Thursday, April 4, 2013

Great Artists - With Whom Did They Share Their Lives?

One usually considers the aspects and issues surrounding a great artist  by way of the legendary individual and his or her particular experiences, and usually not much else.
But did this genius share his or her life with another? It is natural that much of the time we give to our perusing the genius chosen is to that individual only.
But it's at the very least interesting to delve into other aspects which enhance our knowledge of that genius, and how that genius is affected, either for the worse or better.
For instance; how about Carlo Gesualdo?
This composer preceded Bach by over a century, and was a creative genius with almost startling visions of how to inculcate chromaticism into his work, which most assuredly affected and influenced the manner in which succeeding composers thought about the harmonic vocabulary.
And yes, Gesualdo had a wife; and yes, he murdered his wife and the lover she was with when the composer came upon them during a rather delicate state of affairs.
Granted that this example is perhaps an ignominious way of  beginning this blog.
Well then; why not look at the giant Johann Sebastian Bach?
He married his second cousin Barbara, resulting in a group of children, one of whom was Karl Phillip Emanuel, who became one of the most powerful composers straddling the Baroque and the Classical periods.
And how about Robert Schumann and his wife, the former Clara Wieck, one of the first great woman pianists? Clara became Robert's fingers, championing his works throughout the Continent, as Robert could not perform due to a permanent injury he experienced in his formative years.
What about Chopin? Though he did not marry, he experienced a decade-long relationship with the famous novelist George Sand. The two were lovers during the earlier part of their experience together; then, as his health declined Sand became more a benefactor and supporter. The less-than-pleasant end  to their  relationship certainly helped bring on the untimely death of the great Polish composer.
Liszt - a man with not one relationship, but many; mostly dalliances with captivated women from among the  audiences he performed his unprecedented magic upon. Liszt's father Adam, on his death-bed, warned his genius son that  "women may well complicate and disrupt your life."  Well; be assuaged that Franz Liszt DID  eventually 'settle down' after a brief, meteoric piano career, to become one of the 19th century's giants in the world of music.
During more recent history, consider the stormy but loving life that Vladimir Horowitz and his wife, the former Wanda Toscanini shared. During more than a half century of marriage, Wanda Horowitz was at virtually all of the recitals and concerts that her husband performed, and was with him on the day he slipped off a chair and died at his home, not far from his beloved piano.
Leonard Bernstein, from his days at Harvard to his passing at 72, was almost always in the musical headlines - from his 'Jeremiah" Symphony to "West Side Story" he was  an ongoing  living legend. He did marry, and her name was Felicia Montealegre, a beautiful Chilean actress, who passed away tragically of cancer.
There are other artists, of course, who shared their lives, whom you can easily read about. Lina and Serge Prokofiev, for instance - or Artur Rubinstein and his beautiful wife - and so forth and so on...

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