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Being Robert Schumann – Adieu

January 21 @ 2:30 pm

Holly Mathieson returns to travel through musical space and time. In the wake of his marriage to Clara Wieck, music poured out of Schumann’s pen, including the three “symphonic” gems that open this program. A dozen years later, Clara’s diaries detailed her heart-rending reaction to her husband’s descent into madness, as depicted in Schafer’s moving monodrama. Schubert left several of his works “Unfinished” in his short life, but a fragmentary Symphony in D major provided the 19th century framework for Luciano Berio’s 20th century Rendering of what Schubert had in mind.

Holly Mathieson underwritten by Millicent Nickason
Allyson McHardy underwritten by George Lovick

Holly Mathieson, conductor

New Zealand-born Holly Mathieson is the Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia in Halifax, Canada. She is also Co-Artistic Director of the Nevis Ensemble and was recently appointed to the newly created role of Artist in Association at English Touring Opera. Her previous appointments have included Assistant Conductor at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Resident Conductor within the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland Orchestras. With her passionate communication skills, crystalline technique and collaborative approach, Holly Mathieson has won plaudits in all forms of music direction from opera, ballet to full scale symphonic programmes.

The 2022/23 season marks the third year of her Music Directorship with Symphony Nova Scotia. Further highlights are her debuts with Victoria Symphony and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in Canada as well as a return visit to the Royal Danish Ballet for Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

Highlights of past seasons are her debut with Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as debuts with New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, including return visits to Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Recent debuts include Scottish Opera Orchestra, English Touring Opera (Mozart’s Così fan tutte), Opera North (Song of our Heartland, a new work by Will Todd) and New Zealand Opera, conducting Britten’s Turn of the Screw. Over the past years Holly has worked with almost all key UK orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, London Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra as well as return visits to the Scottish Chamber and Salomon orchestras, Southbank Sinfonia, Royal Northern Sinfonia’s Young Sinfonia, Red Note Ensemble, Royal College of Music Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra.

Holly’s debut CD with Decca featuring Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Isata Kanneh- Mason and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra was released in July 2019 and immediately landed on the No.1 spot in the UK Classical charts. In 2018 she became Co-Artistic Director of the innovative Nevis Ensemble, which is founded on the maxim that “music is for everyone, everywhere”, and aims to take music out of the concert hall, and into isolated communities. In the ensuing two years, the orchestra gave 170 free performances to around 25,500 people all across Scotland, including an extensive tour of the Outer Hebrides.

Toward the beginning of her conducting career she was chosen as one of only four young conductors from around the world to participate in the Interaktion Dirigentenwerkstatt des Kritischen Orchesters with players from the Berlin Philharmonic and other top-tiered German orchestras. She has worked with, and learned at the side of, many esteemed conductors and counts the following among her mentors: Marin Alsop, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christoph von Dohnányi, Peter Oundjian, Donald Runnicles, Thomas Søndergård, and Garry Walker.

Holly is based in Glasgow where she previously held the prestigious Leverhulme Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She holds a PhD in Music Iconography and in 2016, she was named as one of New Zealand’s Top 50 Women of Achievement.


Allyson McHardy, mezzo‐soprano

A unique vocal colour and commanding stage presence are the hallmarks of performances by mezzo‐soprano Allyson McHardy. Hailed by Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle as “a singer of enormous imagination and versatility”, she has appeared with the Paris Opera, Festival d’Aix‐en‐Provence, Chicago Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Glyndebourne Festival, San Francisco Opera, Boston Symphony, Canadian Opera Company, Warsaw Philharmonic and Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse. Adam Fischer, Seiji Ozawa, Jeremy Rohrer, Kent Nagano, Emmanuelle Haim, Bernard Labadie, Ludovic Morlot, Carlos Kalmar and Jesus Lopez Cobos are among the conductors with whom she has collaborated for performances of works such as L’enfant et les sortileges, La clemenza di Tito, Das Rheingold, Dream of Gerontius and Messiah.

Ms. McHardy bookends her coming season with performances at Maison Symphonique for Orchestra symphonique de Montréal in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and later, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, both with Nagano on the podium. She will be heard with the Toronto Symphony in Ryan’s Requiem, in Kansas City for Messiah with Matthew Halls conducting and will be featured this season by the Canadian Opera Company as Smeton in Anna Bolena.

A native of the province of Ontario, Ms. McHardy’s career is a carefully curated balance of opera and concert repertoire that moves from Donizetti to Handel, from Heggie to Mahler.

During the 2016 – 2017 season she made her Beijing Festival debut in Robert Carsen’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, first created for Festival d’Aix‐en‐Provence, and completed the season with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for the Grant Park Festival in Chicago.

