For Clara: Works by Schumann & Brahms

Hélène Grimaud, Konstantin Krimmel

For Clara: Works by Schumann & Brahms
Compact disc
Deutsche Grammophon
8 September 2023

For Clara: Works by Schumann & Brahms

Hélène Grimaud, Konstantin Krimmel

Inspired by the Romantic storyteller E.T.A. Hoffmann’s eccentric alter ego, Robert Schumann’s Kreisleriana is a work Hélène Grimaud has known since she was a teenager and has recorded once before – yet, as she says, “you can spend a lifetime with a piece like this and always find something new”. In revisiting it here, she’s paired it with two pieces by Schumann’s protégé, Johannes Brahms, including a set of songs in which Brahms distilled his unrequited love for Schumann’s widow Clara, and for which Grimaud is partnered by sensational young baritone Konstantin Krimmel.


Classical music lovers all over the world know when you say the name ‘Clara’, you mean one person. Someone who challenged the status quo, brought Brahms into the spotlight, and was the first famous working mother–musician–composer. Clara Schumann (nee Wieck) is now celebrated in her own right as a composer, but we can’t ignore the impact she had on those around her. Many of the pieces composed by her husband, Robert Schumann, and dear friend Johannes Brahms, were first given to Clara for her opinion before they were performed to anyone else. This album celebrates those close musical relationships and the beautiful music that came out of them.

Like Clara before her, Hélène Grimaud was a child prodigy pianist and is a multi-talented soloist. It’s been a while since I listened to a Grimaud recording, but as soon as it started, I remembered why I love her albums. She has such a light touch that the notes seem to appear like a brush of wind, with intention and beauty. The Kreisleriana Op. 16 are a set of works written by Robert to reflect Clara’s personality; he wrote them during the time they were separated by her father. The full gamut of emotions is on show in these eight pieces, all performed beautifully by Grimaud.

Another delight of this album is the inclusion of Brahms’ Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 32 with baritone Konstantin Krimmel. These nine songs are based on poems by two poets, Georg Friedrich Daumer and August von Platen, both of whom were influenced by the medieval Persian poet Hafez. Today, they’re often performed as separate songs, as they deal with individual ideas, but with their themes of love, loss and devotion, you might feel Brahms’ soul still yearning with unrequited love for Clara.

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