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Music professor to present Bethel College faculty seminar about Schumann

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Karen Bauman Schlabaugh will speak about the 19th century German composer Robert Schumann and perform the second half of "Davidsb'ndlert'nze (Dances for the League of David)" for the next faculty seminar at Bethel College. Titled "'League of David' and Progressive Romanticism in the works of Robert Schumann," the seminar is set for 7:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 9 in the Administration Building Chapel on the Bethel College campus in North Newton. Admission is free and open to the public.

Schlabaugh's study of the composer began in earnest during a sabbatical in the spring of 2002.

"I've taught Schumann all along," says Schlabaugh, who teaches piano. "Spending more time with works I was unfamiliar with allowed me to study specific sets of pieces that I had in mind for students. He's an extremely interesting personality, one who was very influential both as a romantic composer and as an editor of an early musicological journal."

For the seminar, she will focus on the composer's 1830-40 piano works, "the period of time when the best known piano works were written," she says. She will discuss the literary allusions in his compositions as well as rhythmic traits and sudden changes in harmony and mood, hallmarks of Schumann's originality.

"Sometimes he has almost hidden quotations from other composers or from his own earlier compositions. He was often reluctant to reveal either the literary or musical sources of his inspiration, in spite of the fact that most works have descriptive titles," she says. "Schumann loved puzzles and some of what he writes is very much hidden."

For example, the "Dances for the League of David" have the letters "F" and "E" noted in the scores. The letters represent Florestan and Eusebius, imaginary characters representing two sides of Schumann's personality.

"Florestan was the wild, impetuous side; Eusebius, the dreamy and poetic. The two characters, along with other members of the League of David, played a central role in Schumann's music journal. They discussed new music and reviewed concerts, all with the purpose of upholding the highest musical standards," Schlabaugh says.

Schlabaugh is professor of music at Bethel College where she has taught since 1993. She holds a bachelor's degree from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, a master's degree from Ithaca College and a doctor of musical arts degree in performance and pedagogy from University of Iowa.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.