The Mozart Requiem took her to Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, while in Seattle she was featured in Ligeti’s Requiem. Of particular note were her performances as Julie Riel in Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, a Canadian Opera Company production that was also seen in Ottawa and Québec City as part of the nation’s Sesquicentennial Celebrations.

Recent opera highlights include appearances in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia in St. Gallen, Switzerland, Roberto Devereux for the Canadian Opera Company, Amadis de Gaule at the Opéra Comique, Handel’s Alcina with Opera Atelier, Madama Butterfly with both Opéra de Montréal and Vancouver Opera, as Sister Helen Montréal’s Dead Man Walking and Handel’s Hercules with Toronto’s Tafelmusik.

She has appeared with major orchestras across the globe for performances of Ligeti’s Requiem with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Vancouver Symphony, Messiah in St. Louis, Madrid and Chicago and a staged production of the Mozart’s Requiem Mass for the Toronto Symphony.

Allyson’s discography includes the JUNO nominated Orlando by George Frideric Handel with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Alexander Weimann (ATMA). Other CDs include the JUNO and ADISQ nominated recording of Caldara’s La conversione di Coldoveo, Re di Francia (ATMA), Bellini’s Norma with the Warsaw Philharmonic (Philharmonia Narodowa), two works by Harry Somers – Serinette and A Midwinter Night’s Dream (Centrediscs), and Ukrainian music by composer Mykola Lysenko in a six‐disc collection on the Musica Leopolis label.

Allyson currently lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.


Robert Holliston, piano

Robert Holliston has given pre-performance lectures for Pacific Opera Victoria since 1993. He was Pacific Opera’s répétiteur, chorus master, and Principal Coach for many years and is host of the company’s free community series INSIDE OPERA with Robert Holliston, INSIDE OPERA at the Union Club, and the community education series Opera Motifs.

Robert is Head of Keyboard at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and was Founding Director of VCM Opera Studio. He has conducted master classes and workshops with the Vancouver International Song Institute (UBC), the University of Victoria School of Music, Capilano College, Vancouver Opera Guild, Early Music Society of the Islands, Victoria Symphony, and Belfry Theatre.  At UVic he has taught continuing education courses in music history and hosted travel courses to Santa Fe Opera and New York City.

Robert has collaborated with many of Canada’s leading singers, including Benjamin Butterfield, Judith Forst, Ingrid Attrot, Nancy Argenta, Nathalie Paulin, Susan Platts, Richard Margison, Barbara Livingston, and Peter Barcza; string players Marc Destrubé, and Paul Marleyn; and (with Viveza) dancers Karen Kain and Evelyn Hart. He has also performed in collaboration with many artists throughout North America, England and New Zealand, and has been heard frequently on CBC Radio. Robert has recorded CDs with the popular salon ensemble Viveza, trombonist Ian McDougall, clarinetist Patricia Kostek, tenor Ken Lavigne, Tom Holliston, Show Business Giants, and members of the Hornby Island Ensemble.

JANUARY 21, 2024


When Victoria Symphony music director Christian Kluxen and his counterpart at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Otto Tausk, began to assemble their multifaceted Being Robert Schumann concert series, at least one of them had misgivings.

“It’s always been a kind of lump on my back, Schumann,” Kluxen revealed in June of 2022. “It’s just not me; I don’t know what to do with it. But, funnily enough, when we did the Symphony No. 2 in C major here, [in February 2022] it just felt right. So it’s been the right decision.”

No one is arguing that point. Being Robert Schumann, with its blend of straightforward homage and unsentimental reappraisal, has opened many 21st-century ears to the great German. Under Kluxen and Tausk’s microscope, his symphonic works have been revealed as strangely innovative, and sometimes simply strange: consider the aquatic fantasy that emerges during the fourth movement movement of his Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, which now reads as an eerie premonition of his 1854 attempt to kill himself by drowning In the Rhine.

“When I started rehearsing Schumann, it became clear to me that there’s much more behind the music,” Kluxen said in that early conversation. “Which is true of all composers, but here it’s not just the story behind the music, but the mind behind the music. What makes him compose this way? Schumann’s symphonies are strange in a way, because they are always unsettling. They are unsettled and they given you a feeling of not being done, that something could go on or something is not finished.”

This is certainly true of Overture, Scherzo and Finale, which Kluxen calls “almost a compilation of three symphonic vignettes.” It would not have taken a vast amount of labour to turn it into Schumann’s fifth and final symphony, but while the composer revised the sequence following its initial, tepid reception in 1841, he did not take it further.

