11th Schumann Gala 2017 in Zwickau

The Schumann Gala held for the 11th time in Zwickau was probably one of the most magnificent even though one of the longest ones, as it lasted a whole three hours including a break! These, however, were filled with wonderful and varied music of the best performance quality. The programme was borrowed from the New Year’s Concert at the Leipzig Gewandhaus concert hall in 1857 with Clara Schumann as the soloist. There, she played for the first time in her life Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor (with “nice cadenzas by Johannes” [Brahms], which she later adapted for her own ones) and, as a major solo contribution, Beethoven’s enormously difficult and strenuous Prometheus or Eroica Variations, Op. 35. This time, the worthy “double” acting on behalf of the master was the graceful young pianist Sonia Achkar, a lecturer at the Conservatoires of Leipzig and Stuttgart, who was a superior interpreter of both works, although she had had only four weeks to study the Beethoven part and played it from notes. Her appearance was rewarded by “thundering applauses”, similar to the ones Clara Schumann received in Leipzig at the time. The same applied to the other soloist of the evening, the outstanding young soprano Julia Ebert, only just engaged in Zwickau and already making off into the distance again, who shone in arias by Mozart (“Bella mia fiamma” KV 528, composed for the Prague singer Josepha Duschek) and Bellini (from “I Puritani”) and was also rightly celebrated.

After the concert: Julia Ebert (soprano), Leo Siberski (conductor & the new Zwickau General Music Director), Sonia Achkar (piano), Photo: Olaf Meyer, Zwickau

The evening was also the “Schumann debut” of the new Zwickau General Music Director Leo Siberski who before had already conducted the first symphony concert of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Plauen-Zwickau in the 2017/18 season, now traditionally playing at the Gala Concert. He conducted the main work of the evening, Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120, in a spirited and inspiring manner but he also effortlessly mastered Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major (presented as a special courtesy to Clara Schumann in 1857 by the conductor Julius Rietz), Cherubini’s Overture to Eliza of 1794 and, of course, the solo performances.
Given that the Zwickau Gewandhaus concert hall, the performance venue for most of the Gala Concerts held so far, is currently being renovated, the “Citizens’ Hall” in the Town Hall, established only a few years earlier, was chosen as the concert venue at the suggestion of Head Mayor Dr Pia Findeiß, which proved to be a good decision, as both the ambience and the acoustics fully satisfied the requirements of such an evening, and the same venue will presumably come up again as an option for the 12th Schumann Gala in 2018.


(Gerd Nauhaus)

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