Think classical music is dull? Meet the filthy horndog composers of yore

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And you thought "Air on a G String" was rude.


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The Proms have just started, but if you're anything like us, you'll be struggling to feel totally enthused about the whole thing. Put it this way - if we don't see someone waving a big flag and singing Rule Britannia within the first five minutes, we're switching over to EastEnders.

But classical music needn't be boring. Like everything, it all gets more interesting once you add sex to the equation. And it turns out that those composers were a pretty sexy bunch...

The bit-of-rough from Bonn

Poor old Beet. He didn't do well with women - largely because he fell for ladies who were well out of his league, socially speaking. In 1775, Beethoven told a young singer he had fallen in love with her. She rejected him for two reasons: "He is ugly and he is half mad." Ouch.

Beethoven was also friend-zoned by the Hungarian aristocrat Josephine von Brunsvik who told him she wasn't prepared to enter into a sexual relationship with the composer. Later, at age 39, Beethoven was intent on asking his casual gf to marry him, but his clumsy behaviour succeeded in offending her entire family, and he was barred from the house. Sigh.


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Liszt, the Harry Styles of his day

The Hungarian Bieber

There's no other way to say it - Liszt put it about a bit. As a celebrated composer, he had his own dedicated groupies and a string of high-profile affairs with courtesans, actresses, a countess and even a princess. In fact, the term 'Lisztomania' was coined to describe the symptoms of hysteria he inspired in the ladies (think One Direction fans x 100).

Liszt was described as "tall and extremely thin" with a pale face and "large sea-green eyes [that] shone like a wave when the sunlight catches it" - which sounds suspiciously like Steven Merchant to us. Still, all the adoration seemed to do something funny to Liszt in the end, as he took holy orders at age 54 and renounced his former hedonistic ways. Harry Styles, take note.

The Italian stallion

"On the day when I am no longer in love," Puccini quipped, "you can hold my funeral." The Italian composer's operas are full of strong female characters, and his personal life was just as dramatic, with affairs all over the place.

In a scene that could have come from the stage, in 1909 Mr and Mrs Puccini's young housemaid swallowed rat poison and died after she was accused of an affair with the Italian composer. However, an autopsy proved she was a virgin, and Madame Puccini was sentenced to five months in jail for slander. (Spoiler alert: Puccini bailed her out with a payoff to the housemaid's family. So that's alright then.)

A horndog to the end, when the elderly composer's libido was waning, he wrote to a former lover that he was contemplating monkey-gland to restore his sex drive. Maybe that's how Hugh Hefner does it.


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Wagner, you old dog you.

The German cross dresser

It seems that Wagner had a rather effeminate sense of eroticism. He found his creativity was best stimulated when he was surrounded with pink satins and rose-scented cushions.

Wagner also liked to cross dress. He had to wear silk next to his skin, ostensibly because he suffered from a painful skin condition called erypsipelas. However, one of his biographers recalled that Wagner had once appeared dressed in a lady's jacket and he was known to have ordered ladies clothes in large sizes from local tailors.

Scholars have speculated that Wagner's need for femininity and voluptuousness was not entirely met by his rather mannish and organised wife Cosima. Which seems a tad harsh of them - mannish women have feelings too, guys.


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Debussy. A hottie with a body.

The ladykiller from across the channel

Debussy's biographer said: "Women of all ages seemed fascinated by him, and they attached themselves to him like ivy to a wall." And despite looking like a bearded baby, the sex appeal of the French composer drove two women to attempted suicide.

First there was Gaby Dupont, who had had a nine year relationship with Debussy and threatened to end it all when she discovered a love letter in his pocket. Then fast forward to 1904, where his wife Lilt discovered him on holiday with a mistress and shot herself in the chest at the Place de la Concorde. Miraculously she survived, with the bullet remaining lodged in a vertebra under her left breast for the rest of her life. That must have been annoying.

The Austrian pleasure seeker

Theories abound that Schubert was gay, with a voracious sexual appetite, and that he may have contracted the syphilis that killed him from a male prostitute.

Whatever the case, there was definitely a hedonistic side to the composer. A contemporary of his wrote that the Schubert "honoured women and wine", while one of his friends described "how powerfully the craving for pleasure dragged his soul down to the slough of moral degradation". Sounds like a pretty standard Friday evening.



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