PORT ANGELES — Clara Schumann, celebrity pianist, mother of eight children, composer and love interest of two fellow composers, would have hosted an evening like this. She loved to share music in her home, with close friends.
So said Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, the Seattle-based cellist to appear this Sunday in a virtual concert, free to the public at 5 p.m.
Music on the Strait, Port Angeles’ young chamber music festival, will present the concert featuring Thorsteinsdóttir and three other chamber players at a private home on Lake Sutherland.
Viewers can connect via the festival’s website, musiconthestrait.com, or from its Facebook page.
The evening’s host, joining remotely, is violist Richard O’Neill, co-artistic director of Music on the Strait and the recent winner of a Grammy award.
O’Neill is at home in Boulder, Colo., where he was March 14, the night he accepted the Grammy.
After three nominations, this was his first Grammy win, for best classical instrumental solo performance for his recording of Christopher Theofanidis’ Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra.
Sunday’s concert features an interplay between the Schumanns: Clara’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano and Robert’s Three Romances for Oboe and Piano are on the program. So are the “Liebestreu” and “Wiegenlied” (“Lullaby”) from Johannes Brahms, Clara’s ardent admirer later in her life, after Robert’s death.
Performing with Thorsteinsdóttir are O’Neill’s Music on the Strait co-artistic director, Port Angeles-born violinist James Garlick, plus two New York City artists: pianist Orion Weiss and Nathan Hughes, oboist with the Metropolitan Opera.
“The program centers around Clara Schumann’s piano trio, which is a beautiful and stirring work,” Thorsteinsdóttir said.
Weiss, who appeared along with her at the 2019 Music on the Strait festival, will play the piece on the Steinway piano owned by Dorothy Field, benefactor of Port Angeles’ Field Arts & Events Hall.
It has been in storage awaiting the opening of that venue, so Garlick and O’Neill asked Executive Director Chris Fidler if he would lend the piano to them. Fidler agreed; it was transported to the Lake Sutherland house, and piano technician Mark Schecter of Port Townsend spent several days tuning and working on it for Sunday’s performance.
In addition to COVID-19 safety protocols — testing, masking, distancing — musicians and crew navigated the concert production in a living room.
Audio engineer Tim Brye and video producer Silas Crews had to be strategic in positioning multiple microphones, cameras and monitors, out of sight and out of the way.
“We had a few little issues with log trucks on the highway and even a chainsaw,” Brye said, yet “overall I’m quite pleased with the audio quality.
“What a glorious group of musicians,” he added.
“Playing well — extremely well — is only half of the equation. The other half is how their personalities interact.
These musicians have the sensitivity and humor,” Brye said, “to create a product that is so much more than the sum of their individual parts.”
For Thorsteinsdóttir, an evening with Clara Schumann and the two men who loved her is utterly thrilling.
“Clara is often mentioned as a side-character in the more famous composers’ lives, but I love that this program centers her contributions,” the cellist said.
“She was not only a fantastic pianist, an inspiring musician, but was a confidante and advisor” to the men in her life.
Garlick, for his part, is also eager to spotlight Clara, who was born in 1819 and died in 1896, during Women’s History Month.
The performance on Sunday is a kind of invitation, Garlick said, to the 2021 Music on the Strait festival.
Set for the second and third weekends of August, it includes plans for in-person events.
Updates will be posted later this spring at musiconthestrait.com.
“We also have plan B, C and D in mind,” Garlick added.
“In any case, after all these months of isolation, I’m beyond grateful for Sunday’s concert. It’s pure joy to collaborate with these artists.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.