Home Australian News Clara Schumann performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Clara Schumann performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Clara Schumann performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Schumann continued performing into old age – she had to support the seven surviving children she had with Robert after he committed himself to a mental institution after 14 years of marriage in 1854 (he drowned himself two years later). But, Martin says, she definitely subordinated herself as a composer to her husband.

“I’m sure she was very much a part of the creation of lots of his works, as muse and collaborator and sounding board, and there are stories of him walking into the room, playing something and saying, ‘What do you think of this?’”

‘The evidence is that there are not fewer women composers, they just don’t get programmed.’

Conductor Ingrid Martin

Martin has a claim to uniqueness as possibly the only conductor to turn up to rehearsals wearing medical scrubs. For years she could not decide between music and medicine, and qualified as a doctor while working in music.

Sometimes she would have to rehearse on her way to the hospital or immediately after a night shift. “But the scrubs were clean,” she insists.

“What it shows, which maybe gets a bit lost in the professional context, is that so much music-making happens by people who are not professional musicians. They finish their job at the office or law firm, or in the science lab or in the gym as a professional trainer, and they open their instrument case and go to a community band or choir rehearsal.”


Martin, 38, has just been appointed the 2024 New Zealand assistant conductor in residence, working with the Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin orchestras. And, as a music educator, she wants to break the barriers between classical music and a wider audience. The Schumann concert, she says, is a perfect example of how to open a world that can be challenging to break into or navigate.

“There’s so many obstacles – the way we dress, the ties and tails, and the expectations that puts on the audience. Even the venues – if you’re not in the know you’ll never walk in the doors of Hamer Hall or the Recital Centre. So can we go to places where the people are, rather than expecting them to come to us?”

Another aspect is programming – we need far more contemporary voices, from more diverse composers, Martin says.

“The evidence is that there are not fewer women composers, they just don’t get programmed.” Recent research of 20,400 works performed by 111 orchestras in 2022 showed only 7.7 per cent were composed by women.

“If I’d never come to an orchestra before, I’d think it was pretty cool if I saw the composer stand up at the concert,” Martin says.

MSO’s Ears Wide Open: Clara Schumann is on at the Melbourne Recital Centre on March 4.

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