Tango Schumann performances:




Anthony Howell and Lindi Kopke at The Room, March 2008, photos Jeandre Henning

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Anthony Howell and Jenny Nolan at the Ikon Gallery, August 2007, photos Xenia Randle

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August 2007

First Tango Schumann performance at Ikon, Birmingham (with Jenny Sayer)

7 - 11 July 2008:
School presentation and workshop week at Acland Burghley School, London (with Lindi Kopke as are all subsequent performances)

12 July 2008:
Opening performance at Small Dances Festival, East London Dance, Stratford, London

28 September 2008:
Homage to John Field - Performance and class at Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes

14 March 2009:
4 Relationships - Performance and class at Fermynwoods Gallery

11 June 2009:
Performance at Tango Extravaganza, International Festival of Tango, London

24 October 2009:
The Dark Programme 1. Performance and classes at Ludlow Castle

31 October 2009:  
The Dark Programme 1. Performance and classes at Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool

13 March 2010:

Performance at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford

2 May 2010:

Performance at Ikon East Side, Birmingham

8 May 2010:

Performance at Brighton Art Gallery and Museum, Brighton

8 May 2010 evening:  

'Tango Schumann does Jazz' UMI hotel Brighton

August-November 2010

Contributions to Schumann Bicentennial at Kunstsammlungen, Zwickau, Germany

For forthcoming performances please visit Events.


Previous Programme Notes:

Robert Schumman Bicentennial Programme:

August-November 2010:

Selected for exhibition and performing at Kunstsammlungen Zwickau in a show celebrating the 200th anniversary of Robert Schumann in the town where he was born. For this venue we prepared a new performance based entirely on the music of Schumann.

Fantasiestucke, Op 73 for Cello and Piano - Antonio Meneses cello, Gerard Wyss piano -

movements 1,2 and 3

Traumerei - Lynn Garrell cello, Bruno Canino piano.

Optional addition to the programme: The Whirlpool is a short choreographed underwater dance film made by Jayne Parker. Accompanied by the pianist Katharina Wolpe, playing music by Schumann, the underwater performer Deborah Figueiredo puts on a pair of red ballet shoes and walks en pointe across the pool floor. Captivated by the magic of this underwater world she begins to dance, unaware of the danger that lies ahead.

Programme statement:

What Schumann might mean to a 21st Century Artist

Schumann’s 200th anniversary is significant. A little over one hundred years ago, modernism was beginning to emerge as the driving force in art, overturning most of the aims and ideals of romanticism. By 1925, Ortega y Gasset had announced in his seminal essay On the Dehumanisation of Art that modernism concerned art “about which you could neither laugh nor cry.”

The modernist ideal was to create a painting which could only be a painting (you can’t even photograph an Ad Reinhardt), or to write a book which could only be a book (how would you film Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons?). Process and materiality were emphasised, as modernists eschewed reference, interpretation and significance. But just as a child may rebel against the moral precepts of his parents, each century tends to reverse the aesthetic ideals of its predecessor. One hundred years on from the birth of modernism, the eternal child within the imagination of the artist should begin to feel dissatisfied with modernism’s precepts.Schumann, together with Friedrich Von Schlegel and his circle, was one of the great proponents of the romantic movement, and when we seek alternatives to modernism, it is to the romantics that we must turn.

But the clock is never simply reversed. What will emerge from modernism will be as different from romanticism as modernism is different from the hard virtuosic music that preceded romance – and yet they share certain qualities – where a virtuoso might emphasise technique, a modernist might emphasise process.Initially, we might question the modernist adherence to the materiality of the medium used. Instead, we might argue that the arts have always been in each other’s pockets:Music, for instance, can be in poetry’s pocket, or in the pocket of painting, or dance, though modernism has been always been averse to such borrowings, firmly excluding all qualities associated with other arts. Modernism has focused on music as music, poetry as poetry, painting as painting, dance as dance.

