Reading on the lives of composers gives us insight, not only about their works and masterpieces, but also their personal lives and little-known facts that make them more relatable. There is something to be learned from these great composers' past and it will also help us appreciate more the music they left behind. Here's some interesting tidbits about some important composers of the Romantic period.
Franz Schubert's song, Der Erlkönig (The Erlking), is a setting of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's poem. It tells the story of a father carrying his very ill son on horseback as the Erl King (an evil creature who lures people to death) tempts the boy to come with him.
Robert Schumann's Carnaval is a cycle of piano pieces that contains autobiographical references. In this piece, the character Eusebius represents Schumann's placid side, while Florestan represents his tempestuous side. The character Estrella represents Ernestine von Fricken, the young woman Schumann fell in love with.
Clara Schumann stopped composing at the age of 36 when her husband (Robert Schumann) died. Robert was a student of Clara's father. In 1837 they became secretly engaged and on September 12, 1840, Clara and Robert were eventually married. They had 8 children namely, Marie, Elise, Julie, Emil, Ludwig, Ferdinand, Eugenie and Felix. The couple's friend, Johannes Brahms, was a huge support for Clara when Robert died.
Franz Lizst was also inspired by the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His Faust Symphony was inspired by Goethe's play Faust. Liszt used the names of the three main characters in Goethe's work, namely Faust, Gretchen, and Mephistopheles.
Louis-Hector Berlioz wrote his Symphony Fantastique (Fantastic Symphony) for the actress Harriet Smithson who eventually became his first wife. Berlioz saw her on a stage play where she played the part of Ophelia in "Hamlet" and Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet."
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky had a rich benefactress, a widow named Nadezhda von Meck. However, the two only corresponded through letters.
Aside from composing the music, Richard Wagner also wrote the librettos to The Ring of the Nibelung, a cycle of four operas (or music dramas). These include: Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). It's a monumental work that took Wagner around 26 years to complete.