Unsung Heroines: A striking performance presented by the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka

Apr 19 2023.

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Enveloped in a sphere of light sitting with grandeur in the centre of the stage was an extremely beautiful concert grand piano, along with arrangements to perform the Piano Trio composed by Clara Schumnn. ‘Unsung Heroines’ presented by the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, at the Lionel Wendt Theatre on 31st March aimed to honour 4 of the greatest women composers of all time- Clara Schumann, Amy Beach, Cecile Chaminde and Fanny Mendelssohn and bring the spotlight for their invaluable contribution to classical music.

Opening the tribute was Shashini Pandithasundera (piano), Lydia Goonethilleke-Jayamanne(violin) and Nilupul Siva (cello) who began a delightful performance of Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17. 

Composed in 1846, Schumann presented the piece as a gift to her husband Robert Schumann’s on their 7th wedding anniversary. The composition is in four movements: Allegro moderato, Scherzo and Trio, Andante and Allegretto. Interweaved with the skillfully balanced exchange of views and ideas between the instruments, the composition showcases the brilliance of Schumann as an extraordinary concert pianist. 
Bringing justice with their performance for the piece exceptionally well were Pandithasundera, Jaymanne and Silva with their carefully mastered skill in the piano, violin and cello.

Next showing her prowess on the piano again was Pandithasundera joined by Anouk Obeysekara (flute) who delicately delivered a crafted version of Amy Beach’s Romance for the flute and piano. Op. 23. Written in the Romantic Style of the late 19th century, the piece features an emotional communication and connection between the piano and the flute while highlighting the complex work, range and dynamic versatility of both instruments. Continuing the magical aura of the evening was the next tribute for acclaimed composer Cecile Chaminade. 

Involved in almost all music genres, Chaminade was the first female composer awarded the Légion d’Honneur in France. Compiled with the 3 movements Andantino, Romanza and Bohemienne, the piece first encompasses a beautifully melodic vibe through Andantino gradually flowing to a more turbulent episode bracketed by Romanza. As suggested by its name, the Bohenmienne lives up to its lively and vigorously demanding demeanour both to the performer and the listener. Not failing the audience was yet again Shashini Pandithasundera with her prowess with the piano and Nilupul Silva with the violin, garnering a loud ovation from the audience at the end of their delivery.

The final tribute of the night honoured Fanny Mendelssohn with one of the final compositions of her lifetime: Hensel: Piano Trio in D minor, Op 11. Fanny was a prodigiously talented pianist, who was equally, if not more gifted than her younger brother Felix, but sadly her family strongly opposed her idea of becoming a concert pianist. Therefore, most of her compositions were published posthumously including this piece.The trio is in four movements: Allegro molto vivace, Andante espressivo, Lied: Allegretto and Allegretto moderato. The rather melancholy introduction of the piece gives way to the strings moving toward a dance-like second theme. The finale recalls the soaring melody of the second theme of the first movement, leaving listeners with the most striking and memorable melody of the entire work. 

Showcasing their heartfelt affection towards the ‘Unsung Heroine’ of the night was Tiyanie Sahabandu (piano), Jayamanne yet again with the violin and Amani Tissera with the cello. Delivering the demanding writing for all the instruments, the trio successfully brought out the perfect ending for the very graceful evening, garnering a standing ovation from the audience for the entire tribute. It is certainly the work of deep significance by the women composers and the women performers of the night that spoke volumes while narrating the endearing stories, a well-served spotlight on the ‘Unsung Heroines’. 

By Nuzla Rizkiya


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