Husband-and-Wife Pianists Magalhaes and Schumann Perform as Part of Tri-C Concert Series
January 23, 2014
There may be no single key to a successful relationship; however, there may be keys – 88 of them, to be precise.
Husband-and-wife piano duo Luis Magalhães and Nina Schumann make a compelling case. They have been playing together for about 15 years, and they are still going strong.
They will perform as part of Cuyahoga Community College’s Classical Piano Recital Series at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, in Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The concert is free.
“We met (pianist) Antonio Pompa-Baldi a couple of years ago when he did a tour of South Africa. We were just completely overcome by his pianism, and his wife (Emanuela Friscioni, director of Tri-C’s Performing Arts Academy and Classical Piano Recital Series) invited us for the series in Cleveland,” Schumann wrote in an email. Schumann and Magalhães began performing together in 1999, when they met as music students of Vladimir Viardo at the University of North Texas. Today, they call South Africa home, are decorated soloists, and their performances as a duo are highly regarded.
“Piano duo playing is completely different to solo piano or more standard chamber music formations. The precision required is just enormous!” Schumann wrote.
“With solo piano you are the only person on stage so you control your artistic feelings entirely, and in a sense, you can do what you want.
“In larger chamber formations, you become part of the fabric, so you have to blend.
“Two pianos are almost a combination of solo and chamber music in that you have to blend with the other person, but on an instrument where the attack is extremely quick. It is a lot of sound; two pianos can make a racket! So, it can be pretty spectacular.”
In 2008, the couple founded Two Pianists Records as a place to record their own work. It has since blossomed into a label with a roster of notable musicians, including Pompa-Baldi and lauded pianist Aquiles Delle Vigne. Recordings on the label have earned two South African Music Awards, a German Record Critics’ Award and recognition from the French magazine Diapason. Magalhães largely oversees the label, with Schumann working as a self-described “silent partner.”
In addition, they are parents, and both teach at the University of Stellenbosch in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
“Teaching, administering, performing, practicing and then being parents — as one grows older, you make stronger decisions about what is the most important. In our case it is family and performing. All the other things are secondary,” Schumann wrote.
“We have been together for so long that it (performing together) does not really affect our personal relationship anymore, but in the beginning it was extremely tough. You have to be able to think professionally, so that when you rehearse you rehearse, and when we are together as a family, we can forget about work.
“In the beginning, we used to have screaming sessions with quite a number of doors slammed, so we needed to learn how not to let criticism become personal. What has stood us in good stead is that we have immense respect for each other's pianistic abilities and that we trust each other.”
“The meaning of ‘work’ is the defining factor,” Magalhães wrote in an email. “I don’t see myself working when I play music. In the same way that I don’t feel I am ‘working on my marriage.’ The moment either of these things becomes work, then I am sure the relationship will be affected.
“It is an absolute dream to be able to make music with someone that I respect so much.”
They have performed all over the world both as soloists and as a duo—Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, the United States.
“I would never be happy doing only solo or only chamber music, and I include the piano duo in this definition. In the end, it's all music, and the formats all require different skills. Probably my utmost favorite is playing concerti. Somehow it feels like a fantastic combination between chamber music and piano solo,” Schuman said.
The program will include Bach’s Goldberg Variations, arranged for two pianos by Max Reger and Joseph Rheinberger. The second half will be a mini homage to America: Samuel Barber’s Souvenirs followed by John Adams' Hallelujah Junction.
“Playing together is really quite magical as we try and invent on stage; it's always fresh!” Schumann wrote. “And Luis always tries to make me laugh on stage.”