A consortium of orchestras, including The Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra, the Salt Lake Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Mansfield Symphony and the University of Utah Philharmonia have commissioned the Schumann Trilogy to celebrate the bicentennial of Robert Schumann’s birth in 2010. The trilogy was premiered at the REDCAT Theater in Los Angeles by the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra, Peter Askim, Music Director on May 8th, 2010. It is comprised of three pieces — Figments and Fragments, Cool Night and Genealogie — which can be performed together or separately.
Figments and Fragments
Figments and Fragments 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 work starts with a favorite form of Schumann’s – a set of linked character pieces –gradually allowing the cracks between the pieces to expand and overwhelm the narrative. The piece ends with chilling evocation of the composer’s final paralysis.
While still in his twenties, Robert Schumann became a very influential music critic. In his writings, he invented several characters, through whom he expressed differing perspectives on artistic issues of the day. Chief among these fictional figures were Florestan and Eusebius. Florestan was impetuous, passionate, and forward-looking; Eusebius was a quiet, introspective dreamer.
Cool Night 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, but Heine’s images have been altered through the prism of the Florestan-Eusebius perspective.
The part of Florestan is portrayed by a combination of tenor and actor. The part of Eusebius is sung by an otherworldly trio of soprano, mezzo and alto.
Drawing texts from Robert and Clara Schumann’s Marriage Diary, Eugenie Schumann’s Memoirs and a 1921 NY Times article about the Schumann children, Genealogie confronts the residue of genius, recounting the lives of Robert and Clara’s children and concluding with a deeply charged benediction from their youngest daughter.