“The only love affair I have ever had was with music.”
The history of classical music, however, is full of fabulously gifted individuals with slightly more earthy ambitions. Love stories of classical composers are frequently retold within a romanticized narrative of sugarcoated fairy tales. To be sure, happily-ever-after stories do on rare occasions take place, but it is much more likely that classical romances lead to some rather unhappy endings. Johannes Brahms had an overriding fear of commitment, Claude Debussy drove his wife into an attempt at suicide, Francis Poulenc severely struggled with his sexual identity, and Percy Grainger was heavily into whips and bondage. And that’s only the beginning! The love life of classical composers will sometimes make you weep, or alternately shout out with joy or anguish. You might even cringe with embarrassment as we try to go beyond the usual headlines and niceties to discover the psychological makeup and the societal and cultural pressures driving these relationships. Classical composer’s love stories are not for the faint hearted; they are heightened reflections of humanity at its best and worst. Accompanying these stories of love and lust with the compositions they inspired, we are able to see composers and their relationships in a completely new light.
In the preface to his L’art du chant appliqué au piano, the distinguished virtuoso pianist and composer Sigismond Thalberg (1812-1871) states that he took voice lessons from a famous singer in his youth. That famous singer turned out to be
Igor Stravinsky first met Katherine Gavrylivna Nosenko in 1890. He was quietly drawn to “Katya,” who was by all accounts a soft-spoken and intelligent girl. They shared a number of interests, and found common ground in music, as Katya was
The musical Strauss family dynasty took full advantage of the pleasure-seeking and carefree spirit of Imperial Vienna. As members of the public piled into the great dancehalls of the city, the Strauss family gleefully provided the musical background that gaily
“My Domain Is Vocal Music” During his long career as a teacher, conductor and composer Max Bruch (1838-1920) almost constantly moved among various musical posts in Germany. He found employment in Mannheim (1862–1864), Koblenz (1865–1867), Sondershausen (1867–1870), Berlin (1870–1872), and
“If only grown-ups were like children, free from prejudice against everything new!” Anton Webern and Wilhelmine Mörtl, the daughter of his mother’s sister, were married in Danzig on 22 February 1911. They had kept their affair ingeniously secret until she
Much has been written about the women in Beethoven’s life, and undoubtedly you have either read or seen one or the other fictional take on the matter. It all seems a bit muddled and mysterious, so let’s try to unravel
In his professional diary under 2 May 1841, Franz von Suppé writes, “First encounter with Therese Merville, my 1st wife.” We do know that Suppé age 22 and Merville age 25 married on 13 October 1841 in Preßburg, currently Bratislava.
On the very last Saturday of 1899, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor married Jessie Sarah Fleetwood Walmisley in a parish church at Selhurst, near Croydon, England. Just a regular wedding ceremony, I hear you say, but in reality it followed some very tense