Perhaps this sense of an unfinished life coupled to unfinished work helps make Schumann’s music sound oddly contemporary, despite obviously being a product of its era. Or perhaps it’s because Schumann’s mental illness, which caused him to see phantoms in his room and hear disembodied voices calling him, is both better understood and seemingly more commonplace in these modern times. Either way, after immersing himself in Schumann’s world, Kluxen now considers himself a convert.

Holly Mathieson, who will conduct the Victoria Symphony in this instalment of its Being Robert Schumann cycle, Adieu, has never harboured any doubt about the composer’s importance or enduring worth. “Schumann is totally music of my heart.” says the New Zealand–born music director of Symphony Nova Scotia. Her big question has to do with why Kluxen would hand this program over to her.

“This is a music-director program!” she says. “Why is he giving this away? It reads like a program he’s been thinking about for three years, and that he’s curated lovingly. So I was sort of surprised.”

Pleased, too. She conducted Overture, Scherzo and Finale with Symphony Nova Scotia in 2016, and looks forward to immersing herself in R. Murray Schafer’s Adieu Robert Schumann, having recently performed the Canadian innovator’s In Memoriam Alberto Guerrero. “It’s wonderful, wonderful music,” she notes.

Mathieson is also prepared to back Being Robert Schumann’s premise that the sounds of the 19th century are worth continually revisiting and reappraising. “In many orchestras, we talk about ‘the long 19th century’ as finishing in the first quarter of the 20th century, but I think that we’re only just seeing the end of the long 19th century now,” she explains. “It’s still a living and breathing language for audiences, I would say, the 19th-century language—and for a lot of composers, too—in a way that the baroque or classical language isn’t. Most ‘classical’ music feels like a different time, and the 19th-century music doesn’t.”

Powerful evidence for the enduring appeal of the early Romantics, as well as their surprising mutability, can be found in both Adieu Robert Schumann and Luciano Berio’s century-spanning “collaboration” with Schumann’s contemporary Franz Schubert, Rendering for Orchestra.

In the latter, Berio has taken Schubert’s manuscript sketches for an unfinished orchestral work and expanded them into a long-form although not quite fully symphonic composition. “You can say that it is in essence Schubert’s Tenth Symphony, because it is fragments of what Schubert wanted to become his tenth symphony,” Kluxen says now. “Berio takes these fragments, orchestrates them as if he was Schubert, and then in the big gaps where Schubert didn’t compose anything, Berio starts to fill in the gaps with his own voice.”

Here, that voice is dreamy, suggestive, and abstract, but never simply imitative. This interplay between the old and the new highlights how Schubert’s published scores helped create our impression of his era, even as his interior landscapes, as invoked by Berio, are not that far removed from our own.

There’s a similar sense of reaching across time in Adieu Robert Schumann, which here will be sung by Allyson McHardy. Working with excerpted letters from Clara Schumann to her husband, Schafer offers revelatory insights into the composer’s mental state during and after his 1854 breakdown.

“When I first heard that piece I was shocked,” Kluxen says. “It’s so deep!

“And it’s also about fragments,” he continues. “It’s almost like you are listening to… Well, it is diary fragments from Clara Schumann, but it feels almost like you are listening to them in real time. Schafer takes these fragments, puts in Schumann’s music, and then colours it with his own comments through the orchestration. What he composed represents [Clara Schumann’s] inner emotions, and it’s a very shadowy piece. It’s a bit like you see these ghosts of different people come in and out of the picture. It’s almost horror-like, in many ways, but it’s also very beautiful. It’s a very special piece.”

Kluxen admits that he’s sad that he isn’t available to conduct these three intertwining works, but Mathieson’s sensitivity to the music and flawless interpretive skills will make for a memorable event.

Notes by Alex Varty

Robert Schumann (1810—1856) 
Overture, Scherzo and Finale, Op. 52

R. Murray Schafer (1933—2021) 
Adieu Robert Schumann

Franz Schubert (1797—1828) / Luciano Berio (1925—2003) 
Symphony in D Major  / Rendering, for Orchestra 
Ricomposizione after the sketches of Schubert’s final, uncompleted symphony, D936a


January 21
starts at 2:30 pm


Victoria Symphony


Farquhar at UVic
University Farquhar Auditorium, Ring Road
Victoria, BC V8P 5C2 Canada
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Concert Programme

  • Schumann
    Overture, Scherzo and Finale
  • R. Murray Schafer
    Adieu Robert Schumann
  • Schubert/arr. Berio
    Rendering, for Orchestra