October saw our annual Young Musicians’ concert and we were delighted to welcome back Jessica Madden, a young pianist currently at King Edward VI School, Stratford, who had played for us last year. Jessica had used the fee she received last year to purchase music by Clara Schumann, a composer who is enjoying a revival coinciding with the 200th anniversary of her birth this year, and this was an opportunity for her to play some of the music, which is not generally so well known.
Jessica’s performance last year was mature and confident and this year we could see how she had grown both as a musician and performer. She opened her concert began with J. S. Bach’s Partita 5: Praeambulum BWV 829 played with brio and sparkle. The tone changed with the delightful Three Sketches by Frank Bridge April, Rosemary and Valse Capriceuse written in 1906. Jessica played with delicacy and sureness of touch, and afterwards informed us that, like Bridge, Jessica plays the violin as well as the piano.
Clara Schumann wrote Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann in 1853 and presented the music to him on his birthday on 8th June that year. The first performance however was given not to her husband as one might expect, but to Johannes Brahms who was said to be deeply affected by it – and also by Clara herself with whom he had an affair! It was also, Jessica told us, the last piece of music she heard before she died. Jessica’s abilities thoroughly captured the varying moods of the variations. Following on from the Variations, Jessica performed Robert Schumann’s Romance in F sharp minor, followed by the powerful chords of Brahms’ Rhapsody in G minor.
On a lighter note, the concert ended with The Man I Love by Gershwin sensitively and beautifully played.
We were delighted to hear music both familiar and less familiar played by Jessica, who has just started studying at the Birmingham Conservatoire alongside her 6th form school studies. Her enthusiasm for performing was evident throughout the recital, and we wish this talented young musician every good fortune in the years to come