Further Reading: Katherine Spencer

For every concert in our Southbank Centre series, we ask one of our players to write a little note for audience members to read as they leave the concert hall. Here’s what our clarinet, Katherine Spencer (also known as Waffy), wrote about performing Schumann’s Symphony No.3, as part of our concert with Sir András Schiff on Tuesday 19 March 2019 at the Royal Festival Hall.

Where/when/how you hear a piece for the very first time is a very evocative and personal experience. They joy for me with this 3rd symphony was that I hadn’t played it before. It had no associations yet for me. A blank canvas and I was going to enjoy filling it with love, smells, tastes and emotions.

I knew the piece had much in common with Beethoven’s 3rd and 6th symphonies, in particular, nature, rivers and a lovely holiday Schumann had had with his wife Clara in the Rhineland.

So I picked a windy cold day to be Schumann’s hero and have a long run in Northamptonshire/Oxfordshire with me and the 3rd symphony in my earphones.

The joy and heroism of the first movement I saw in some big oak trees not too far from my house. Don’t laugh but I did some tree hugging of those bold trunks whilst listening.

I only found a little river for the second movement, hardly the Rhine but that’s okay, maybe it does have the intimacy of the river Fring, when the clarinets and bassoons first show the theme.

The third movement came and went with birds and the warmer sun on my back. Nice. Perhaps even nicer in the summer, static in a deck chair on the green mossy lawn.

But, I wasn’t ready for the 4th movement. I was totally overwhelmed hearing this for the first time. Certain pieces for me suit moving, this was one of them. I loved racing along with the wind battling against me with the monstrous epic sound of growling trombones and low clarinets.

I have to admit I cried my eyes out. I didn’t get to the last movement for some time. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. When I was ready all the joy and optimism of the last movement got me back home with more than a spring in my step after a rather too long Sunday afternoon run.

If it’s your first or 20th Schumann 3 I hope you enjoyed your beautiful and evocative walk with the music. It’s fun.

"I loved racing along with the wind battling against me with the monstrous epic sound of growling trombones and low clarinets."
Katherine Spencer, Clarinet