Thursday, 23 November 2017


Here at Unraveling Musical Myths, we have, on more than one occasion, “visited the dead” via horrific, gruesome – and, occasionally, even amusing – tales of grisly lore and gore, passed down to us through the musical ages; describing (in often macabre detail) the lengths some people will go to preserve, profit on – or even destroy – the legacy of some of Western Classical Music’s most iconic and beloved masters.

From bodies uprooted from their tombs and callously tossed in the corner of a funeral vault, to grave robbing and skull-heisting (we’ve even “bore witness” to tales of mob-like guard posts at the grave, to composers themselves engaging in bizarre episodes non-sexual necrophilia).

In this edition of TRIVIA & HUMOR, we begin our downward spiral into the seventh circle of hell with both the savagely barbaric and the surprisingly tender: two tales of post-mortem action by the living – in one instance, the tender: in 19th century late classical/early romantic composers Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven:


Franz Schubert idolized Ludwig van Beethoven. The
pair ran in different circles and rarely met - however
this didn't stop Franz from wanting to be close to his
idol in life - and, so it would appear, in death.
As 31 year old Schubert lapsed in and out of consciousness in the final throes of what would, in posterity, be considered an early and agonizing death, the young Austrian master of the Art of the Lied grew delirious – a likely result of both neurosyphilis and mercury poisoning (the only tonic then available to treat the deadly disease which had run rampant throughout Napoleonic Europe). It would be during one of these moments of semi-consciousness (heavily marked by delirium) that the composer, believing himself already six feet under and buried alive, audibly posed the question “Am I resting next to Beethoven?” (Ludwig being both Franz’ muse and devotee during both icon’s lifetimes – with the younger Schubert even dedicating his Variations on a French Song - Op. 10, D.624 - to his idol). Those who witnessed the outburst took the bizarre moment of quasi-lucidity as a declaration of intent to be laid to rest alongside the composer’s musical hero. This wish was thrice granted, first by burying Franz as close as possible (a mere two plots away) to his beloved at Vienna's Währing Cemetery.

Beethoven, who had died only one year previous, had perished in Schubert’s hometown of Vienna in Austria. His funeral was both a grandiose and somber spectacle, with tens of thousands of mourners lining the streets of Vienna to witness the procession, and bid farewell to their maestro, each clamoring over one another to gain a closer view as the casket dolefully made it’s way to the cemetery, with Schubert himself at the helm, first as pallbearer helping to hoist the coffin, and, at graveside, acting as a torchbearer. By the time the Währing was shuttered in June 1888, a decision was made to move and re-bury both composers – this time side by side, with nary a plot between them to separate their vessels into eternity - at the recently opened Zentralfriedhof on the city‘s South side.

The now permanently gated Währing Cemetery became known as Schubert Park, and atop the vacant plots (forever preserved for their former inhabitants) stands a memorial dedicated to the two musical giants. 

8 Variations on a French song in E Minor, Op. 10, D. 624 - Schubert's dedication to his idol, Ludwig van Beethoven.


As for the barbaric, regular readers of Unraveling Musical Myths with be familiar with the ‘practice’ and cult of phrenology – a pseudo-“science” funded and operated by resurrectionists, shady surgeons and so-called scientists (in fact, keeping on the subject of both Beethoven and Schubert, the exhumation of the corpses of the composers for reburial in 1888 at the Zentralfriedhof was but the second time the graves of the musical giants were disturbed. In October of 1863, whilst still interred at Wahring, both composers’ coffins were exhumed for ‘scientific’ purposes – chiefly, for the study of phrenology – in which both musician’s skulls were examined, their skeletons analyzed, coffins refurbished, and re-buried (this time adjacent one another), with the exception of Beethoven – who was re-buried sans cranium. (You can read more about Beethoven’s well traveled and heavily dissected skull here at Unraveling Musical Myths. Shockingly, ‘testing’ on the relic has continued through the ages - well into the 21st century!) In today’s entry of TRIVIA… however, we re-visit the heisted skull of Herr Joseph Haydn, infamously looted from his grave by the cover of night (and by bribing the gravedigger, who had recently been robbed of all of his earthly possessions by French soldiers – or by men hired to dress as French soldiers) by Haydn’s friend, one Joseph Carl Rosenbaum, certified accountant and music devotee, and Rosenbaum’s quack of a friend, the self-styled ‘phrenologist’ Johann Nepomuk Peter, governor of the lower Austria provincial prison.

Haydn's skull.
The sick pair were said to have performed a “test-run” on de-fleshing human skin, muscle and tissue from a fresh corpse (as the heist of Haydn’s skull was to be acted upon with impending haste due to the popularity of phrenology and prolific nature of ‘resurrectionists’ then making the rounds at local cemeteries. The more famous the subject, the greater the profit for the heartless looter). The diabolic duo "practiced" on recently deceased Viennese theatre actress Elizabeth Roose, who had succumbed to complications during the process of childbirth in 1808.

Rosenbaum, being a confidante of the composer Haydn, of course knew well ahead (ahem) of time compared to other potential looters as to when his friend became terminally ill, and feigned sympathy for his close mate whilst all the while concocting a devious plan to not only steal his compadre’s skull, but to later hold it as ransom from Haydn fan and former employer Nikolaus I, Prince Esterházy (“The Magnificent”) of Eisenstadt (whose family happened to be one of the most wealthy and influential families within the Austro-Hungarian empire).

To perform the "test run," Rosenbaum had to first secure the corpse of Roose, then proceed to decapitate her, and, finally, to soak her skull in a mixture of quicklime in order to eat away at the flesh. She would prove to be his first successful relic. With Haydn, however, it was different: perhaps succumbing to a soupçon of guilt for prizing his former close mate’s head, the friend-turned-foe set the skull down atop the table and proceeded to vomit at the very sight of the still life-like skull. Oddly, instead of doing the dirty deed himself, as he had de-fleshed Roose, Rosenbaum instead turned the cranium over to his personal physician (who he likely also bribed), who in turn sent it off to a Viennese Hospital for ‘cleaning.’ The chalky white skull, now unrecognizable as his one-time running mate, would be returned to the accountant Rosenbaum, who had already constructed an ornate black case for stowing the skull, adorned with golden lyre.