But what do the terms mean, essentially? You could see poetry as concerned with signification, music as concerned with relationship, painting as concerned with imagery and dance as concerned with physicality. Modernism went further, and endeavoured to remove even these essential qualities from each art:; Cage removing the relationship from music, Coolidge removing the signification from poetry, Pollock removing the imagery from painting and Nicolais removing the physicality from dance.No value judgement is being made here. These are simply observations. However, today, a composer might return to thinking in terms of music/music, music/poetry, music/painting, music/dance, and a dancer might be thinking about dance/dance, dance/music, dance/poetry, dance/painting. This means a return to considering each art in terms of relationship, significance, imagery and physicality.

This is what got me thinking about Schumann’s notion of music-poetry. I was intrigued by his wish for “an opera without words”, that is a musical work which was so loaded with a sense of what it signified that it didn’t need words to convey it. In the same way, a dance might be able to express emotions and human issues in its own language, not through enactment; just as Schumann showed how music could express such significance in its own language.It is when it seems important to place emotional tumult elsewhere that one recognises the power of Schumann’s music. You want to express anger, the feeling of having been slighted, hurt. You want to articulate a sense of rejection that should lead you to rail bitterly against someone you have always tried to help, but at the same time you feel that criticism of their actions or any response that makes manifest your injury will only make matters worse, be exposed as delusional, and ultimately lead to estrangement. At such a stressful time, Schumann could turn to composition, for he had invented a form of music that could express these emotions. But what is so wonderful is that the message in the music remains abstract. Nobody is accused. Though the criticism is expressed, the source of the injury need not feel injured in turn but can sense instead what it must be like to feel so hurt – which is after all the object.As a creative artist working in a partner dance such as the tango, I have to express my emotions through my partner’s actions, so if I am trying to express anguish, she becomes the anguished one, as Clara played Schumann’s anguish in the concert halls of Europe.

My partner’s role is thus interpretive, but so is mine, because essentially I am expressing my feelings (Modernist shudder!) via a piece of music that strikes a chord within me – in fact I choose the music with my partner – so we dance to music that strikes chords within both of us.This indicates another departure from modernism. Anyone who worked in art-schools in the twentieth century will know what a dirty word “interpretation” was! It was associated with illustration – just what a painting should never be. Why? Because the material truth of the painting would be compromised by subservience to the story.I now sense that it is possible for an art to be interpretive and yet retain its integrity. Perhaps it is a matter of discovering parallel intentions. As I explore interpretation, I find myself drawn to something in Schumann that I refer to as “deep”. I have become interested in “Deep Art.” This may be art that is not immediately identifiable as art, modern or post-modern; art that is transparent, and yet its content is nothing but art. Still, it’s art that is very deeply immersed in its medium.Deep art may not be immediately identifiable as art, that is, the obvious, funky “contemporary” art that constitutes furniture and décor in most of today’s galleries. Deep Art is far from obvious, and it may depend on a fusion of forms and traditional techniques. Its interpretive aspect is enough to separate it from modernism – so it doesn’t look like “modern” art. Deep art is so immersed in art that its inspiration comes from art.

To cite a few examples: Jayne Parker creates a film of cellist Anton Lukoszeviezeplaying a work by Laurence Crane; the interpretive nature of the project enabling her to produce a consummate essay in pure cinematography; or we dance a tango to Schumann, seeking to bring out each nuance of the music in our actions; or Gera Urkom takes Matisse’s L’Escargot and subjects it to a minimalist critique by replacing all its coloured shapes with identical shapes in black; or Mark Wallinger creates a spinning panel with a painting by Velasquez of Pope Innocent X on both sides of it, (this in itself a reference to Francis Bacon). On one side the image is reversed, so as the image spins the Pope never takes his eyes off the viewer. Deep art evokes the spirit of Emma Hamilton, who charmed Lord Nelson and was the culmination of the grand tour, when she took up the poses of classical statues in Naples. Why should artists be turning to making work that tells you nothing more, it seems, than that they appreciate some obscure corner of art-making? For myself, I suppose I'm interested in this deep art because it's so turned in on itself in one sense, and yet, as the audience response to Tango Schumann goes to show, very accessible in a shockingly unshocking way.

