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Montreal Chamber Music Festival's Jean Marchand on Combining Performing Disciplines

The program on June 16 feature a world-premiere text exploring Clara Schumann’s relationship with Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms


The Montreal Chamber Music Festival has commenced its 29th season, from June 13 to 23, 2024.

With Artistic Director Denis Brott, the Festival presents eight main programs and five free noon-hour concerts in the beautiful Salle Bourgie, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The closing concert, on June 23rd, is at Maison Symphonique, Place des Arts.

On June 16, the Festival presents Les Passions de Clara, a program revealing a world-premiere text exploring Clara Schumann’s relationship with her husband Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Featured works include Clara Schumann's Piano Trio Op. 17 and the Sextet Op. 36 by Johannes Brahms. Two renowned actors, Jean Marchand and Geneviève Rochette, will play the roles of Clara, Robert, and Johannes in Canada’s two official languages.

We chatted with Jean Marchand to learn more about the unique program!


You have worked with the festival for over a decade. What have been your most memorable experiences at the Festival? What makes the MCMF such a unique presenter?

Both shows on Tchaïkovski have been memorable, reading the Verlaine poems when Karina Gauvin sang Fauré’s "La bonne chanson" at the Chalet de la montagne years ago. Also, each performance of "Le carnaval des animaux" where I recited Francis Blanche’s exquisitely witty script. The festival is always great fun!


Can you please tell us more about the concept behind the June 16 concert?

The concert is about Clara’s all-consuming passion for her husband Robert (long after his death) and her passion for music and performing. It is also about how Brahms’s passion for Clara, and hers for him, evolved with Schumann’s ghost in between them.


How do you combine acting and music in this concert?

I play Brahms in the show, plus Denis and I perform Schumann’s "Fantasiestücke" for cello and piano.


Why do you think people are so fascinated by the relationship between Clara and Brahms?

Because theirs is the epitome of romantic passion: a woman in love with two men, one of them the love of her life, now departed.


In addition to playing the role of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms, you will also play the piano with Denis Brott.  What are the challenges of switching between your persona as an actor and being a pianist?

The challenge is this question: How can I ease out of a particular mental and emotional state (playing Brahms) into a very relaxed one, physically and mentally, as I sit at the piano?


Which of your personas – actor or musician – is where you feel most at home and most fulfilled?

There are things I feel I can only express through words and others only through music.


For you, what are the similarities between acting and playing an instrument?

Rhythm, legato, phrasing, articulation, and total immersion in the text to uncover its compelling meaning.


We’ve seen that you’ve played other roles at the Festival in past years: Tchaikowsky, Mahler, etc. How do you “become” those composers, and what is your primary source of research and inspiration that allows you to delve into their distinct personalities?

Through intense research, by listening to much of their music and asking myself: 'If I had been Brahms, what would have compelled me to write his two piano concertos.' For example, what was he 'saying' and trying to convey to the audience?


What are you hoping the audience will take away with them from the concert?

I hope audience members take away a better understanding of the complex nature of Clara’s relationship to Brahms and his to hers with the ghost of Schumann constantly haunting them – and what amazing composers each of them was.

upcoming events

july 2024

16julAll Day27Johann Sebastian Bach International Cello & Baroque Cello Competition(All Day) Thomaskirche Leipzig, Thomaskirchhof, Thomaskirchhof 18, 04109 Leipzig, GermanyEvent Type :competitions Event TagsBaroque Cello Competition,Cello Competition,Johann Sebastian Bach International Cello Competition

august 2024

19augAll Day24Tibor Varga International Junior Violin Competition(All Day) Ferme-Asile, Promenade des Pêcheurs 10 1950 Sion SuisseEvent Type :competitions Event Tagscompetition,Tibor Varga

22augAll Day01sepKloster Schöntal International Violin Competition(All Day) Schöntal Monastery, Klosterhof 6, 74214 Schöntal, GermanyEvent Type :competitions Event TagsKloster Schöntal International Violin Competition

26augAll Day30London Classic Violin Competition(All Day) Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 2BS, United KingdomEvent Type :competitions Event TagsClassic Violin Olympus International Competition,violin competition

30augAll Day01sepBanff International String Quartet Festival(All Day) The Banff Centre, 107 Tunnel Mountain Drive Box 1020 Banff T1L 1H5 Canada Event Type :Other Event TagsBanff International String Quartet Festival,string quartet


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