FRANKFURT — “My name is Clara, Clara Wieck.” She stands in center stage, her hands clasped, dressed in an elegant blouse and long skirt, her dark hair pulled back to accentuate the fine features of her oval face. She greets the audience with a bright, wide smile and rushes to the grand piano, takes her place, raises her hands gracefully and plays a piece by Robert Schumann, her beloved Robert, whom she will marry. She is the 18-year-old Clara Wieck playing Schumann. She is Lusine Khachatryan playing Clara Wieck playing Robert Schumann.
This year Germany celebrates the 200th birthday of Clara Schumann, wife of the great musician, and herself not only a brilliant pianist but an accomplished composer. Lusine Khachatryan is an Armenian pianist, who has created a unique art form, the “piano-theatre,” which consist of a dramatic development on stage, combined with piano music. Her first work (2012) was inspired by Friedrich Schiller’s drama “Maria Stuart,” and was followed a year later by “Chopin: The piano is my second self.” That same year she composed the Schumann piece, and in 2015, “Nostalgia,” which deals with the Armenian soul and culture.
In her recent appearances on the German stage in Frankfurt and Potsdam, she thrilled audiences with her presentation of Clara Wieck, (who had taught at the Frankfurt conservatory). She depicts the young girl who is determined to follow her own dreams, despite her father’s opposition; she dramatizes the conflict with her father (who was both teacher and mentor), and her love for the young composer Robert, in a series of monologues, delivered with dramatic power and playful humor; she prances about, using creative stage business with a plethora of props — a suitcase with clothing; a packet of letters which she clutches to her chest, and swaying, murmurs, “a letter from my husband, my beloved Robert;” scores of music, among them a volume of études by Czerny — and returns again and again (amid acrobatics) to the piano, on which she performs selections from works that Schumann composed prior to their marriage.
She opened with Variations on the name Abegg Op. 1 (1829-1830) and followed with selections out of Carneval Op. 9. Always interspersed with short passages telling her story, she played 5 of the 8 Phantasiestücke (Fantasy pieces) Op. 12 (1836-1837). Following a brief intermission, she performed the entire Carneval (1833 and Winter 1834-1835), a virtuoso composition which she presented with technical mastery and mature expression. It was a wonderful tribute to Clara Wieck, who indeed performed Schumann’s works in piano tours throughout Europe and was known as one of the most accomplished pianists of her time. Musicians like Paganini, Chopin and Brahms expressed their admiration for her remarkable achievements. The Schumanns encouraged the younger Brahms, some of whose compositions were inspired by Clara. Now on the occasion of her birthday, her own extraordinary compositions have gained even wider attention.
Khachatryan comes from a musical family, and, like Clara, began playing the piano at home, under the guidance of her mother Irina Hovhannisyan and father Vladimir Khachatryan, who are both concert pianists and teachers. Her brother, Sergey Khachatryan is a world class violinist, with whom she regularly performs; they have released several CD’s, among them, the complete sonatas for piano and violin by Johannes Brahms (2013) and “My Armenia,” featuring works by Armenian composers (2015). If Lusine was the author, director, actress and pianist in her musical-theatrical creation, her brother Sergey provided the lighting, while her parents were on hand to enjoy the performance. The family lives and works in Germany.
She studied at the Karlsruhe Music Academy from 2001 to 2008, and graduated with a double degree in piano and chamber music. As a soloist, she has won many prizes and has performed in leading concert halls throughout the world, including at several famous music festivals in Europe and the US. She also appears with renowned chamber and symphony orchestras.