The dance, with its ability to trace sound in action, has always been an interpretive language, as figurative painting is interpretive. So dance becomes a key medium of deep art. Deep art posits a return to the notion of the artist as interpreter, and it is concerned with the translation of one thing into another. This allows a return to how well it's done, how well it's made, without simply being retrospective, and also it allows a return to an enquiry into the meaning of what’s made.However, it would be wrong to steep Schumann in all this without acknowledging his own contribution to the modernist tendency. After all, he was one of the first practitioners to employ collage, though he did this in music rather than in visual art. In the seventies, I wrote abstract poetry with modernist intentions, focusing on the materiality of the words. More recently, however, I have tried taking matter which has content, which means something to me, which carries information, and then subjecting this material to modernist techniques, such as collage.

My poem Dusk is thus quarried from the writing of Jean Paul Richter – an author much admired by Schumann – as well as from my studies of Parkinson’s Disease and of my thoughts about incidents connected with Schumann, gleaned from various biographies. I have then put these through a sort of verbal processor, not so much to squeeze the meaning out of them, in a new bid for abstraction, but in order to generate surprising conjunctions and alterations of meaning, and juxtapositions of sense with nonsense, to create a poetry where the suggestion of what might be signified, the signifiance, to use a term coined by Roland Barthes, is not ruled out.Finally, I discover that I have an affinity with Schumann, in that as someone committed to art I have always had an interest in the works of other creative people. In the seventies, I was an editor of Wallpaper; a magazine which carried artwork by Anthony McCall, Susan Hiller and Amikam Toren among others, as well as compositions by composers such as Richard Bernas, and poetry by John Welch, David Coxhead, Anthony Barnet and myself. In the nineties, I edited Grey Suit: Video for Art and Literature. This was itself modelled on Art and Literature, a magazine edited by John Ashbery in the sixties. To my mind, the impetus behind all these projects, with their implicit understanding that creativity depends on a discourse with one’s peers, and that the promotion of those contemporaries who one admires is intrinsic to one’s own development, is an impetus one finds initially shown by Robert Schumann with his articles and reviews for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, which he founded in 1834.

Anthony Howell, essay for Zwickau, 2010

COMPLEXITIES (Modern Art Oxford 2010)


Additional Symphonic Variation II by Robert Schumann,

The Bird as Prophet by Robert Schumann,

The Lugubrious Gondola 1 by Franz Liszt,

Promenade sur l’eau by Charles-Valentin Alkan

Preceded by: Homage to the Horses of Saint Petersburg and The World Turned Upside Down (videos of performances by Anthony Howell) This is our most recent programme. 


Complexities has developed out of our Dark Programme (which was presented at Ludlow Castle and the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool). Now we use our dance to explore the meanings we sense in pieces by Schumann, Liszt and Scriabin that range from a nervous subtlety to sombre tension.

As with many things, the attributes that make the tango interesting are also responsible for its limitations. Unlike classical ballet, every move by the follower in a tango is led by her partner. When her leg swings, it is because her partner is moving his body in a way that allows her leg to swing. He offers an intention but withholds the impulse and rather than finding the floor, her leg continues through space. 


Lead and follow are misleading terms since they suggest that his dominance is matched by her passivity, but the truth is that the lead is more of an invitation than a dictat. It is not achieved by force. Note that when Shiva dances with his Shakti or consort, she is the energy of time while he is eternity – the arena in which time comes into play. Ideally, in a tango, the man provides the arena for the woman’s energy – as rock may sculpt the path of a stream – providing interruptions and obstructions that cause alterations in the flow.


