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Schumann's life in three pieces

Pianist Barry Tan delves into the composer’s life

It wasn’t until recently that pianist Barry Tan started his appreciation for the works of Robert Schumann.

Tan, who teaches at Coquitlam’s Place des Arts, was studying at McGill University in Montreal when he heard his professor play a few Schumann’s pieces. 

“He really captured the essence of his music,” Tan remembered. “There was that emotional intensity that was really moving.”

Next month, Tan will copy that musical force when he launches the Maillardville facility’s season of faculty performances with a concert dedicated to the German musician and critic.

Tan will be joined on Oct. 14 by Ben Goheen (cello), Peter Ing (viola) and Will Chen (violin) for three of Schumann’s works — each representing a period in the life of the Romantic composer.

Fantasiestucke (Fantasy Pieces), Op.12 — a set of eight short pieces for the piano — was penned by Schumann in 1837 as a gift to his friend Anna Robena Laidlaw, an 18-year-old pianist from Scotland; each piece conveys different moods, “from aggressive to sad. It’s really up and down,” Tan said.

Next on the program is Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op.47, a standard in the piano quartet fare that came five years later, during Schumann’s chamber music year. It is written in four movements.

Finally, Tan will tackle Waldszenen (Forest Scenes), Op. 82, a set of nine short solo pieces for the piano that Schumann wrote in 1848-’49 — six years before he committed himself to an asylum in Endenich following a suicide attempt (he died two years later after being diagnosed with psychotic melancholia).

Throughout the show, Tan said he’ll talk about Schumann’s hand injury — which ended his dream of becoming a concert pianist — his mental instability and about his tumultuous relationship with wife, Clara, another famous pianist at the time who was forbidden by her father to marry Schumann.

• For tickets to the faculty concert at $21/$16, call Place des Arts (1120 Brunette Ave., Coquitlam) or visit

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