Certain composers have been lucky in love; others, not so much. Franz Joseph Haydn complained that his wife used his manuscripts to curl her hair. Telemann's second wife apparently had a gambling problem and ran up huge debts. But what happens when you have two huge talents in a marriage or long-term relationship? Here are a few stories about classical power couples.
Clara and Robert Schumann
Besides being a virtuoso pianist, composer, and the mother of eight children, Clara Schumann was a tireless advocate for her husband's music. But sometimes she managed to outshine him. The couple got married in 1840. 1841 saw the first performance of Robert's Symphony No. 4, in a concert which also featured a work for two pianos by Liszt, with Clara performing alongside the composer. Liszt and Clara stole the show, while the audience response to Robert's symphony was tepid at best. The clincher? Robert intended the symphony to be a musical portrait of Clara. Awkward! He had better luck after revising the symphony ten years later.
Paule Maurice and Pierre Lantier
I had not heard of composer Paule Maurice before I played her best known piece, Tableaux de Provence on KMFA! The first performance of this work for saxophone and orchestra took place in 1958 under the direction of her husband and fellow composer Mr. Lantier. Besides being an active composer, Ms. Maurice was professor of sight-reading and harmonic analysis at l'Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. She and her husband also co-authored an important treatise on harmony. They appear to have had a mutual interest in the saxophone, since Mr. Lantier's best known work is Sicilienne for alto saxophone and piano.
Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti
The two composers met as students at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. They became partners in life and in music, settling in a house in upstate New York called Capricorn (named after a concerto by Barber), where each composer had his own workspace. They didn't collaborate frequently, but Menotti did write the libretto for Barber's opera Vanessa. Barber became reclusive and suffered from alcoholism after enduring harsh criticism of his later works. Menotti moved to Scotland in 1973, and the break-up may have hastened Barber's decline. But when Barber died in 1981, Menotti was by his side.
Luna Pearl Woolf and Matt Haimovitz
Composer Luna Pearl Woolf and cellist Matt Haimovitz are frequent collaborators, cofounders of Oxingale Records, and married! One of their high-profile projects was Woolf's composition Après Moi, le Déluge, scored for a cappella choir and solo cello, which had its premier at Carnegie Hall in 2012. This work was the first classical piece to commemorate the flooding in New Orleans. Ms. Woolf has also collaborated with artists such as Frederica von Stade and Christopher O'Riley. As a soloist Mr. Haimovitz has performed with top orchestras and conductors, and earned praise for his initiatives to make classical music accessible to wider audiences.
Ton Koopman and Tini Mathot:
The love of early music is one of the forces behind the marriage and artistic partnership of Tini Mathot and Ton Koopman. Both are historic keyboard specialists, and they've often performed pieces for two harpsichords together, including at the Boston Early Music Festival in 2016. As a conductor and soloist, Mr. Koopman has dozens of recording credits, and Ms. Mathot has produced many of them.
As a performer, Ms. Mathot was awarded France's prestigious Diapason d'Or for her recording of Haydn's Trios along with Andrew Manze and Jaap ter Linden.