However, this means that the relationship is integral to the dance, as the bow is integral to the cello. The tango happens because of the partnership, whereas in ballet – even in a pas-de-deux – the two dancers remain separate entities, and so meaning may be expressed in terms of conflict, tension or agreement between personalities. In Kenneth MacMillan’s The Invitation, for instance, a young girl making her debut in society is eventually raped by an older man she is attracted to, and this is expressed through their dancing together. Such expression is problematic for the tango – it might be likened to a musician attempting to ravish his instrument. In the tango, the partnership is an integral whole.


For the current programme, we have been experimenting with ways of injecting expression into the dance, without resorting to the melodrama which often distorts show tango. Taking our inspiration from Schumann, we have been exploring whether meaning can be derived from the very nature of the moves themselves, as Schumann sought meaning in the configurations of notes, keys and other values integral to music, in his search for an “opera without words”. Could we make the obstructions which cause her leg to hook around his read as “obstruction”? Could the interruption to the direction of a movement’s flow, which causes a wave of her leg, read as an “interruption”? This is how we started to think about the dancing. 


It was then that we felt the need for music which was sufficiently complex in terms of expression to allow us to attempt some authentic illustration of its depth. One is of course aware that illustration is a dirty word as far as the modernist art of the twentieth century is concerned. Illustration is practically synonymous with compromise, since the official modernist view – as expressed by Ad Reinhardt – is that all the arts should strive towards emancipation from each other. Well, perhaps it’s time to embrace the twenty-first century.

Music is integral to dance as partnership is integral to tango. Thus there will generally be an element of illustration involved in its creation. What is it that makes such illustration authentic, i.e. untainted by compromise? For me, true illustration takes account of the self-sufficient integrity of each of the disciplines involved, yet brings about their interpenetration. A good example of this are the films Jayne Parker has made of the cellist Anton Lukoszevieze. These are pure works of cinematography focused on Anton’s innovative mastery. Jayne Parker is also the director of the second video that will be shown: The World Turned Upside Down.

As for La Lugubre Gondola:

‘It is one of several works Liszt wrote relating to the death of Wagner, who was his son-in-law, but only two years his junior. Liszt wrote that near the end of 1882, while staying with Wagner in Venice, he had a premonition that Wagner would die there and that his body would thus be born on a funeral gondola through the streets. Wagner, in fact, did die in Venice the following February (and have just such a funeral).’

                                                                                                                                            Classical Music Archives


Anhang Variation II by Robert Schumann, Bernd Glemser piano, Symphonic Etudes, Naxos; The Bird as Prophet by Robert Schumann, Martin Souter Piano, Victorian Visions; The Lugubrious Gondola 1 by Franz Liszt played by Leslie Howard (Hyperion);


Encore: Promenade sur l’eau by Charles-Valentin Alkan played by Alan Weiss (Brilliant Classics).


THE DARK PROGRAMME 1. (Ludlow and Blackpool 2009)

Prelude op. 16 No 1 by Alexander Scriabin

Sarcasm op. 17 by Sergey Prokofiev

The Lugubrious Gondola 1 by Franz Liszt

Promenade sur l’eau by Charles-Valentin Alkan  

Preceded by:  Homage to the Horses of Saint Petersburg and The World Turned Upside Down (videos of performances by Anthony Howell)

In The Dark Programme 1, we seek to extend our repertoire by using dance to explore the possibilities of meaning that emerge from several rather sombre pieces of classical music, moving on from the less problematic romantic content of previous performances. 

In all four pieces presented, we sensed a certain wateriness: even the Sarcasm suggested a sort of splashing.  This watery theme is explicit in the titles of the last two pieces. 

Prelude op. 16 No. 1 by Alexander Scriabin played by Vladimir Horowitz (RCA Victor); Sarcasm op. 17 by Sergey Prokofiev played by Eteri Andjaparidze (Naxos); The Lugubrious Gondola 1 by Franz Liszt played by Leslie Howard (Hyperion); Promenade sur l’eau by Charles-Valentin Alkan played by Alan Weiss (Brilliant Classics).


