Songfest Captures Schumanns

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019
Juilliard Journal
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Juilliard Songfest featuring a pianist and singers

Juilliard Songfest features Juilliard singers with collaborative pianist and curator Brian Zeger in celebration of Robert and Clara Schumann

A portrait photo of Clara Schumann, ca. 1850
Clara Wieck Schumann, ca. 1850, halftone of a photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl

Robert and Clara Schumann are celebrated at this year’s Songfest, on December 5. Brian Zeger (MM ’81, piano), artistic director of Juilliard’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts, curates the annual recital, coaches the singers, and performs with them. The concert features tenor Chance Jonas-O’Toole, baritone Kyle Miller, sopranos Jessica Niles and Libby Sokolowski, mezzo-soprano Erin Wagner, and collaborative pianist Chris Reynolds. Drama alums Keshav Moodliar and Lauren Norvelle will read from the couples' diaries and letters between songs.

The first half of the program, Spring, consists of songs Robert wrote during a period of creative output motivated by his affection for Clara and following their highly anticipated marriage in 1840—delayed by opposition from Clara’s father. Following Songfest's intermission, Spring gives way to Winter with songs from the latter part of Robert Schumann’s output, colored by his mental illness, which took a heavy toll on the couple’s marriage. The relationship was also strained by Clara’s robust performing career and the popularity of her compositions. Robert often felt inferior to her as a musician and her role as the household breadwinner—making the couple a particularly intriguing programmatic focus during this season in which Juilliard celebrates trailblazing women.