oboe by Howarth www.howarth.uk.com
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Recordings to celebrate the world of the oboe

Robert & Clara Schumann CD cover
More Romantic music: Pasculli CD cover music for oboe, horn and piano CD cover

Diana Ambache, John West (Producer)
and Jeremy Polmear listen to a take

(Click underlined movements to hear MP3 format sound clips)

Robert Schumann: Three Romances Op 94 (oboe & piano)
Nicht schnell - Einfach, innig - Nicht schnell

Robert Schumann: Adagio und Allegro, Op 70 (cor anglais & piano)
Adagio - Allegro

Clara Schumann: Three Romances Op 22 (oboe & piano)
Andante molto - Allegretto, mit zartem Vortrage - Leidenschaftlich schnell

Robert Schumann: Stücke im Volkston, Op 102 (cor anglais & piano)
Mit humor - Langsam - Nicht schnell, mit viel Ton zu spielen -
Nicht zu rasch - Stark und markiert

Clara Schumann: Romanze (1853) (oboe & piano)

Robert Schumann: Abendlied (1849) (oboe & piano)
Espressivo e molto sostenuto

The CD booklet contains an article by Keith Fraser (in English, French and German) on the relationship between Robert and Clara Schumann and a description of each piece, accompanied by session photographs.

How much do pictures reflect reality? The image on the front of this CD is an anonymous copy of a photograph taken of Robert and Clara Schumann in 1850, the year after most of the pieces here were written. Robert, standing soberly by the piano, was actually addicted to wine, women and song. His drinking was referred to by Clara's father Friedrich Wieck in his attempts to prevent their marriage, and Robert's affairs were a problem for Clara. Not so the songs, of which he wrote more than 100 in 1840, the year he married Clara. He was 40 years old in this picture, by this time a thoroughly respected composer, though more successful in some genres than others. His earlier intention, to be a concert pianist, had been thwarted by a (possibly self-inflicted) injury to his right hand.

And what of Clara? She was 31 and an acclaimed pianist. She had already given birth to six of her eight children (of whom seven survived). At this period she was also performing, but her pregnancies (and Robert's encouragement) had led to a flowering of her compositional skills. Her face - in common with other photos of her - seems to express a kind of abstracted melancholy. But here the copyist has lied; in the original photograph she is almost smiling. Certainly the years from her marriage until Robert's physical and mental health began its final decline in 1852 contained much ecstatic happiness. As she wrote in her diary soon after their marriage: "I am supremely happy, and becoming more so all the time - if my Robert is as happy as I am, then I will wish for nothing further - because of my love I could sometimes hurt him with my kisses; instead of becoming quieter (as they say one gets to become in a marriage) I become more fiery! - my poor beloved husband!

Their relationship was one of mutual love and mutual support, though perhaps Clara was able to support Robert more than the other way round. She encouraged him constantly, and by performing his works at her concerts brought them into the public domain. Robert sometimes described her as his own "right hand". She was sociable and outgoing, he more private and reserved outside his own circle of friends. He needed her support, and indeed sometimes felt inadequate and depressed on her concert tours when she was the star soloist and and he could no longer play the piano properly.

Clara's encouragement of Robert was from a position of equality, and the anonymous illustrator has made a blatent distortion in the picture by moving the angle of her head from upright in the original photograph to a more submissive position - forward and down. Copyright Jeremy Polmear 2002

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Jeremy Polmear
(oboe, cor anglais)

Diana Ambache

Recording in St Michael's, Highgate, London, April 2002

The Polmear Ambache Duo was formed in 1977 and has performed in thirty three countries on five continents. London appearences include recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room. Their performances include words and music shows with star actors such as Jenny Agutter, and they also use the Arts as a business management training tool. They have been broadcast on the BBC. This is their fourth recording: two others are of 19th century virtuoso oboe music, and one is of 20th century English music.

Jeremy has also performed with a number of London's chamber orchestras including the London Mozart Players and the City of London Sinfonia. He is also the founder of Oboe Classics. Diana founded her own Ambache Chamber Orchestra, and this and her work promoting women composers led to her being shortlisted for the European Women of Achievement Awards 2002.

