Documentary · Music
History's most cherished classical composers were, in fact, the original bad boys of music, whose lives were filled with sex, drugs and even murder.
S01:E01 - Joseph Haydn: Haydn Go Seek
Professor Robert Greenberg uncovers the mystery of how classical music composer Franz Joseph Haydn lost his head and didn’t get a funeral until more than a hundred years after his death. Haydn died shortly after midnight on May 31, 1809, and was initially buried on June 15. Vienna's new French leadership forbade any large gatherings, so Haydn couldn't receive the big funeral celebration that he had written he wanted in his will. Find out how he finally received his wish, 145 years after his death.
S01:E02 - Peter Tchaikovsky: Fear and Loathing in St. Petersburg
Russian classical music composer Peter Tchaikovsky was gay and lived a double life, as Prof. Robert Greenberg examines in this episode. A complex and troubled man, Tchaikovsky was so overly sensitive that he would weep at the slightest hint of criticism or conflict. He suffered from depression, and self medicated with massive doses of nicotine and alcohol. To deflect any rumor surrounding his sexuality, Tchaikovsky got married at age 37, but immediately became miserable as a husband. His seeming death from cholera is uncovered to be a farce, and the truth is revealed to be something much more scandalous.
S01:E03 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: How Did Mozart Really Die?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was rumored to have written his own requiem, as catalogued in 1984’s Amadeus, but Professor Robert Greenberg tells us the real story. It's been theorized that Antonio Salieri killed Mozart, with Salieri even claiming himself that he had poisoned him. However, Salieri was recovering from his own attempted suicide when he made his confession, and there is virtually no reliable evidence that Salieri actually killed Mozart. The truth is, Mozart was not poisoned at all, and over one hundred separate diagnoses have been proposed to explain his death.
S01:E04 - Ludwig Van Beethoven: Beethoven's Death Wish
Ludwig van Beethoven was going deaf, but more than his hearing was at stake, as Professor Robert Greenberg uncovers in this episode. From an early age, his father exploited him and his talents for monetary gain, leaving a young Beethoven physically and psychologically abused. Beethoven came to hate his father and, by extension, authority figures of every kind. Impatient and rude on his good days, and a full-tilt paranoid on his bad days, Beethoven was an emotional mess. In October 1802, the 31 year old Beethoven seriously considered committing suicide after withdrawing from the world due to his increasing deafness.
S01:E05 - Carlo Gesualdo: Murderer at Large
Italian composer Carlo Gesualdo was one of the most innovative composers of the 16th century. As Professor Robert Greenberg tells us, he was also a serial murderer with a penchant for sexual extravagance, spousal abuse, and sadomasochism. Carlo's first victim was his own brother, Luigi, who was first in line to inherit all of his family's lands and vast fortune before he mysteriously died in 1584. Gesualdo didn't admit to his brother's murder until his own death, 29 years later. When Carlos finally discovered that his wife had been having an affair for two years without his knowing, he stabbed her lover, Fabrizio Carafa, 27 times.
S01:E06 - Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach the Jailbird
In late 1717, Johann Sebastian Bach spent nearly a month in jail, courtesy of his boss, Prince Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar. In 1708, Bach was hired as court organist for the city of Weimar. Six years later, Bach was appointed to concertmeister, the director of music at court, but did not like being subordinate to a kapellmeister that he didn't particularly respect. After speaking his mind to Prince Wilhelm and trying to resign from his position at court, the prince had Bach tossed in jail on November 6, 1717 for losing his temper.
S01:E07 - Jean-Baptiste Lully: The Gnarly Demise of a Nasty Man
Lully was the first important composer of French-language opera, and was a close friend and confidant to King Louis XIV of France. Yet for all of his fame and power, Lully is almost entirely unknown today. In 1672, the 39 year old Lully was granted a royal monopoly for the composition and performance of all opera in France, a monopoly he used to crush his competition. On January 8, 1687, Lully was conducting a song of praise in honor of the king. In a moment of poor aim, Lully decimated his toe with a five foot-long conducting staff. He refused treatment for the gangrene that developed on his foot, letting it spread and leading to his death on March 22, 1687.
S01:E08 - Franz Schubert: One Too Many Nights Out
Schubert's friends agreed that he was of two natures. On one hand, he was shy, quiet, and studious. On the other hand, especially after a few drinks, he could unhinge, which amplified when he contracted syphilis in 1822 while on a pleasure jaunt with his drinking buddy, Franz Von Schober. Depression and despair accompanied the physical symptoms of the disease, leaving Schubert despondent. However, the music that he wrote during the last four years of his short life has a depth of feeling and expressive nuance that he might not have otherwise found without falling ill.
