vibrant character unleashed by the NAC Orchestra and Alexander Shelley. Canadian soprano and 2022 GRAMMY award nominee Adrianne Pieczonka, a regular performer at the world’s leading opera houses, and pianist Liz Upchurch complement Robert’s compelling score with seven Lieder from Clara’s Op.12 & 13 song collections.


Brahms, who already idolised Robert Schumann before their first meeting in 1853, was hailed by the older man as a genius and the coming saviour of German music. Robert and Clara took the young man from Hamburg into their circle; in return, Johannes supported Clara following her husband’s decline into the psychosis that led to his death in 1856, sought her advice many times thereafter on artistic and personal matters, and remained her lifelong friend. After the long struggle to compose his first symphony, Brahms’s cheerful Symphony No.2 (1877) followed less than a year after its predecessor. The NAC Orchestra and Alexander Shelley revel in the work’s elan and striking contrasts of mood. Five songs by Clara, including two more from her Op.13, bring the album to a close.


“These recordings are part of the NAC Orchestra’s work to look again at the great diversity of composers from the past and create new opportunities for today’s composers and creators regardless of their gender, ethnicity or background,” observes Alexander Shelley. “Clara, one of the great pianists of the age, was much more famous on the international stage than her husband. It’s fascinating to follow the lines of influence that connect the songs she wrote during the early years of her marriage to the second symphonies of Robert Schumann and Brahms. I have discovered fresh things in both orchestral works from listening to Clara’s songs and am delighted to be able to share that with others.”

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Clara – Robert Johannes – Lyrical Echoes release on Analekta on December 3, 2021


Alexander Shelley conductor | Adrianne Pieczonka soprano | Liz Upchurch piano | NAC Orchestra

R Schumann Symphony No.2, Op.61 

C Schumann Selected Lieder: ‘Er ist gekommen’, ‘Liebst du um Schönheit’, ‘Warum willst du and’re fragen’, ‘Ich stand in dunklen Träumen’, ‘Sie liebten sich beide’, ‘Liebeszauber’, ‘Ich hab’ in deinem Auge’  

Brahms Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.73 

C Schumann Selected Lieder: ‘Der Mond kommt still gegangen’, ‘Die stille Lotosblume’, ‘Beim Abschied’, ‘Mein Sterne’, ‘Die gute Nacht’

The National Arts Centre Orchestra reaches a national and international audience through touring, recordings and extensive educational programs. Since its debut in 1969, the NAC Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. The Orchestra, whose Principal Guest Conductor is John Storgårds, performs a full series of subscription concerts at the National Arts Centre each season, featuring such artists as Joshua Bell, James Ehnes, Stewart Goodyear, Angela Hewitt, Jan Lisiecki, Gabriela Montero, and Xian Zhang. National and international tours have been a hallmark of the National Arts Centre Orchestra from the very beginning. The Orchestra has toured 95 times since its inauguration in 1969, visiting 120 cities in Canada, as well as 20 countries and 138 cities internationally. In recent years, the orchestra has undertaken performance and education tours across Canada as well as the U.K. and China. In 2019, the Orchestra marked its 50th anniversary by showcasing the work of six Canadian composers in a seven-city European tour that included performances and education events in England, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. Since its inception, the Orchestra has commissioned more than 80 works, mostly from Canadian composers, and its commissions and recordings won JUNO awards for Best New Composition in 2018 and 2019.

Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director of the NAC Orchestra in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. He is Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and former Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009-2017). Among his many invitations to conduct worldwide are stints with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Stockholm Philharmonic, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the German National Youth Orchestra.

The National Arts Centre is Canada’s bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for the performing arts. As part of its strategic plan, the NAC’s vision is to lead and support the renewal of the performing arts sector. The NAC presents, creates, produces, and co-produces performing arts programming in various streams —the NAC Orchestra, Dance, English Theatre in collaboration with Black Theatre Workshop, French Theatre, Indigenous Theatre, and Popular Music and Variety — and nurtures the next generation of audiences and artists from across Canada. The NAC is located in the National Capital Region on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg.

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