Robert Schumann’s 200th Birthday Celebration at Historic Redwood Library

Jung Mi Lee and Jon Sakata in performance


In a remarkably sensitive and perceptive performance at Newport's  Redwood Library, pianists Jung Mi Lee and Jon Sakata performed a musical tribute to composer Robert Schumann, born 200 years ago, and to his deep and profound artistic relationship with Johannes Brahms.


Attended by music lovers and Redwood members, the one piano, four hand concert was held in the beautifully renovated Peter Harrison Room of the Library, with a reception following at Larry Brown’s piano gallery.


Acknowledging  applause

After an introduction by Redwood Library Director Cheryl Helms, the afternoon program opened with Mr. Sakata’s comments on the friendship between the older and younger composer, stating that the memories of that relationship, and the surging worlds conveyed within each composer’s music, now exist only in sound.


Beginning with Brahms’ "Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann, op. 23," the performers showed exquisite musicianship in the stately sad theme and its many variations, thoughtfully executed as the artists’ hands crossed over each other, the dynamics perfect.


Mr. Sakata, introducing the program

In his comments on the "Symphony in D minor", Mr. Sakata referred to Schumann’s often abrupt contrasts within the work, which related to his mental state. In the symphony, passages depicting titanic forces suddenly break to lyrical passages, which Mr. Sakata referred to as “watching butterflies." Schumann believed that the essential idea of music was “patterns of motion and rest, of tension and release, ... fulfillment, excitation...'' The composer died of advanced mental illness, thought to be schizophrenia or bipolar disorder,  in 1856.


If Brahms and Schumann were two musical sensibilities that intertwined, Ms. Lee and Mr. Sakata are two hearts (and minds) that beat as one. In their own arrangement of Schumann’s D minor symphony (the composer himself had created a four-hand version), the 4-movement, no-break work was rendered with power and dramatic contrast, from wistful and poignant in the third movement to strident and angry in the closing 4th.

The complex arrangement of the symphony

The artists, who are on the faculty of Phillips Andover Academy, have performed widely in North and South America, Europe and Asia. They were given a standing ovation, and spoke with guests  Cornelia Schacht, Colonel Alfred Simpson, Catherine Stirling Ellis and her father, John Ellis, and Lorrie Button,  after the concert, and at the reception.




Cheryl Helms

The appreciative audience

Discussing the  performance

Cornelia Schacht & Larry Brown

The artists with John and Katherine Stirling Ellis

Col. Simpson with his sketch of the concert

At the reception, the Mr. Sakata, Ms. Lee,
Ms. Schacht, and Mr. Brown

Lorrie Button, Ms. Schacht, and guests













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