The Five Most Famous Relationships in Classical Music
This post is a little different from the ones I usually do. As in any other profession, there is such a rich diversity in composers in classical music. Likewise, there are composers who had similar tastes in music, and therefore a connection. Others helped each other out, through recommendation, tutoring, and advice. Perhaps they both took a common ground against other composers they disagreed with. Either way, here it is, the five most famous relationships in classical music.
No.5 Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninoff
Alexander Scriabin(1872-1915) and Sergei Rachmaninoff(1873-1943) were both two of the most famous and important 20th century Russian composers. They each had a romantic touch to music, both idolized Frederic Chopin, yet they both sought out new harmonies and melodies contrary to Romanticism later in their careers, though Rachmaninoff was more conservative than Scriabin.
As you can tell, the two were barely a year apart. They both had similar childhoods. Their musical abilities were discovered soon and they both were sent to study at the Moscow Conservatory. In this picture, Scriabin is the second on the left, and Rachmaninoff fourth from the right. Though they had a fair share of differences, Scriabin’s colorful view of keys baffled Rachmaninoff, they were very good friends.
They both went on to become very successful composers and pianists. After school, they both went on very successful tours. They continued to exchange letters and frequently met. However, while Rachmaninoff’s career flourished in the 20th century, Scriabin began to become more and more unstable. He began to get more and more isolated, more and more inclusive. He became obsessed with mysticism, which was a growing “fad” in the early 20th century as well as the apocalypse.
In 1915, Alexander Scriabin died at the age of 43. Rachmaninoff was a pallbearer to his funeral. For a year, Rachmaninoff went on tour only playing Scriabin’s music. When requested to play either his own music or the music of another composer, Rachmaninoff would coldly respond “Only Scriabin tonight”. Much of the money Rachmaninoff made was given to Scriabin’s family.
For the remaining years of his life, Rachmaninoff always looked back and remembered Scriabin as a great composer and a great friend.
No.4 Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel
Together, Claude Debussy(1862-1918) and Maurice Ravel(1875-1937) were two of the most famous and important impressionist composers. They were both quintessential to the French Artistic break from Romanticism. They both admired the same composers, wrote the same genre. Yet their music is so different from on another. Their friendship would turn to a rivalry and then eventual mutual admiration.
They both attended the Paris Conservatory, though not together as Debussy was 13 years Ravel’s senior. They both admired the music of Camille Saint-Saens and Gabriel Faure. Ravel studied directly under him. Ravel was also greatly influenced by Debussy’s music and borrowed from Erik Satie to create his own style of music.
Though their friendship was never close as other composers on this list, it is nevertheless important. They often met to play and discuss another’s works. Debussy’s music was more fantasy, dreamy, and fluid, while Ravel’s was more innovative, realistic, and watery. Though at first, they often agreed on many things, their friendship began freeze. Ravel started to criticize Debussy’s music. He suggested that Debussy should have re-orchestrated his great masterpiece “La Mer”. This was a huge insult to Debussy.
Soon, different sides were set up pitting one composer again another. Something that both composers were embarrassed of. However, as each of their lives took separate courses, they did not forget about each other. When Debussy died in 1918, Ravel was one of the few to attend the funeral procession, even as the Germans were bombarding the city during World War I. Perhaps just a symbol of respect for his former friend and mentor.
No.3 Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
This was one of the most special relationships in music history. Haydn(1732-1809) and Mozart(1756-1791) both held each other in the highest of esteems. They both cherished each other’s music and made it well known of their great friendship.
Haydn was already a well established composer by the 1770s, a time when Mozart was touring Europe with his family. Both composers had already heard of each other. Haydn of the genius child prodigy, and Mozart of one of the most esteemed composers in Europe, a cherished court composer of the Esterhazy family. Finally in 1783, they met. Then their friendship began.
They met frequently, reviewed each other’s work, and took advice from each other. They even played each other’s string quartets, Haydn on second violin and Mozart on the viola. However, they had an even more special relationship. They had more of a father-son relationship. Haydn was 24 years older than Mozart. This relationship was important for Mozart, because he had a strained relationship with his own father, Leopold Mozart. He even affectionally called him “Papa Haydn”. Likewise, when Mozart did introduce Haydn to his father, Haydn said to him “he is the greatest composer known to me”.
We often think of Mozart as a perfect composer, able to turn out music finished, uncorrected, a perfection. However, this is not the case. Mozart decided to write and dedicate six string quartets to Haydn. This was a tribute to Haydn, who invented the string quartet himself. Mozart agonized over the work. He rewrote it many, many times. His cross outs remain as proof on the original score.
However, their friendship ended in tragedy. While Haydn was touring in London, Mozart died at the age of 35 in 1791. Haydn was devastated. Later on in his life, Haydn refused commissions for operas, because he was inferior compared to Mozart in the genre. Even as the next great composer arrived in Vienna, Beethoven became a direct student to Haydn, he always looked back at Mozart as the greatest composer who ever lived.
No.2 Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms
Here is another father-son relationship. Robert Schumann(1810-1856) in his time, was one of the most sought after composers in Germany. He was a composer, critic, and writer to a newspaper he started called “New Journal of Music”. He was already established and was respected. His wife Clara(1819-1896), was one of the greatest concert pianists of the 19th century. Together they were quite a “fearsome couple”. She often performed Robert’s music. Johannes Brahms(1833-1897) was a young, 20 year old composer and pianist sent from his hometown Hamburg to study under Schumann from letter of recommendation.