Homage to John Field (Milton Keynes 2008)

Robert Schumann’s Symphony in D Minor was first performed on 6 December 1841 at the same time as his Ouverture, Opus 52. Apparently, though, what brought the house down was the Hexameron, a set of variations by six different virtuosos on a duet by Vincenzo Bellini which was played on two pianos by Franz Liszt and Clara Schumann. This epitomises a conflict that was raging at the time; a conflict between virtuosity and ‘music-poetry’. Schumann used his journal of music criticism, the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music) as a weapon against the superficial exhibitions of musical skill which were then popular – even if it was the virtuosity of his wife which brought home the bacon. He populated the pages of his journal with a cast of characters called the ‘Davidsbündler’ or ‘League of David’, after the biblical King David, who played and composed music, wrote poetry, and slew Philistines.

Virtuosity comes to the fore when an art refers solely to itself. Vital eras in creativity are however epitomised by an interest in neighbouring arts. In the Romantic era, composers were deeply immersed in the literature of their time. In the modern era, many of the poets of the New York School enthusiastically championed the radical work of visual artists, and many of the visual artists were interested in radical poetry. I have personally been involved in several initiatives which have engaged in cross-fertilisation between the arts: Wallpaper Magazine – which flourished in the early seventies – was put together by an editorial team which included poets, musicians and visual artists; in the nineties I founded and edited Grey Suit: Video for Art and Literature – which featured, on VHS cassette, performance art, poetry readings, installations and film.

Dance, of course, is far from immune to the contagion of virtuosity. And this is currently particularly true of the tango, which has developed prodigiously in the last two decades, becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. But at its best, tango can be imbued with a dance-poetry which is more concerned with musical expression than with dance exhibitionism. The partnership of Bruno Tombari and Mariangeles Camaño, who have been dancing in London this summer, has provided us with a wonderful manifestation of dance-poetry – with the partners in a dialogue with the music rather than resorting to spectacle.

I am currently engaged in seeking out my own dance-poetry, and this requires that I dance to the music that I feel to be rooted in me, rather than to some exotic import. I am not Argentine. As a child I was taken to concerts and recitals of classical music and often listened to the Third Programme on BBC radio. Later, I danced with the Royal Ballet, and so my dancing is steeped in the classical tradition.

The tango itself has developed into the finest dance instrument yet devised for improvisation and this in turn has given it superiority over all other partner dances in the science of lead and follow. It has attained such a degree of sophistication as a dance form that it can be identified as a distinct style whether or not it is danced to the Argentine melodies traditionally associated with it. Together with my dance partner Lindi Köpke, I am using it to explore the music of Schumann and his contemporaries, my aim being to create a fusion of the tango and the European music that inspires me.

Currently we are dancing to the music of John Field, a composer recommended to us by Schumann, whose music criticism should be on the reading list of any respectable post-modernist. The half-fictitious members of the Davidsbündler, who contributed articles and aphorisms to his journal, all had their counterparts in the real world: ‘Chiarina’ represented his wife Clara – a pianist as celebrated as Liszt and of course a composer in her own right – while ‘Florestan’ and ‘Eusebius’ were two contrasting aspects of Schumann's own personality: Florestan exuberant, Eusebius more measured. He often wrote contrasting pieces on the same piece of music under each of these two names!

John Field (1782-1837) was an Irish pianist and composer who accompanied his tutor Clementi to Russia in order to sell Clementi’s pianos. After a year or two of hardship, he became the doyen of Russian society. Field’s playing was noted for its delicacy and an expressive sonority that was thought of as a bel canto tone. For me, his music bridges a gap between the melodious quality of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the emphasis on expression that was pioneered by the romantics. Frédéric Chopin’s nocturnes were modelled on Field’s. Lindi Köpke and I will be dancing to his Kamarinskaya and to his Nocturne No. 16 Of Field’s Piano Concerto No. 7. Schumann (as Florestan) says…"everything is good; indeed, good enough to be kissed."

Anthony Howell, September 2008