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Press Comment
"In this recording, Jeremy Polmear is ideal for these kinds of pieces because his playing is so controlled. The sound he produces varies from the softest, most delicate tones to more powerfully evocative sonorities. Because his control is so masterful Polmear avoids the saccharine sweetness that tempts lesser artists. His vibrato is solid, not too quick or too slow; he applies it appropriately. As a result, his phrasing is impeccable; his gorgeous tone is warm, mellow, but always strong." Patrick Meanor, Fanfare Magazine (USA)

"Jeremy Polmear ... is an expressive player, relishing the long line of the slow movement of the Volkston set, and with Diana Ambache finding just the right touch for the mischevious phrasing of its middle movement. There is much elegant and accomplished music-making here, as well as a lively sense of fun ... the commitment of both players and the attractiveness of the music will give much pleasure." Peter Branscombe, International Record Review

"Jeremy Polmear ... is no slouch as a performer. His enjoyable programme, with Diana Ambache, of music by the Schumanns inevitably consists mostly of arrangements: the cello Pieces in Folk Style transfer especially well to the cor anglais." Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine

BBC Music Magazine has designated this the Benchmark recording (best available version) for this repertoire.

"Works for oboe or cor anglais by Robert and Clara Schumann are elegantly played by the new label's artistic director, Jeremy Polmear, with Diana Ambache at the piano" Anthony Holden, Observer

"A fine album by Jeremy Polmear." American Record Guide

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Getting the Music

Cover of the Schumann music
Some of the oboe and cor anglais parts (plus the piano part of Clara's Romanze) used in this recording are obtainable from Oboe Classics. The pack contains the three Clara Romances (oboe part), five Stücke im Volkston (cor anglais part) and Clara's single Romanze (oboe and piano parts), and costs 6.

The piano parts can all be obtained through music shops:
1. Robert Schumann Romances Op 94 is Edition Peters Nr 2387 (includes oboe part as well, of course)
2. Clara Schumann Romances Op 22 is Edition Breitkopf 8383 (includes a violin part)
3. Adagio and Allegro is Breitkopf Nr 842 (with a horn part), or Edition Peters Nr 2373.
This is with a cello part, but it includes the Stücke im Volkston as well.
4. Stücke in Volkston is Edition Peters Nr 2373; includes Adagio and Allegro, see above.
5. Abendlied is in A Nineteenth Century Collection Volume I for oboe and piano, editor James Brown,
Lordship Publications.
6. The original version of Clara Schumann's piano Romanze is published by Henle Edition.

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Donizetti CD cover Sweet Melancholy CD cover
Two other CDs are currently available from the Duo:

The Other Donizetti - instrumental music by Donizetti, with Fantasies on his operas by Liszt and Pasculli.
Sweet Melancholy - English music by Britten, Vaughan Williams, Bowen, Rubbra, Arnold and Dring.
You can buy them on the net by going to the shop on Diana Ambache's web site Women of Note. (They are towards the bottom of the page.) This is a separate transaction from any you do here.

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Suggestions for reading about the Schumanns
(All these books are available through amazon.)
  • A good recent book on Robert Schumann's life and works is Robert Schumann, Herald of a new poetic age by John Daverio, published by OUP Inc, USA (1997)
  • The equivalent for Clara is Clara Schumann, The Artist and the Woman by Nancy B Reich, published by Gollancz,1985 (Cornell University Press in the US). She has written extensively about Clara Schumann.
  • A strong sense of their relationship, and opinions generally, can be gleaned from The Marriage Diaries of Robert and Clara Schumann, Edited by Gerd Nauhaus, Published in the UK by Robson Books (1994). It covers the period 1840-44, five years before most of the CD material.
  • There is an article on the psychopathology of the Relationship between Robert and Clara by Hendricka Halberstadt-Freud in the (American) Psychohistory Review, Vol 23 No 2 (Winter 1995). Spookily enough, Hendricka is now married to Han de Vries, who quite independently is the subject of another Oboe Classics CD. It is possible that some or all of that article will eventually be included in this site.
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