“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 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
Biographers have suggested that Gabriel Fauré “always retained a great affection for his wife Marie Frémiet.” She did have, it was said, a withdrawn, bitter and difficult character. Combined with Fauré’s keen sensuality and desire to please, it possibly helps
Contemporary accounts all agree that Gabriel Fauré was extraordinarily attractive. “He had a dark complexion, a somewhat distant expression of the eyes, a soft voice and gentle manner of speech that retained the rolled provincial ‘r’, and a simple and
“Harmony cannot fail to rule over their household.” On 19 April 1833 the musical magazine Bohemia published the following review of pianist Josephine Eder (1815-1868): “She treats the light and difficult parts with the same certainty, combines taste and delicacy,
Valentina Semyonovna Bergman (1846-1924) was born into a Russian merchant family of German-Jewish descent. Her parents converted to Lutheranism before she was born, and they operated a successful shop specializing in colonial wares. Valentina showed great musical promise from an
I don’t understand why a good many people think that classical music is deadly dull and boring. Many of the stories and anecdotes surrounding these exceptional expressions of human creativity could easily become box office hits at your local cinema.
Christoph Friedrich Bach was only 17 when he was unexpectedly offered the position of harpsichordist at the Court of Schaumburg-Lippe in Bückeburg. He hadn’t yet finished his musical or general education, and it took the permission of his father to