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Classical Music’s Greatest Love Stories

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Robert and Clara Schumann (circa 1847)

In honor of Valentine’s Day this weekend, we wanted to delve into something a little different – the love stories behind some of classical music’s greatest names. Whether it was Beethoven and his “Immortal Beloved,” or Robert and Clara Schumann, it goes without saying that some of the most beautiful pieces ever written came to pass because of a heart in love.

Ludwig van Beethoven may very well be the most well-known when it comes to unrequited love. In 1812 while he recovered from illness in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz, Beethoven wrote three letters to his “Immortal Beloved”—an unnamed woman who’s identity is still secret to this day. Filled with passion, it is from these letters that the famous signature “ever thine, ever mine, ever ours” came. The letters were found only after his death, and are worth a read if you haven’t seen them already. A few years earlier, in 1800, Beethoven met and fell in love with Giulietta Guicciardi. He went on to dedicate his famous Moonlight Sonata to her, and although they planned to marry, were not able to because Giulietta’s father didn’t approve. She went on to marry, but Beethoven never did.

One of the most influential composers of the 19th century, Giuseppe Verdi, met Margherita Barezzi when her father, Antonio, chose him to be her music teacher. They fell deeply in love, married in 1836, and had two children, both of whom died as infants. Margherita passed soon thereafter, while Verdi was composing his second opera, Un giorno di regno (King for a Day). Already completely devastated at the loss of his family, when the opera failed, Verdi vowed to give up classical composition forever. Thankfully for us, he didn’t, because it wasn’t until 1850 that he composed one of his most masterpieces, Rigoletto.

Perhaps one of the loveliest stories is that of Robert and Clara Schumann. They first fell in love in 1836, but didn’t marry until 1840 because of her father’s adamant refusal. Schumann is said to have courted Clara through letters and secret rendezvous, even taking the chance to see her for only a few minutes after some of her piano concerts. The year they finally tied the knot, Robert wrote 168 songs, which is attributed to his marital bliss. When Robert died in 1856, Clara dedicated the rest of her days to performing his music and keeping his memory alive. There’s even a 1983 German Film called Frühlingssinfonie that portrayed their romance, as well as Twin Spirits—a special look into their story through words and music at the Royal Opera House.

The love felt through the pieces these men composed is a love that often comes from an untold story. We don’t know all of the meanings behind their work, but hope you’ll feel the music a bit more deeply the next time you hear it at the Houston Symphony.

Note: This blog posting was redirected from our SymphonE-News, a bi-weekly electronic newsletter from the Houston Symphony. To sign up for SymphonE-News, click here!

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Written by Melissa S.

February 11, 2010 at 1:51 pm