I’ve just had a nice bit of news – I’ve learned that I’ve been awarded a sabbatical for next fall to work on my Schumann Trilogy. That means no teaching from June through December. I’ll miss the teaching, because my students mean a lot to me, but after 22 years it’s probably a good idea for me to shift gears a bit.
This Schumann Trilogy will be a major undertaking. As the title implies, it’s going to be three pieces – not movements, but stand-alone pieces – on three aspects of one of the Romantic period’s most intriguing figures.

Fantasiestück
Fantasiestück is an orchestral fantasy on the enigmatic figure of Robert Schumann – a brilliantly gifted composer and writer who ascended to the pinnacle of the music world, only to end his days in an insane asylum.

The Marriage Diary
For the first four years of their married life, Robert and Clara Schumann kept a marriage diary. They wrote notes to one another, commented on visitors and concerts, and kept a running dialogue on the delights and challenges of married life. The Schumanns’ marriage holds particular interest for couples in the twenty-first century, as Robert and Clara coped with many of the same issues familiar to two-income families today. My Marriage Diary takes its cue from this infamous book in the form of a dialogue for mezzo, tenor and orchestra.

Florestan and Eusebius
While still in his twenties, Robert Schumann became an influential music critic. In his writings, he invented several characters, through whom he expressed differing perspectives on various issues of the day. Chief among these fictional figures were Florestan and Eusebius. Florestan was impetuous, passionate, and forward-looking; Eusebius was quiet, introspective – a dreamer.

My Florestan and Eusebius imagines these two characters beside Schumann’s deathbed, trying to make sense of their creator’s madness and decline. It concludes with a setting of a haunting elegy by Heinrich Heine, one of Schumann’s favorite poets.

The part of Florestan will be performed by a combination of tenor and actor. The part of Eusebius will be sung by a trio of soprano, mezzo and alto.

I find Schumann fascinating — the combination of musical and literary gifts, the obsessive focus on genres, the gradual shift from youthful radical to cautious family man. And, of course, the strange symptoms of his final years.

The three pieces have to be completed in January, so this sabbatical will provide a welcome chance to focus.

So now my next task is figuring out who will cover the duties I’ll be missing come September.

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