BRLSI’s Literature and Humanities Convenor, Dr Robert Blackburn, is a former Principal Lecturer in Music at Bath Spa University, and an accomplished pianist. To end the Lit & Hum summer ‘term’ each year he holds what he calls his ‘Feast Day’ event, a lecture on a favourite composer complete with examples played on the piano by Dr Blackburn himself.
This year’s subject was Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856), the German composer, publisher and critic, focussing on his works up to 1840, when he married the famous pianist Clara Wieck in the face of bitter opposition from her father (who happened to be Schumann’s piano teacher). As Dr Blackburn told us, Schumann wrote music that was “Romantic with a capital R”, but he was also a troubled soul, almost certainly bipolar and destined to spend his last years insane, incarcerated and cut off from his beloved wife and children. He did, however, write sublime music, and Robert Blackburn gave us some examples (see video above), as well as a gallery of images from Schumann’s life and career, and illustrations of how Schumann used his interest in ciphers to embed references to Clara in his music.
Sheet music was provided for the cipher illustrations, but as always Robert Blackburn skillfully made his subject accessible to those without sight-reading skills too. The lecture, and Dr Blackburn’s playing, was much appreciated by a packed Elwin Room audience, and even the emergency vehicle sirens that often punctuate a Queen Square evening seemed to be taking the night off. Sublime indeed.
• The Literature and Humanities Group returns on Tuesday 21 September with Dr Linda Renton of Bath Spa University on The Theatrical World of Harold Pinter. Meanwhile there’s one more event left before the BRLSI’s lecture programme takes its August break – John Chambers on William Butler Yeats – A Life in Poetry on Wednesday July 28. Please note that the Science Group lecture scheduled for Friday July 30th, Cognitive Bias, Intuition and Science by Andrew Clifton, has been postponed to a later date.