Right away, the Schumanns were amazed by Brahms both as a pianist and composer. When he played his Piano Sonata No.2 in F-sharp minor Op.2(which was actually his first), Schumann called it a symphony at the piano. He also played other works and showed him some orchestral music. Schumann believed that Brahms was to be the next great composer, even so far as to compare him to Beethoven. In his newspaper, Schumann wrote an article called “New Paths”. In it, he described Brahms as an “apostle”, the “messiah of music”. This was a huge boost in Brahms’ career. However it did have a negative effect on Brahms as well. This comparison to Beethoven and the assertion that he would surpass Beethoven turned Brahms into an extremely self-critical composer. He would spend the next 40+ years of his career constantly working, perfecting, and destroying his music. However, this article helped Brahms greatly. By the 1860s, he was already and established composer in Vienna. By the 1870s, he was already regarded as one of the greatest composers of the age.
Brahms studied under Robert for three years until tragedy struck. Robert fell into madness and attempted suicide. For the last months of his life, Robert was in a mental institution. He eventually died at the age of 46 in 1856. Brahms stayed with Clara and helped raise her children. This is the second part of Brahms’ friendship. He was romantically interested in Clara and may have even proposed marriage. Clara, 14 years his senior understood how they could not be together. She decided to dedicate the rest of her life playing her late husband’s music, and making it as famous as it is now. Brahms understood this. However, they remained life long friends.
They continued to write each other. They both were extremely critical of the music of Franz Liszt and Wagner and their “New German Music School”. Schumann and Brahms were conservatives in music. Brahms also sought advice from Clara on his compositions. However, Clara always praised him and continued to encourage him. In 1896, Clara died at the old age of 77. Brahms, 63 years old himself was devastated. Perhaps her death accelerated his. Within a year, Brahms was diagnosed and died from liver cancer in 1897. So ended this long, 43 year friendship.
No.1 Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner
At number one is the most important relationship between two composers in classical music history. Both Franz Liszt(1811-1886) and Richard Wagner(1813-1883) were two of the most famous composers of the 19th century. Liszt was regarded as the greatest pianist of his time. Wagner remains the most important opera composer who ever lived, only comparable to his rival, Verdi.
Their friendship began with Wagner seeking aid from Liszt. Wagner, between 1849-1858 was in exile in Switzerland, destitute, and outlawed from Germany. A volatile person by nature, he wrote to Liszt, beginning his help in the form of sending money, a piano and conducting his works. It was Liszt who premiered much was Wagner’s music. He also transcribed his music for piano which also brought Wagner fame and fortune. Finally, he returned to Germany and worked with Liszt directly.
Liszt was also a respected composer, who wrote mind numbing virtuosic works for piano as well as symphonic poems for orchestra. They both were supported of the “New German School” of music. They believed in a “Program Music”, combining all art forms into one single, titanic art. For example, Liszt took inspiration from art and literature for his works, Wagner the same. They rebelled against the tiresome and bored conservative music. They looked not only to reach Beethoven’s summit but to surpass it.
They also had another relationship. Liszt was Wagner’s father-in-law. Wagner, who was 24 years older than Cosima Liszt married her. In the 1860s, while Liszt was beginning to withdraw himself from the music scene and the delve into religious study and meditation, always gave advice and talked with Wagner. Wagner meanwhile, rose to become one of the most important composers of his time. He rivaled Brahms to become Germany’s most important composer following Beethoven. His operas such as “The Flying Dutchman”, “Tristan and Isolde”, and of course his massive “Ring Cycle” remain the greatest operas of all time. He set the stage for the 20th century. Composers such as Debussy, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev borrowed greatly from Wagner.
In 1883, Wagner died. Liszt, though saddened, remained content as an abbey in the church. He was asked by his daughter Cosima to take part in the “Wagner Festival”. Not only did he participate, he led it. Liszt, who was well into his 70s was tired easily and old age had quite crippled him. He contracted pneumonia while leading the festival. This was most likely contracted on the train ride there. So ended this great and famous relationship.
These friendships left huge legacies, both on the composers and what they left behind. It proves how essential friendship is in even this art form. Though these great contributors to music often clashed with one another, they also united for different music causes. Stay tuned fro my next post next Wednesday.
SasuHina Month is officially over, and I to say some things about it.
I absolutely can’t believe how many quality posts we had this year. You guys are amazing. The fanarts were charming, you are all so talented!
And there were so many fanfics that honestly I couldn’t read them all. You guys have so much inspiration, I feel envious… hehe
YOU ARE AWESOME. Seriously.
I really want to thank everyone that participated in producing things, thank you. You have give us your precious time and talent, and I appreciate all the effort you put into making these masterpieces of fanwork.
But I can’t forget to mention everyone of the followers of this blog for constantly showing your support by liking and reblogging the posts. You keep this blog alive, and I’m really grateful for that.
For SasuHina Month this year, we had more than 200 posts (that I saw and reblogged), and only in August we welcomed 118 new followers. I was so thrilled by that.Seriously. I hope you all feel comfortable in coming to me for questions and comments; mentions and submits.
Activity on this blog will probably decrease, but I’ll always be here for you guys. You can send messages and asks, and I’ll try to answer them the best way I can.
Again, I want to thank you all that have contributed for making SasuHina Month 2015 this amazing event, and I hope you all participate again next year.