S01:E09 - Giuseppe Verdi: The Conspiracy to Get Him Back to Work
Professor Robert Greenberg tells the story of how the greatest composer of Italian-language opera was forced out of retirement by his wife. In the 14 years between 1839 and 1853, Giuseppe Verdi composed 19 operas. According to Verdi, he grew tired of composing, and was already thinking of retiring at age 32. As it turned out, retirement would wait another 26 years, when, after the premiere of Aida, he announced that he had written his last opera. Verdi's wife, Giuseppina, hatched a plot in 1879 with intent to get him back to work. Eight years later, Verdi's comeback premiere became one of the greatest triumphs in the history of opera.
S01:E10 - Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann: Did They or Didn't They
One of the greatest mysteries in music history is the relationship between Brahms and Clara Schumann. At age 12, Brahms was sent to play piano in Hamburg's brothels, warping his attitude toward women forever. He had but one great love of his life, a woman 14 years his senior and wife of his mentor Robert Schumann. In May of 1853, Brahms went on a musical tour of Germany, leading him to meet the great composer Robert Schumann. In early 1854, Robert Schumann attempted suicide and was committed to an asylum, so Brahms rushed to Düsseldorf and pledged to stay with the distraught Clara Schumann until Robert's recovery.
S01:E11 - Sergei Rachmaninoff: Reborn Through Hypnosis
As a child, Sergei Rachmaninoff was a ridiculous prodigy with an unbelievable knack for sight-reading and memorization. In September of 1895, the then 22 year old Rachmaninoff completed his Symphony 1, and it premiered disastrously in St. Petersburg on March 27, 1897. Suffering from extreme depression, Rachmaninoff visited a doctor named Nikolai Dahl in January of 1900, and, from then until April of that year, was hypnotized every day to miraculous effect. He premiered his Piano Concerto 2 in November of 1901, which went on to become one of Rachmaninoff's greatest hits of his career.
S01:E12 - Hector Berlioz: Dressed to Kill
Composer Hector Berlioz fell in love with Camille Moke in 1830, and within a month the couple decided to marry. Camille's mother told Berlioz that if he wanted to marry her daughter, he would have to win a Prix de Rome and get an opera accepted for performance in Paris. On August 19, 1830, Berlioz was awarded the Prix de Rome, but was forced to complete a residency in Rome, away from Camille. After arriving in Rome, Berlioz received a letter from Camille's mother saying that she was engaged to marry another man. Overcome with anger, Berlioz traveled to France with a women's maid disguise and plans to kill Camille, her mother, and himself.
S01:E13 - Richard Wagner: What Ever Happened to Wagner's Manuscripts
Wagner immortalized his hateful views in his operas, which were in turn inherited by Hitler and the Nazis in the 20th century. In 1865, Wagner gave Ludwig II of Bavaria the original manuscripts for some of his great operas. On April 18, 1939, the manuscripts were purchased from Ludwig's heirs by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Two days later, the manuscripts were gifted to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday. With the war coming to a bad end for Germany, Hitler eventually had the manuscripts moved into his bunker underneath his chancellory. After Hitler's death, his lackeys destroyed everything that they could find in the bunker.
S01:E14 - Louis Moreau Gottschalk: High Times in Oakland, California
During his brief lifetime, Louis Moreau Gottschalk was considered to be the greatest pianist and composer ever born in the Western Hemisphere. He often parlayed his high end celebrity into intimacy with his female fans, many of whom were schoolgirls. On April 22, 1865, Gottschalk arrived in San Francisco for what was supposed to be a five month California tour. After likely sleeping with girls from an Oakland boarding school in the summer of 1865, Gottschalk was forced to flee the United States in order to escape scrutiny and humiliation by the public.
S01:E15 - Johannes Brahms: Brahms, the Ladies, and the Trick Rocking Chair
From ages 12 to 14, Johannes Brahms played piano at the brothels in Hamburg, a very formative experience that affected his attitude toward women for the rest of his life. Dealing with this childhood trauma, Brahms fled from intimacy with women and tended to only sleep with prostitutes. A trick rocking chair in his apartment was reserved, almost exclusively, for unsuspecting women. He would offer a seat in the chair to his guests, which would send them either flopping forward or flying backward, eliciting uproarious laughter from Brahms.
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