Most fans of Western classical music know Robert Schumann, and his wife Clara, as composers of the romantic era. Fewer may be aware that the married duo were habitual diarists. At the behest of Robert, the young Clara (née Wieck, born 9 years after her spouse) would take turns with her more famous husband, documenting the joys, triumphs and tragedies of their martial union, in an effort to consult the diary in times of romantic strife and to reflect on the couple’s growth through better or worse.

One salacious subject concerning the musical couple - that of a double life shared on the part of the groom - was seemingly ‘proven’ by music historians who, upon inspecting the documents, found substantial evidence that would seem to show, without refute, that Clara knew exactly what she was getting into when she vowed to love her husband for "better or worse”. 

Robert’s early entries in the diary include an unabashed, very explicit blow-by-blow (pun intended) of his very salacious carnal relationship with a woman named Christel (Schumann would later refer to her as "Charitas"), whom the composer met through none other than fiancée Clara Wieck’s father! (Christel is believed to have been a member of staff  - a maid - at the Wieck household). 

During the same period as his romantic escapade with “Charitas,” Robert makes frequent reference to his declining health, making note of symptoms which, according to scholars of both music and medicine, are notorious markers for early stage syphilis.

Robert Schumann, you naughty boy. Pictured here
alongside his wife, Clara.
In one entry in particular penned by Robert after May 1831, the composer references his “John Thomas” – a hardly inconspicuous moniker for his genitals – and the immensely painful, persistent wound upon it. It was a gift that would keep on giving, awarded the wounded composer by one ‘Christel,’ whom Schumann would later adorn with what he referred to as "a more beautiful and appropriate name" –  the aforementioned moniker “Charitas” –  which, interestingly, is Latin for “Charity” (alternatively spelled "Caritas" after the Greek "Agape," or the practice of self-sacrificing love.)

The true full name of this seductive siren of Schumann's self sacrifice, according to recent research, was actually Christiane Apitzsch, and she was more than just a former maid to the Wieck household; more than just a lover to the gifted genius that she may very well have wound up killing through the composer’s later attempts at mercury treatment for advanced stage syphilis – but quite possibly the mother of the adulterous composer’s illegitimate daughter, Ernestine, born January 5th 1837! Schumann is believed to have attempted to pay off Charitas for her silence, and is alleged to have never met his daughter.

Clara was also not the only member of the Wieck clan who knew of her future husband's improprieties - upon discovering Robert was wooing his daughter, Friedrich Wieck, head of the Wieck household, threatened to shoot Schumann on sight if he continued courting his daughter!

It seems Robert paid Clara's father no mind - in lieu of the father Wieck's "permission" for Robert to "take his daughters hand" (which seems to have been legally required at the time),
the betrothed sued Friedrich, winning a judgement on behalf of the court, which granted permission for the lovebirds to wed.
The couple married - warts and all - on September 12, 1840.


The “Führer’s” much ballyhooed obsession with Richard Wagner never fails to insert itself into any conversation that deigns to mention the 19th century German composer’s name. 

Whilst Wagner, infamously notable for penning an anti-Semitic diatribe, primarily aimed at Jewish composers Felix Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer entitled “Das Judenthum in der Musik” in 1850, was long dead by the time Hitler was even born and by the time the famous dictator made his love affair with the enigmatic composer known, somehow the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” (Die Walküre; Der Ring des Nibelungen, act III) has become synonymous with imagery of captured and enslaved Jews marching into various concentration camps – with those prisoners who were forced to 'serve' as musicians also forced to perform the epic battle cry. This belief continues to exist today in spite of the various survivors of the holocaust who have gone on record to deny the myth - citing the limited instruments available to the wrongfully imprisoned, and noting it “impossible” to perform music by the polarizing composer due to the very nature of his orchestration – grandiose in both size and sound.

Yet on the whole, (and thanks in part to a vast array of Hollywood films depicting WWII and the holocaust, which routinely link the music and composer with the camps, casual listeners and newfound opera fanatics continue to cling fast to this myth).

Richard Strauss rose high up in the
ranks during WWII. He would
serve the Reich as first President of
the Reichsmusikkammer and
shared an urge to promote German
Whilst it is true that Hitler did indeed admire Wagner and was indeed inspired by the composers’ undeniably anti-Semitic rants concerning “Jewishness” in music (and society in general) during Germany's failed Revolutionary period in the mid 19th century - an immensely trying time when such frustrations and vile epithets, unfair though they may have been - were commonplace amongst men of note across Europe, both during the composers lifetime - Chopin, Liszt and Mussorgsky are just a few names of composers that come to mind who have gone on record to make anti-Semitic remarks; Philosopher Karl Marx another - and even pre-existing Wagner in such influential characters as French writer and philosopher Voltaire and Prussian King and composer Frederick the Great), the former Reich Chancellor supported, and even adored/endorsed many other composers and conductors – those who actually lived in his time – some of whom, remained in and performed for Nazi Germany and it’s Governing officials during the war. 

Some of the musicians beloved by Hitler and who remained in Nazi Germany during the war even (reluctantly) held membership and/or bore titles for the regime: – conductors Herbert von Karajan (membership), and Wilhelm Furtwängler (“Staatsrat,” or State Councilor) were two giants of the industry who chose to remain. Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár’s music was so beloved by Hitler that the Führer himself lauded awards on the composer, the most prestigious of which was the Goethe-Medaille für Kunst und Wissenschaft, so honored Lehár in 1940. Lehár himself participated in the exchange of gifts with the dictator – in 1938, the composer honored Hitler with a red Morocco leather volume in commemoration of the 50th performance of his operetta, The Merry Widow. That is not to say Lehár had a place in Nazi Germany from the onset of the war.  Both Lehár and his wife Sophie (née Paschkis) were Roman Catholics – the caveat being that Sophie had previously identified herself as Jewish, converting only to wed Franz. Yet Hitler so loved Franz’ music, he had Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels step in, giving pass to the couple by ‘exalting’ the former "Jewess" to an status of "Ehrenarierin" (honorary Aryan by marriage) so that they could remain - and work - within the confines of the Third Reich. 

But Franz Lehár was far from the only composer on whom favors were bestowed by the Reich - Munich-born composer Richard Strauss, for instance, was beloved by the Führer and Goebbels – so much so, the 69 year old composer/conductor was promptly promoted to the status of President of the Reichsmusikkammer (making him the first to hold the position - forcibly nominated by Goebbels) on November 15th, 1933 with the shared aspiration for promoting German sounding, German made music.

Although Strauss himself claimed allegiance to the Jews, he was noted on several occasions to have been outright dismissive to their plight (once claiming: “I just sit here … and compose; everything else is irrelevant to me”), and would, on more than one occasion, display an indifference toward their unfathomable suffering.

Did Orff compose his arrangement of Carmina
Burana at the behest of the Third Reich - and was
it commissioned specifically as a propaganda piece
for Nazi Germany? It seems the jury is still out on
this one.
Another favorite of the Third Reich - and of Hitler in particular - was the famous composer Carl Orff, also of Munich. The name may not sound familiar to the novice listener – but rest assured, you know Orff, and you know him well. The much loathed dictator’s fascination with “Germanic” music certainly didn’t begin – nor did it end - with Richard Wagner. The Reich Chancellor famously adored WWII era composition/alleged propaganda piece “Carmina Burana” – Orff's famous 20th century adaptation of a bawdy medieval transcript containing poetry and music on such "salacious" subject matter as masculine virility, the golden elixir of youth and the spoils of crusade. 

Hitler was far from alone in his adulation for German composer Carl Orff’s masterpiece – Reich Minister of Propaganda Goebbels praised the music in his memoirs. Today, the scenic cantata’s opening movement in particular, “O Fortuna” is beloved the world over – even crossing over into mainstream (it was famously used as theme music for the reality television talent series “X Factor”). It was a huge hit in 1930’s and 40’s Germany: the Nazi’s frequently serenaded the ‘Fatherland’ with the blitzkrieg of a symphony. There even exists a rumor (unsubstantiated) that Orff, himself a German national – composed the cantata specifically for the Reich, allegedly at the behest of the Führer himself.

Conductor Riccardo Muti's groundbreaking recording of Orff's masterpiece, Carmina Burana. Discover, in this seperate video, the impact Muti's performance had on Orff himself, as recalled by the maestro.



What were they thinking?
Berlin’s Deutsche Oper made the mother of all gaffes back 2012, when officials unknowingly scheduled a performance of Wagner’s early opera Rienzi at the world renowned theatre – a work famously beloved by former Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler (the genocidal former dictator was known to have the work’s lush overture performed during many of his public rallies) – on the 123rd anniversary of the Führer’s birth (April 20th 1888)!


 21st century Germans – who by and large shoulder a large amount of shame for the nation’s scandalous history during the Second World War – were doubly outraged as the local press reminded citizens of the German Capital that the Deutsche Oper's copy of the score of Rienzi in particular – the original having been widely believed to have been found amongst Hitler’s personal possessions in the “Führerbunker” shortly after the former dictator and his recently wedded spouse, Eva Braun committed suicide - was selected for a performance at all. Wagner himelf despised the early work, and following his death in 1883 - even up to the 21st century, Rienzi has rarely appeared on stage - largely in part to the descendants of Wagner, who, to comply with the wishes of the widow Cosima Wagner, - who famously banned all performances of Richard’s most personally detested opera from the family built and owned Festspielhaus at Bayreuth following the composers’ death in 1883 (although the ban was finally lifted in 2013, nearly two centuries after Wagner's passing). By all accounts it seems other theatres chose to honor the families wishes as a measure of respect, and catered to staging the enigmatic composer's later works instead.

To make matters worse for those supporting the Deutsche Oper was the fact that Hitler, mass murderer and notorious anti-Semite, had been gifted the original manuscript of Rienzi as a fiftieth birthday present by Winifred Wagner - daughter in law to Richard Wagner - in 1939). It seems people are willing to forgive the fact Richard himself never knew the former dictator, but combined with the other painful reminders presented as a result of the Deutsche Oper's major mishap, a newfound wave of furore was cast upon the Opera House Director on behalf of outraged Germans and Jews. The mistake would prove to be a most embarrassing - and expensive gaffe for the country, and for the theatre itself.

When questioned by the press as to how such an insensitive slip-up could have happened in the first place, opera house director Christoph Seuferle took responsibility, claiming only that the scheduled production date of April 20th – Hitler’s 123rd birthday – was penciled in to coincide with celebrations marking the Deutshe Oper’s 100th birthday. In other words, a simple mix up.

The excuse failed to appease critics. The popular German newspaper “Die Welt” summed up the gaffe thusly:
"Hitler's opera staged in Goebbels' opera house during its anniversary year on the Fuhrer's birthday: bad idea."
Officials of the Deutche Oper couldn't have felt too bad though - as they say: "the show must go on:" Rienzi appeared one day later, on April 21st.


A man of all trades: Petrus Alamire: Composer, scribe, double
agent, merchant, music copyist, instrumentalist, diplomat, and
owner of his very own Scriptorium, mining engineer - and, most
notably, spy to King Henry VIII.
Anyone familiar with Tudor history will be versant with the often treacherous dynasty’s exceedingly duplicitous rise to the English throne during the so-called War of the Roses – an endlessly bloody battle for Kingship and unmeted power between the houses of Lancaster and York – a savage and grisly civil war that spanned some 30 years and which added scandal, duplicity, intrigue and espionage to it’s bloodstained repertoire.

In a time where men were made Kings on the battlefield and prestige won by assassination, the present ruler of the impoverished state could never quite sit comfortably upon the throne. With much of it’s citizens hoping to attain a more prosperous future, focus seemed to be primarily based not on the present ruler, but on his offspring. Commoner and nobility alike waged war upon each other, each with the hope (which often came to fruition) of eradicating entire noble family lines by wiping them and their descendants off the face of the planet in the most gruesome way possible.

Naturally, so-dubbed “Pretenders to the throne” would arise from the fray – those claiming royal blood/descent - and held fast as the greatest threat to the presently reigning ruler. Henry VII famously had “Perkin Warbeck”, who claimed to be one of the supposedly assassinated heirs to the English throne: Richard of Shrewsbury,
Compare Shrewsbury to "Perkin
Warbeck, below:

(Duke of York).
Shrewsbury, as young Richard would become known, was son of the presently ailing Yorkist King of England Edward IV. He, alongside his brother, also named Edward (who too, was a minor) have long believed to have been killed by their duplicitous uncle, the future King of England Richard, Duke of Glouster.  Shrewsbury, who would be considered second in line to the throne after the boys father passed - and assuming the heir apparent, Shrewsbury's brother Edward lived past his minority and bore no heirs of his own), would bear witness to the sorry state of 'Kingship' briefly held by his brother - who, after Edward IV passed, became King Edward V.  The new King's pitiful two-month, uncrowned reign as Ruler of England was spent holed up in the Tower of London alongside Shrewsbury by the hand Gloucester himself, who was anxiously trying to find any improprieties in the young royals' lineages that could declare the minor King Edward V and his potential heir (Shrewsbury) as illegitimates unworthy of the throne. 

It is often said "Uncle Richard" - soon to become King Richard III - who was then merely the Duke of Gloucester, used his advantage of being a direct relation to the boys recently deceased father - former King Edward IV - to whom he was a direct sibling. It certainly would have aroused no suspicion of any potential foul play or devious undertakings taking place behind the scenes - at least not to the outside world - since Gloucester made it publicly known that his ailing brother had entrusted the boys into his care following the latter's death, and to immediately isolate them into a safe place until such time as young Edvard V could be crowned.  

Little did the dying King know, the first order at hand for his brother Richard was to feign securing the boys in temporary safe lodgings, instead, opting to lock up his nephews in the Tower "in the interests their safety" (against possible assassins and usurpers to the throne, as this was a common practice during the era - especially where minor royalty were concerned - to prevent them from being "offed" by rivaling noble factions looking to seize the crown of England). So, whilst temporary placement in secure lodgings - even the Tower of London - made sense for any new Monarch before being declared and crowned Ruler, no one expected that come coronation day young Edward V, alongside his tiny brother Shrewsbury, would remain held under lock and key in the very Tower their father had entrusted Gloucester to use as a temporary protective shelter - nor did anyone expect the boys' duplicitous Uncle from outright denying them from attending Edward's own coronation. It seemed the Tower had become - and, as far as Uncle Richard was concerned -  had been all the while, intended as a prison for the boys. It is suggested the young royals were slowly poisoned over time, hoping to kill them off before their father's death even took place by ladies working for Gloucester, but this may be conjecture provided by the public and the Tudor propaganda machine. 

Nevertheless, the duplicitous Gloucester, thanks to the death of his brother, would now move up in rank as the coronation for young Edward V - who was automatically declared king following his father's death - drew near. Still, in the days leading up to the coronation/crowning of the new Ruler of England (which, alas, we have already learned, would never happen) common folk and noble alike  were still none were the wiser that anything was amiss, although rumors were beginning to swirl that the boys were no longer being seen playing in front of the tower under their uncle's watchful eye. It seemed they had just vanished into thin air. Gloucester, whilst still working on a plan to usurp the throne, earned the title of Lord Protectorate over the heir apparent, essentially governing over, and for the royal King during his minority. However, as we have learned through posterity, this "power" proved insufficient for the Protectorate. "Uncle Richard" had other plans of his own, and they included doing anything but protecting his nephews.

"Perkin Warbeck," allegedly Richard Shrewsbury. He
would later be hung by King Henry VII. He was
executed exactly 518 years ago today.
The newly-styled "Lord Protectorate" would uncover (through his duplicitous machinations behind the scenes) - whether truthful or merely by invention - an alleged betrothal to one Lady Eleanor Talbot by the boy’s father, which predated his marriage to their mother Elizabeth Woodville - thus declaring both boys illegitimate and ineligible for kingship, which, according to the English law of succession at the time,  required strong royal blood to inherit the throne.

Uncle Richard, (who had so thoughtfully holed the boys up in the infamous Tower of London), brother of the former King, for all of his lineage and 'discovery' was soon declared King Richard III. No one had seen the boys since - inside or outside of the Tower. Speculation over the disappearance of at least one of the young royals, that of Shrewsbury – and doubts as to his assassination (as he was only second in line to the throne after his brother - who was undoubtedly assassinated) persisted well after Lancastrian and future Tudor King Henry VII and his troops laid slain Richard III in August 1485 - a victory for the Tudors and the house of Lancaster – and a turning point in British history: Richard III’s slaying would mark the last time a King was crowned by victory in battle. Later known as the Battle of Bosworth Field, Henry Tudor – now King Henry VII - and his victory successfully led to the culmination of the Wars of the Roses

King Henry VII had only just been crowned when
"Perkin Warbeck" attempted to wage war for the crown
of England.
Fast forward to the year 1490, five years after the slaughter of Richard III, and during the first year of Henry VII’s reign, and, appearing like a ghostly apparition, “Perkin Warbeck,” who claimed to be Richard Shrewsbury (and who alleged to have been simply exiled rather than slaughtered like his brother) emerged, seemingly out of thin air - traveling across Europe, spreading his alleged right to the throne of England (whilst declaring Tudor King Henry VII a usurper). He gained an impressive following of supporters (many of them Kings themselves) / potential soldiers (who could violently protest the English crown for him, still fresh on Henry's head) along the way, including at the Court of Burgundy, and in Ireland (even in Scotland and England itself) before finally being captured by Henry's forces in 1497 and brought to the Tower of London for interrogation. 

Perkin was far from the first – nor the last – of the so-called “Pretenders to the Throne.” Despite the fact that Warbeck, who, to his credit, had many powerful supporters - including his own surviving sister (Elizabeth of York) who was by then married as Queen consort to Henry Tudor (in order to further cement the culmination of the War of the Roses once and for all by uniting the Yorkists with the Lancastrians) and who recognized birthmarks on "Warbeck's" body, henceforth claiming the man as her brother, "Warbeck" would nonetheless be executed by hanging on the orders of Henry VII at Tyburn on this 23rd evening of November in 1499.

Richard de la Pole, a Yorkist and the last of the clan's so-called "pretenders to the throne," would be closely monitored by the King’s son following his death – that most famous of Tudor Kings, Henry VIII. Pole made at least two foiled attempts at invading and “reclaiming” the English throne. He held substantial pedigree: unlike Warbeck, who claimed to be an heir to the throne and survivor of an alleged murder, Pole could in fact prove his royal ties (without dropping trou): his mother, the aforementioned Elizabeth of York, was sister former Kings of England Edward IV and Richard III.

Herein enters one Petrus Alamire: gifted composer, scribe (whose ornately illustrated choir books were highly prized by and sought after by the wealthy), manuscript merchant, and diplomat entrusted in delivering letters between such Humanists of the era as Erasmus.

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* Alamire's handmade gift to Henry VIII: the "Magnificent Manuscript."
The noted composer also added a skilled musician’s ability to his extensive curriculum vitae. It was this latter profession for which he was highly praised and doubly renowned, that Alamire gained access to the most powerful and influential Royal Courts across Europe. It would be upon the suggestion to the King by the latter’s most trusted ally – his advisor and the Cardinal Thomas Wolsey that Henry VIII employ the polymath as a spy entrusted to (peacefully) take down Pole.

According to an article by British News Agency BBC (which quotes a statement made by the Curator of Music Collections at the British Library, Dr. Nicolas Bell:

“Not only were musicians travelling between courts, they held the privilege of continuing to entertain their hosts long after other guests had retired. The musicians would have heard much more information than a lot of other courtiers. There weren't many statesmen who would be regularly in the king's court, at his entertainments after dinner, so they enjoyed a particular sort of intimacy that even senior civil servants wouldn't have had.”

Henry agreed, and, using Alamire’s musical skill as an incredibly bountiful coup, encouraged the musician to perform at the court of Richard de la Pole in an effort to obtain and relay information back to the English Court concerning any imminent threats or impending attacks. Although Pole would die before any of his ‘invasions’ gained any tread, it seems Alamire, man of all talents – had already turned rogue – after having bestowed upon Henry a gorgeous manuscript penned by the sometimes scribe at his very own scriptorium – expecting royal favors in return (and likely not receiving any), it seemed Alamire turned himself into a traitor – becoming a double agent, visiting Pole in France and providing him with information on Henry!

Son of Henry VII, the infamous King Henry VIII
Surprisingly, Alamire was not executed by the axe-happy King– luckily for Alamire, he had been abroad by the time Wolsey began to voice his suspicions to Henry. Alamire, for his own protection, and exceedingly wise, never returned to England. He died in 1525, in Pavia, Italy.

The musical gift (known as the “Magnificent Manuscript”) with which Alamire had attempted to bribe Henry has been preserved through the ages and currently resides at the British Library. It is today considered to be one of the Library’s finest treasures. The manuscript contains music by the leading composers of the era, including Josquin des Prez, Heinrich Isaac, Pierre de la Rue and several anonymous pieces.

As recently as 2014, the Alamire Choir (so named after the famed double agent) led by director David Skinner, recorded the compositions contained within the ‘Magnificent Manuscript.” The album soared to number two on the classical album charts, surprising even the choir themselves.

Listen to a sample from the album on the BBC website: (Dulcissima Virgo Maria, anonymous)  

Also enjoy below, starting at the 0:27 mark a rehearsal of Skinner's album, featuring clips from the disc, beginning with "Celeste Beneficium," composed by either Jean Moutnon or Antoine de Févin,  all
from Alamire's gorgeous manuscript for the King:


Just how primitive is "Modern" Psychology? The answer
is shockingly insane.
The ‘science’ of Psychology, is, itself, quite an enigmatic mystery. On one hand, it aims, and claims, to help assess, treat, and manage the mentally ill. On the other, it remains an infantile, ever-growing (slowly) science, marked not so much by cures but through management, trial and error, previous theory, and current school of thought - and a heck of a lot of ego and lack of empathy - or even sympathy from untrained physicians. Outside of cases of genetically induced retardation, of which much research and aid has seen rapid development over the years, various depressions and anxieties – and attempts at curing them continue to move at a snail’s pace, and, often, sufferers of such ailments find themselves in an inevitable vortex of hopelessness, oftentimes further marred by shame and frustration with it’s overpowering stigma.

Far from the days are we from the carnival-like spectacles of BEDLAM – when cures for ‘hysteria’ were relegated to humiliation and corporal punishment – torture devices such as the rapidly spinning iron chair over water and zoo-like environments where the ill were on display for paying wealthy customers to gawk at or find amusement with have slowly gone out of vogue, replaced through the years by electroshock therapy, medically induced sedation and frequent abuse in mental wards by overworked, inept nurses and analysts – whose tonic of choice is not so much talk therapy (which in itself is largely reliant upon a stagnant science and age old theorem) but rather chemical alteration and exposure.

When not being sedated into oblivious ‘bliss’ (further reducing one’s ability to function at a ‘healthy’ level’) through use of chemically altering drugs for the brain, today, one still retains the option of having some form of ‘talk therapy,’ should he or she be lucky enough to find a qualified analyst – one who can think outside of the box, or, better yet, one who shares some form of mental illness his or herself, bringing to the table an empathetic aspect to age old theory. But even then, we find the diagnoses of days past, and their various treatments still present today, adding an extra layer of stumbling blocks to an already inept field of medical care.

Fans of HBO’s comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and it’s creator, main character and recurring SNL phenom Larry David will remember one hilarious – and entirely adept – scene in which David’s character, seated across a Psychiatrist, sums up the entire profession as “Some[thing] between a real job and a hobby.” This certainly was the case for a famous, and famously troubled 19th century Austrian composer in Gustav Mahler and, an arguably more famous psychoanalyst in fellow Austrian Sigmund Freud, the so-called “Father of Modern Psychology.”

Herr Mahler
As we have learned here at Unraveling Musical Myths, Mahler’s life was one marred by much tragedy. He once famously remarked that he was

 “… thrice homeless, as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world. Everywhere an intruder, never welcomed.”

Like many composers of yore, Mahler grew up impoverished. He bore witness as a child to domestic violence within the family household (his father routinely beat his mother – Mahler himself often fleeing the residence to escape the blows his father had designated exclusively for him). He, and his siblings were frequently physically unwell – Gustav himself bore witness to the deaths of seven of his 14 siblings. A mere four years after his early stage debut, he wrote an opera for 12 year old little brother Ernst, who had perished in his very own arms. Mahler himself was “little” himself at this time – he was just but fourteen years of age when he bore witness to his baby brother's last breaths. 

Fast forward to adulthood and the loss of his daughter, Maria Anna to scarlet fever and diphtheria and add to that an unfaithful wife and a jealous nature that deprived her, an accomplished composer in her own right, from living her dream, and you had one rather depressed fellow.

The affair of Alma Mahler with architect Walter Gropius was a most particular sore subject for the often isolated composer. He had discovered his wife's impropriety shortly after the death of their daughter, who had lived but four short years, and a recent diagnosis by his doctor of heart disease, which inevitably led to his resignation as the director of the Vienna Court Opera.

Sigmund Freud
Sensing in impending nervous breakdown, Mahler sought out the most ballyhooed analyst of the day: Dr. Sigmund Freud. The famed pair met at the well established Dutch restaurant “The Gilded Turk” in the city of Leiden. The angst-ridden composer must have thought the session would be to his benefit: he opted to take the half-day’s train ride to meet with the then professor – some 591 miles away from home.

He might as well have remained in Vienna. Freud conducted the session outdoors, taking a weary and worn out Mahler on a by-foot ‘tour’ of sorts through the Leiden. What the two spoke about remains uncertain, however we can only surmise it would be not just one, but many of the tragedies suffered by the composer, then aged 50, throughout his life.

Mahler would later report the good doctor’s advice offered to the suffering composer. His method of treatment was, after all, easy enough to remember. No prescription pad or notes required here. Apparently, Sigmund Freud, Father of Modern Psychology, digested the composers' tales of woe and offered Gustav the following advice:
“Relax! Relax!”
Dejected, duped, and feeling dismissed, Gustav made the 591 mile trip home the next day. He would be dead before the end of the year.

Mahler's both reflective and foreboding decision to orchestrate Kindertotenlieder (on the Deaths of Children) may have brought the composer some relief, as he borrowed the text from the poet Friedrich Rückert who had recently lost two children to scarlet fever and diphtheria - illnesses that claimed many of Mahler's siblings as a young child. Alma Mahler, however, wife of Gustav, was enraged that the composer was testing fate by taking on the composition only two weeks after their daughter Maria-Anna was born. It seems Mahler may have regretted the composition as well - Maria Anna would die at the age of four of scarlet fever. Mahler later expressed having never wished to put the poetry to music, the couple fearing they had tested providence.



18th century Italian librettist Lorenzo da Ponte provided Mozart with what would arguably become the composer’s greatest and most exciting operatic story lines. Together, the dynamic duo created three of Wolfgang’s most popular and successful operas, which continue to dominate the operatic stage across the globe to this very day. Together, they collaborated on Le Nozze di Figaro in 1786, an Italian opera buffa in four acts that so thrilled the crowd at it’s Spring premiere, five numbers had to be encored – a trend that would continue following later performances of the work: 7 days later, a total of seven numbers were encored to appease the delightfully demanding audience. Fellow composer and mutual admirer Joseph Haydn was so enamored with the work, he attempted to produce the opera with his own company at the royal house of Nikolaus Esterházy (Eszterháza), prevented only from doing so by the latter’s untimely death. Haydn would later claim to hear the music of Figaro in his dreams!

The gifted pair collaborated one year later, with another Italian-language opera buffa in Don Giovanni. It would premiere on 29 October 1787 at the Estates Theatre in Prague, receiving overwhelming acclaim by both audience and critic alike. This claim is supported by surviving newsprints lauding both composer and performance, with one in particular, "The Prager Oberpostamtszeitung," noting:  
"Connoisseurs and musicians say that Prague has never heard the like," and "the opera … is extremely difficult to perform."
The opera's success continues to dominate the operatic stage to this day. Performance tracker Operabase clocked it in as the 9th most performed opera worldwide in 2016.

Finally, we have Così fan tutte in 1790, another Italian-language opera buffa, which was given a limited run following it premiere, halted only by the sudden death of the composer’s royal patron Emperor Joseph II and the resulting mandatory period of mourning imposed by the Court. Così… would re-emerge following the Second World War to much fanfare, and to date, much like Don Giovanni, remains one of the most frequently performed opera worldwide, with Operabase logging it in at 14th place for most staged operas.

But life wasn’t all roses and fanfare for Mozart’s most prized librettist. Born in March 1749, Lorenzo da Ponte led a life marked by scandal and various bouts of outright debauchery. In fact, the Venetian native’s personal life off stage was just as flamboyant as his frequently absurd depictions of the art of woo he would pen for Herr Mozart’s comic operas. Take for instance, da Ponte’s torrid affair with the (married) daughter of Laura Bellaudi, one of his wealthy patrons, who had taken him in to live with her, her son Carlo and Carlo’s beautiful wife, Angioletta. Ever the Casanova, it took no time at all for the handsome librettist to charm his way into Angioletta’s bed. It would not be Carlo who discovered the impropriety between the bad boy and his adulterous wife, but rather, Bellaudi herself, who happened upon Lorenzo standing at the threshold of the door to his sleeping quarters, buck naked, a wry smile across his lips… with his member in his hands. Across the hall, much to Mrs. Bellaudi’s horror, was her daughter in law, obligingly acting the part of voyeur to her lover’s X-rated peep show!

Mrs. Bellaudi had previously held suspicion about the pair, even going so far as to question Lorenzo as to his intent toward her son’s wife. Da Ponte, still a Priest at the time, responded with a well-acted display of vitriolic offense, loudly protesting that if he were truly wooing the married woman,
  “may God strike me with a thunderbolt while I’m celebrating Mass!”  
The righteous outburst was enough to keep Bellaudi at bay…until, that is, she stumbled upon this debauched moment of exhibitionism between the two adulterous lovers.

Lorenzo was immediately sent packing by his now former patroness. Da Ponte - rebel, artist, bad boy, Priest - happily obliged, by leaving the residence..with Angioletta in tow!

Soon word arrived via a fuming mother to her son that poor Carlo had not only been cheated on, but was returning home to an empty bed. But don’t feel to bad the jilted husband: a cuckold Carlo was not: he too, was having an affair behind Angioletta’s back! In fact, Carlo and da Ponte had an arrangement: the noted librettist could make a little extra cash on the side by delivering romantic written exchanges between Carlo and HIS mistress. The pair had kept the arrangement secret from Angioletta for some time – but what Carlo didn’t know was that not only was da Ponte delivering the correspondence to the married man’s mistress, he was also – ahem – delivering the “goods” to her as well! Staying true to his playboy nature, he was simultaneously bedding both Carlo’s wife and his mistress! Now, as he fled the home of Mrs. Bellaudi and Carlo with Carlo's wife in tow, he thought it a good idea to forge a letter to the cuckold's mistress, allegedly written by Carlo himself, promising his lover they would be together forever, because he was dead set on murdering his wife Angioletta – for in those days, it was better a married woman be declared dead, then be branded a whore who abandoned her family. What a thoughtful man Lorenzo had been.

Da Ponte and his wedded lover sought refuge not in inns nor through patronage, but rather in seedy brothels around town, paying for rooms by entertaining the demi-monde of Venetian society by playing a tune on his trusty violin – all whilst dressed in his Priestly garb! 

Angioletta was just as naughty as her lover; both would find carnal ‘entertainment’ with others, both inside and outside of the brothels. So many lovers were being introduced, that inevitably, the goddess of jealousy would suddenly appear to make a bold statement. And bold, she certainly was – Angioletta found herself the middle of a bloody knife fight with three other women, all of whom were lifting their skirts for da Ponte. Ever victorious in battle, she would find herself walking away from that scrap session unscathed, leaving the other mistresses licking their wounds as they crawled away, covered in blood.

It seemed the law in Venice at the time – which dealt with sexual impropriety though a chargeable offense they called “mala vita” (“Bad living”) was surprisingly lax. By no means were da Ponte and Angioletta the only whoremongers or gigolos in town – and such displays of lewdness were seemingly a part of daily living in the red light district. However, mala vita would soon catch up with Lorenzo, for in 1779 he was officially slapped with the charge and eventually banished from Venice itself for nearly two decades. In all likelihood, the rather tame ‘punishment’ and the timing of the arrest would seem to dictate that the charge against him, that being "mala vita", was merely one of convenience – because, well, he made it just so darn easy. Scholars of this period attribute the true reason for his ‘banishment’ to his libretti and poetry – which contained seditious verse and ‘outed’ various powerful dignitaries as whoremongers themselves.

FUN FACT: According to biographer William Mann, whilst working on Così fan Tutte with yet another of da Ponte’s many mistresses, soprano Adriana Ferrarese del Bene (who the composer had hired to sing the role of Fiordiligi), Mozart grew so perturbed with the demanding diva (it seemed many of da Ponte’s lovers had major character flaws), that the comical composer added a little subliminal, tongue-in-cheek private joke into her showpiece aria “Come Scoglio.” It is said the composer revealed to close confidantes that he intentionally filled the aria with stratospheric leaps from low to high notes in order to ‘take advantage’ of the diva’s unconscious need to drop her chin on the low notes and throw her head back on the high ones – telling friends he wanted to see her “head bobbing like a chicken” in front of esteemed audiences! CLUCK!

Come Scoglio by the sublime Gundula Janowitz, from Herr Mozart's Così fan Tutte
That concludes this installment of TRIVIA & HUMOR. Keep posted for TRIVIA XII, a continuation of this edition, featuring even more debauchery and delightfully drôle anecdotes from the wild side of Western Classical Music!

Thank you to all of my regular readers (and welcome to my new ones!) for your patience during my extended hiatus.

For more articles like these, feel free to peruse the TRIVIA ARCHIVES.



  1. Classical_Music_Fan24 November 2017 at 14:34

    What a great way to say "I'M BACK!" Another phenomenal post.

    The Wagner thing has always irked me to the bone. I'm glad your pointed out RIENZI the RALLIES, and you are correct on the Hollywood slant, who seem to know nothing about opera in general, always re-using the same arias and symphonies ad nausuem, and who dont know one Wagner opera from the next, much less know anything about the "orchestration" as you so candidly put it REQUIRED to play his work. It's disrespectful to the victims who say "no this wasn't so" yet ignore them by including the "Ride" in such horrible depictions...not to mention endlessly frustrating for Wagnerites/ Wagner fans who know better! And who forget the slew of conductors/composers who LEFT Nazi Germany as a matter of conscience, instead of focusing on the ones who remained (Karajan I'm talking to you) and who held NAZI MEMBERSHIP. To those same ignorant Hollywood bigwigs who think nothing and say nothing of the morals of these men. It is one thing to deny the Holocaust, another to stay and reap the rewards or the regime!

    Ich danke Ihnen für Ihr Verständnis! Ich bin ein echter Bewunderer Ihres Blogs!

    1. Guten Abend, Classical_Music Fan! Tausend Dank!

      Vielen Dank für Ihre Kommentare! Sind Sie Deutscher?

      Glad to "see" you here on my blog again as well! I had a brief break in my schedule to work on this full-length article and create the images, and I will try to do it more frequently. Vielen Dank für Ihre Geduld! ...und danke for your comments as well.

      It's difficult to say what we would have done in some of the above mentioned musician's places, as they say hindsight is always 20/20: Take Strauss, for example: he honestly believed his connections to the Reich and his compliancy would save his family (which ultimately turned out to be a lie when the Nazis turned out slaughtering them instead). But as for others, à la Herr Karajan, who sought greater advancement in position and exploitation of "Germanic music" in spite of the rising atmosphere of Anti-Semitism that surrounded him; and who held Nazi Membership to accomplish his goals - understanding becomes somewhat murkier. Compare Karajan, who stayed, and performed - to Erich (father of the irreplaceable Carlos) Kleiber - revered in his own right, who, unlike Karajan and Furtwängler, got the heck out of dodge as early as 1934, noticing the hatred surrounding him and Germany, and envisioning it not as a fly-by-the-night unseeming blip in Germany's struggle to power (as believed by Furtwängler, who thought Hitler to be(come) a short-lived, passing fancy, and therefore opted to stay).

      Kleiber, himself an Austrian national (as was Hitler, for the record), was thoroughly disgusted with the regime's newly formed 'degenerate music' blacklist which forbade music by Jewish composers - or even music by non-Jewish composers who fraternized with Jews. This was the case for Kleiber, who was slated, and then banned, from performing Berg's (not a Jew) Lulu, due to the latters' friendship with Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg. Kleiber promptly resigned from the Berlin State Opera in disgust and fled Germany to travel across Europe and the Untied States, finally settling briefly in Rome. When Mussolini himself jumped aboard the Anti-Semitism Hate Ship, declaring Jews exempt from entering La Scala, once again, Kleiber, with family in tow, repudiated his contract and promptly fled Italy. He would settle in Argentina, taking up citizenship there, and renaming his son, Karlos, which was henceforth to be spelled with a "C" - anything to escape association with the current state of Germany and Nazi ideals.

      What flummoxes me, is that although some composers and conductors stayed - granted, some with little choice (although we can debate even this statement endlessly) - is that Voltaire and Frederick the Great, even up until the 21st century, were taught to children in schools as great heroes, with nary a mention of their Anti-Semitic beliefs/actions. Yet Wagner - and it seems only Wagner - has been typecast as the outsider who helped influence the war altogether.

      In fact, it would be the music of Anton Bruckner - another favorite of Hitler and Goebbels - that would be played at the "funeral" of the Fuhrer.

      This "hate by association" trend is one of ignorant complexity. What of these other, often vocal, men? Why do we hear nothing of them?

      Tschüss! Schönes Wochenende!

    2. Classical_Music_Fan24 November 2017 at 21:54

      Ja, ich komme aus Deutschland ... und du? Wo kommen Sie her? Dein Deutsch ist sehr gut!

    3. Nein, ich komme aus Kanada.

      Danke für Ihre Komplimente über die Verwendung der deutschen Sprache, es ist eine so schöne Sprache!

      Ich habe kürzlich durch DNA-Analyse herausgefunden, dass ich eine sehr starke Familienlinie in Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz und Frankreich habe. Während ich diese Sprachen nicht fließend spreche, kann ich verstehen, was in diesen Sprachen geschrieben, gesprochen oder gesungen wird.

      Danke schön und bis später!


    4. Classical_Music_Fan24 November 2017 at 22:08

      Oh mein Gott, du bist die PERFEKTE FRAU!

    5. Oh MEIN Gott!! Ich werde rot! Vielen Dank! (Obwohl ich in meinem Alter immer noch lieber "Fräulein" genannt werde) ;)

  2. YEESSSS!! You're back! We have been waiting for this post forever!
    (It was worth the wait, BTW). Do you have any more info on those who chose to leave? I dont know, if you ask me, under any circumstances, I would have left. The bottom line is everyone who stayed - even Strauss - earned a handsome paycheck. That just seems wrong!
    Anxiously awaiting your next post, great to see you back!

  3. Post not coming through?

    1. Hello, I am assuming both posts are from the same author (re: "Anonymous")?

      Your posts did come though, sometimes there is a delay because they first get fed through a spam filter, and then must be approved for posting. I apologize for the delay. You are certainly not alone in your thoughts regarding these musicians. Many people continue to find themselves perplexed by their actions/lack of actions. All one can really say is "What would I have done if in his shoes?" and try to imagine the war surrounding them, and their loved ones. (Some are easier than others to 'forgive'; if one feels he or she has must in order to enjoy them), but also try to understand not only WWII but also WWI Germany - what was the atmosphere then? Anti-Semitism certainly didn't begin with the onset of the second world war. Nor did outspoken Anti-Semites who thrived in Germany. The real question is why focus on just one man in Wagner? Hitler had many favorites, who as we have seen, obtained great stature during the war and by remaining in and performing for Nazi Germany.

      But what of the philosopher Voltaire, and Frederick the Great, also a composer, who penned numerous Anti-Semitic diatribes, yet whose actions remain un-notable to the point of nary a mention at all?

      I say, enjoy whomever you enjoy, remember that we live in a very different time, and under very different circumstances, than did these men. Research, try to understand what you must - but do not listen in guilt or with a begrudging heart, listen for the love of great music!

      As per your question about those musicians who fled - that topic will be covered in the near future under a new category I am calling "War Stories." Subscribe to my feed or keep posted to see when it goes live!

      Thank you for your comment,


  4. " enjoy whomever you enjoy... Do not listen in guilt or with a begrudging heart, listen for the love of great music!"

    I LOVE that! May I quote you? How succinct, how true! Yes, both posts were by me (sorry I was so excited to see another TRIVIA post I completely forgot about the approval process! Take it as a compliment :)

    I am already subscribed to your feed but check back everyday anyway, and I must say I am glad I did today. Another fantastic and informative post. You now have a new fan in my husband (he plays trombone). I showed him your blog and he loves it! I had to peel him away for our dinner date! LOL

    I look forward to War Stories!

    I'm Theresa by the way.

    1. Well, then, hello Theresa and Theresa's innamorato!

      Sorry your reply is not linked to me directly, I noticed a typo, and, being the perfectionist (ahem -neurotic-) that I am, I attempted to edit it, which blogger doesn't allow without deleting the original post entirely! Unfortunately, it only saved half of what I wrote in response to you, so I had to try to the best of my memory to complete the reply. It's not quite exact, I'm sure, but I hope it does the job!


    2. Hah! No need to apologize, Rose! I too, am a perfectionist (neurotic) when it comes to writing. You almost nailed the re-write..impressive skill!

      Here was your reply before the delete:


      I am assuming both posts are from the same author (re: "Anonymous")?

      Your posts did come though, sometimes there is a delay because they first get fed through a spam filter, and then must be approved for posting. I apologize for the delay.

      You are certainly not alone in your thoughts regarding these musicians. Many people continue to find themselves perplexed by their actions/lack of actions.

      All one can really say is "What would I have done if in his shoes?" and try to imagine the war surrounding them, and their loved ones. (Some are easier than others to 'forgive' if one feels he or she has must in order to enjoy them), but also try to understand not only WWII but also WWI Germany - what was the atmosphere then? Anti-Semitism certainly didn't begin with the onset of the second world war. Nor did outspoken Anti-Semites who thrived in Germany. The real question is why focus on just one man in Wagner? Hitler had many favorites, who as we have seen, obtained great stature during the Third Reich; and the likes of philosopher Voltaire and leader/composer Frederick the great who penned many an Anti-Semitic diatribe - whose actions seem to be excusable to the point of nary a mention. They remain "influential" and "heroic" to many the world over.

      I say, enjoy whomever you enjoy, and understand, these men lived in a very different time and very different atmosphere than we currently live in. Do not listen in guilt or with a begrudging heart, listen for the love of great music!

      As per your question of those who remained, I will have an article coming in the near future under a new segment called "War Stories." Keep posted or subscribe to my feed for updates!

      Thank you for your comment,


      See? Almost exact! Thanks for going through the added effort of re-writing your reply. It shows a gratefulness to your fans!

      XX Theresa

  5. Saw this on my feed, and I'm glad I did! I have to agree with the posters above: you were "gone" far too long! We've missed you! But what a fun article to return with. Who knew Schumann was such a louse?! I wonder if he secretly wrote his etudes with her in mind? Think of the scandal! Clara herself performed them for him!
    Welome back!

    1. Tomas,

      I have often wondered this myself. The Études are linked by many scholars to an inherent loathing (or possibly longing) on behalf of Schumann for a previous lover/fiancee named Ernestine von Fricken, who was the ward of Baron von Fricken - he who provided the original theme for the variations. This is more likely the case, as, if we recall, Schuamann (allegedly) had a daughter out of wedlock with Charitas, whom Robert himself christened Ernestine.

      But with so many love interests in the mix, and incurable STD and at least one illegitimate child, it is difficult to say exactly who - if anyone - influenced the Études. That being said (or, written), the supposition you posed is one that often crosses my mind when listening to the music.

      Thank you for your continued readership and for your kind comments,