Wonderful feeling when embarking on a new piece takes you deeper than you expected in a direction about which you had only a few vague notions.
I’m immersed in my Schumann Trilogy, and now the memoirs of Eugenie Schumann, his youngest daughter, have fallen into my hands. Naturally, the detailed stories she tells of studying music with her mother and Brahms are interesting enough, but the tales that affect me the most are the ones that give insights into the life of a little girl in mid-nineteenth-century Europe. Here is how she describes being dropped off for three years at a boarding school at the age of eleven — her first time away from her family — so her mother could go on tour:
Was it not natural that my tears should be flowing? That on this first day they should be flowing from early morning till late at night? In the evening I was standing in the garden alone, the tears still streaming from my eyes. [The headmistress] came towards me and said, “Do you know the fifth commandment? If so, let me hear it.” Obediently I stammered through the few words. “Do you know that you are breaking this commandment? It is for your good that your mother has sent you here, and now you keep on crying. Do you see how wicked that is?” My tears ceased as if by magic, but at the same time the doors of my heart were locked against this unfeeling woman, and were never opened again in the course of nearly three years I spent under her roof.
Or this letter from the youngest son Felix, writing home from conservatory, where he was studying violin:
When I see how the artists here work from morning till night, that art is to them merely a means of making money, I feel quite sad at the thought, “What has become of your ideals?” I feel how fortunate I am in going to my work fresh in mind and heart, and I will preserve this good fortune even at the cost of remaining a poor musician.”
Right now, I’m seriously considering a shift in emphasis in the second piece of my trilogy from the Schumann marriage to the fate of their seven children. I may be close to cracking the shell that will bring this piece to life.