I was excited to find this book at the library’s Book Exchange Corner. Basil Howitt, who plays the cello (most notably with the Manchester Camerata) and was a practical examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, reveals more than what many composers have themselves written about how their love lives affect their creativity.
Composers covered in this book are: Don Carlo Gesualdo, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, George Philipp Telemann, George Frideric Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Gioachino Rossini, Franz Peter Schubert, Gaetano Donezetti, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Robert Alexander Schumann, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner.
Some interesting infomation are:
Haydn‘s (1732-1809) greatest work, The Creation, and 3,000 pages of music were written during his rather unhappy and childless marriage. His affection for Rebecca Schroeter is immortalised in the second set of Piano Trios, which includes the famous Gypsy Rondo, and adapted from the lovely second movement of his Symphony No 102 for the Trio No 40 in F# Minor as a tribute to her. His joyful String Quartet in C Major No 3 Op 33 waas fired by happiness in love for young Italian singer Luigia Polzelli who became his mistress under the nose of her husband.
Mozart (1756-1791) wrote seven magnificent, stunning and extremely moving series of concert arias for Aloisia Weber, daughter of Fridolin Weber (uncle of the famous Carl Maria Weber, composer of Invitation to the dance, Oberon etc), who did not return his love.
Beethoven (1770-1827) dedicated his piano sonata No 24 in F# Major to Therese von Brunsvik, a student; wrote Andie Hoffnung (Op 32), Eroica, Fidelio, The Appasionata, the 4th Symphony, the 5th piano concerto and the violin concerto for Josephine, Therese’s sister. He wrote Moonlight (Op 27 No 2) for 17-year-old Countess Giuletta Guicciardi, and dedicated two piano trios (Op 70) and the last two cello sonatas (Op 102) to Countess Anna Marie Erdody, a fine pianist and his student. Theresa Malfatti, niece of one of his physicians, was the probable inspiration of Fur Elise. He dedicated piano trio (WoO3a), song cycle An die ferne Geliebte Op 98, an exquisitely varied and integrated collection of tender love songs and the 33 Diabelli Variations, a towering edifice, to Antoine Brentano, his “Immortal Beloved”, an aristocratic lady married to a merchant and banker.
Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) glorious String quartet in E Minor (Op 44 No 2) and his 2nd Piano Concerto in D Minor (Op 40) were both written during his honeymoon with Cecile. But his 1st Piano Concerto in G Minor (Op 25) was probably inspired by his love for the beautiful and talented 16-year-old pianist Delphine von Schauroth whom he had a crush on and to whom he dedicated the work. His love for his sister Fanny and her death wrung two grief-ridden masterpieces: the F Minor String Quartet (Requim & Fanny) and Nachtlied (one of his finest songs).
Schubert (1797-1828) was probably a homosexual but he wasn’t always indifferent to women. He fell in love with 15-year-old Therese Grob when he was 17, and during this period he had written his first symphony, 6 string quartets, lots of church music (including his first Mass In F) and Gretchenann Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel, a “poem-in-music”). His love token for Therese also include many love songs, the 3rd symphony & about 510 works altogether, including the enchantingly lively Ave in C. He caught syphiullis in 1824 but was high-spirited and ever-fresh and wrote his 5th Symphony (Unfinished), the Wanderer Fantasy for piano, the 5th Mass in A-flat major (“Trout Quarter”), song cycles, operas, choral works, piano and church music. He committed suicide after writing the F Minor Fantasy and the Mass in E-flat.
Schumann (1810-1856) probably had homosexual encounters; with Ludwig Schunke, they became indispensable to each other and dedicated piano pieces to each other, and his relationship with English composer Sterndale Bennett inspired the march ending in his symbolic Etudes. He met 13-year-old Clara when he was 22 and she suggested the sequence of C-F-G-C which he started incorporating into his compositions which first appears in his Impromptus Op 5. His intense relationship with Ernestine von Fricken, a fellow student, inspired Carnaval Op 9, a musical picture gallery of the different mental states. He courted the beautiful 18-year-old Scottish pianist Robena Laidlaw, dedicating his Phantasiestucke Op 12 to her. The unfulfilled longing for Clara drew some heavenly music from him: Piano Sonata in F#Minor (Op 11), G minor piano sonata (Op 22), Fantasie in C (dedicated to Liszt but with Clara in mind), Grand Sonata in F Minor (Op 14), Novelletten Op 21, Kinderszenen Op 15, Kreisleriana Op 16, C Major Symphony, Wintereise, 120 songs and many more. After their marriage, Clara inspired the D Minor Symphony, 3 string quartets, Fruhlingslied (Op 79 No 18), Song Album for the Young (Op 79), Five Hunting songs (Op 137), Piano Concerto, the Album fur Jugend and the cello concerto.