Home listening: Clara Schumann, Gerald Finzi and more

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The pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason identifies strongly with Clara Schumann, not only through her music but also through her large family. Clara had eight children. Isata has six siblings, all musical, including the cellist the moment, her brother Sheku. In notes for her debut recording Clara’s work entitled Romance (Decca), Isata says: “It’s fascinating that Clara could maintain such a long career as a pianist while having a large family and coping with the difficulties her husband’s mental illness. Her strength across her long life impressed, inspired and hugely intrigued me.”

That inspiration comes across loud and clear in her grand, sweeping interpretation the Piano Concerto in A minor, a hugely virtuosic piece that Clara began writing at the age 13. With conductor Holly Mathieson and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Kanneh-Mason brings real verve and excitement to both opening allegro and the romping finale.

Her innate sense shape and line are apparent again in the Piano Sonata in G minor, a work that, astonishingly, lay unpublished until 1991. Kanneh-Mason invests its singing opening with an almost reverential delicacy, interrupted with restless bursts youthful energy, a quality she also brings to the glorious, turbulent Scherzo No 2 in C minor.


In 2016, the composer David Bednall wrote a Nunc dimittis that could be paired with Gerald Finzi’s standalone Magnificat from 1952. It successfully draws on the rhapsodic contours Finzi’s distinctive technique while preserving Bednall’s own lithe and attractive voice. It’s included on Finzi, a recommended collection his choral music, sacred and secular, recorded for Hyperion by Stephen Layton and the Choir Trinity College, Cambridge.

Go to BBC Sounds to hear Donald Macleod in Radio 3’s Composer the Week tell the fascinating story the rediscovery Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s lost manuscripts in a Kiev basement in 1999. Originally housed in Berlin, the Nazis moved them to Poland where they promptly disappeared when the Red Army swept through, apparently saved by a Ukrainian tank driver but left forgotten for half a century.