This month on Clef Notes we’ve been looking at love and classical music. Today, let’s look at a famous composer who has a very famous love story: Richard Wagner. Over the course of his life, Wagner had multiple mistresses and even a first wife, but it was Cosima von Bulow who seemed to be the one for whom his soul truly desired. When they married in 1870, they remained together until his death in 1883.
But just who is Cosima von Bulow? Cosima was the daughter of Franz Liszt, the second of three children born by his mistress, Countess Marie d’Agoult. During their late teenage years, Cosima and her sister were put in the care of one of Liszt’s friends, the mother of a former pupil and rising musician, Hans von Bulow. Hans was a pianist and conductor and a champion for the music of both Liszt and Wagner. Not long after their meeting, Hans decided to request Cosima’s hand in marriage. The young girl was ecstatic to have someone love her after growing up with feelings of abandonment by her own parents. Hans, perhaps, was intrigued by the idea of building his association with Liszt. After their marriage, it is interesting to note that one of the first things young Hans did was take his new bride to visit his dear friend and colleague, Richard Wagner.
|Courtesy of wikimedia.org|
After years of an unhappy marriage and frequent meetings with Wagner as a family friend, the daughter of Liszt and the legendary composer realized their love for one another. Their union did not come easy, however. Hans was understandably not thrilled with the love affair between his wife and friend and refused to agree to divorce. It wasn’t until Cosima bore three of Wagner’s children that Hans finally agreed and Cosima was united to Wagner in marriage in 1870. Did you know that Wagner and Cosima’s three children were named Isolde, Eva, and Siegfried—all three names from Wagner’s operas?
Following the marriage, Wagner wrote his famous Siegfried Idyll for Cosima on her birthday. You can listen to this work below: