ANDOVER | In 1853, a young Johannes Brahms visited Robert Schumann to learn from his mentor. There, Brahms met Clara, Schumann’s wife, who also was a musician. Brahms soon fell in love with Clara and what ensued is what some claim to have been one of the greatest love triangles of all time.
Andover Chamber Music will celebrate the love and emotions of these two composers and their love for the same woman in its annual Valentine’s Concert, “Portraits of Genius: Brahms & Schumann,” this weekend at the West Parish Church in Andover.
“There has never been a lack of music with themes of yearning or desire, and there is vast repertoire from the Romantic period,” said Julie Scolnik, artistic director. “This year we decided to feature music from one of the greatest love triangles in history. There is no more passionate music than that of Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms.”
It is well documented, Scolnik explained, that Brahms was “madly in love” with Clara. Thirteen-years his senior, Clara found a musical soulmate that Brahms, yet it is unclear if she acted on her love for the young musician. Schumann, you could say, was in love with them both. He courted Clara for years and in the young Brahms, he saw his successor.
“This program features some of the most-beautiful music ever written,” said Scolnik, who added that during the performance excerpts from love letters written by the composers will be read.
There is an abundance of letters written by both Schumann and Brahms.
Brahms wrote the following to Clara in 1856: “I wish I could write to you as tenderly as I love you and tell you all the good things that I wish you. You are so infinitely dear to me, dearer than I can say. …”
This highly expressive music will be performed by an ensemble of distinguished artists which include pianist Aurelien Pontier who is flying in from Paris just for this concert, violist Roger Tapping and cellist Natasha Brofsky, both faculty members at The Julliard School and the New England Conservatory of Music, mezzo soprano Krista River and violinist Yura Lee. Scolnik, a flutist, will perform with her daughter, pianist Sophie Scolnik-Brower, who also will play a four-hand piano Schumann work with Pontier.
The program includes Schumann’s Adagio & Allegro for cello & piano, the song “Rose, Meer und Sonne” for mezzo and piano, and excerpts from his Piano Works, Op. 85, for four hands. The Brahms works include his two songs for contralto, piano and viola, Opus 91, Clarinet Sonata No. 2 (in a flute transcription) and his poignant Piano Quartet in C minor.
“It’s really beautiful music and a wonderful event to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” Scolnik said.
Scolnik said the Valentine’s concerts are always one of the most popular of Andover Chamber Music’s season.
“We pass out chocolate hearts and try to make it a fun night,” she said.
IF YOU GO: * What: "Portraits of Genius: Brahms & Schumann," by Andover Chamber Music. * Where and When: Saturday, Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. Salon Concert in Beverly, call for information; Sunday, Feb. 10, 3 p.m. West Parish Church, Andover. * How: Tickets $30. Students get in free and a senior citizen discount is available. Group ticket discounts also available. Tickets can be purchased online at www.AndoverChamberMusic.org, or by calling 978-474-6222 or e-mailing sales@AndoverChamberMusic.org.