I still vividly remember how promising I found the beginning of 2020, whilst I was still working on the completion of Schumann Journal 9, mainly dedicated to a major event, the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann’s birth in the preceding year, when the Beethoven anniversary year 2020 had arrived. This also in view of Beethoven’s significance for Robert and Clara Schumann! As is well known, Clara Schumann’s international fame started with a performance of Beethoven’s Appassionata with which the hardly eighteen-year-old Clara Wieck, now grown out of her existence as a prodigy, caused in furore in Vienna. Beethoven, along with her later husband and the contemporaries Chopin and Mendelssohn, was one of the composers most often played by her. Thomas Synofzik pursues Robert Schumann’s intensive engagement with Beethoven in this Schumann Journal.

However, as we all know, a new virus (SARS-CoV-2) from the family of the coronaviruses spread at incredible speed from the beginning of 2020, on 12th March 2020, the WHO declared the outbreak of the disease, named after the virus COVID-19, a pandemic, and the world went into its first lockdown, which obviously also entailed the closing of all cultural institutions. Nothing remained as it was before, and the cheerful and brilliant Clara Schumann anniversary year 2019 was followed, in many respects, by a bleak 2020. The Robert Schumann International Competition for Pianists and Singers in Zwickau, always eagerly awaited every four years, as well as all Schumann Festivals, of which, if ever, only a few events could take place in the summer months, and this often in a modified form compared to the original planning, all fell victim to the pandemic.

„A SCHUMANN . FV“. Schumann-Porträt von Felix Valloton, Originaler Holzschnitt, bez. C. Grumbach, Leipzig, aus: PAN, April/Mai 1895 (nach S. 24), hg. von der Genossenschaft PAN, vertreten von den geschäftsführenden Vorstandsmitgliedern Otto Julius Bierba

It was thanks to rays of hope in the summer – constantly decreasing infection rates after the first lockdown which in many European countries had extended well into May – that, in observance of the strictest safety measures, museums were cautiously reopened, including in the Schumann towns, and some wonderful, mainly open-air events, could take place. At the beginning of August, the Rhine terrace of the Ernst Moritz Arndt House in Bonn became the setting of a really wonderful and, in retrospect, almost magical Schumann Forum talk with our long-standing member Ottavia Maria Maceratini who, of course, also referred to the impacts of the pandemic on her life as an artist. And even the shooting of the programme “Clara Schumanns Leipzig” for the really stunning ARTE Paris series “Stadt Land Kunst” [“Town Country Art”] could take place in Leipzig in June 2020, which, first suggested by the film director Heinz Cadera, had already been discussed between him and me in detail in the autumn of 2019 and then approved by ARTE! It was two wonderfully cheerful early summer days when we made the film in Leipzig together, with Claar ter Horst and Frances Falling and me standing in front of the camera, whilst Franziska Franke-Kern had facilitated the shooting in otherwise closed places. This Leipzig summer fairy tale was broadcast by ARTE at the beginning of January and was at the same time the very successful beginning of the newly designed ARTE series “Invitation au voyage” [„Invitation to travel“] / “Stadt Land Kunst”.

Despite everything, there were very remarkable recordings and books in 2020 as well, a selection of which are presented to you in the Schumann Journal, with notably the Schumann Letter Edition picking up speed again, as soon as the promised foundation funds for printing had been made available again.

And with Zhang Cheng, prize winner for piano at the Robert Schumann International Competition for Pianists and Singers in Zwickau 2016, who dedicated his debut CD to Robert Schumann, we have also won over the first Chinese pianist for our Schumann Forum, the Board of Artists of the Schumann Network.

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