This blog post is different from my usual marketing posts. This post features trends that I have personally noticed in my dating life as a pianist, and how it relates to great pianists of the past.
Even though a pianist is capable of super-human like powers, such as hypnotizing their audience into feeling whatever emotion they wish to convey through the piano, there is only so much we can do away from the piano.
Even Beethoven,Brahms, Chopin, and Liszt, musical geniuses whose music is used even today to swoon lovers and captivate audiences, failed to find a life partner.
Perhaps every pianist goes through similar difficulties such as mine and can relate to the challenges being presented.
Have fun reading!
Table of Contents
Loser Van Beethoven
How can a man who writes beautiful music that is played even in modern wedding ceremonies (such as the 2nd movement of the Pathetique piano sonata) end up never being married?
Let’s take a quick look at some of Beethoven’s lovers and see the reasons why his relationships didn’t work out!
Love: Eleonore von Breuning. The Piano Sonata in C WoO 51 was one work that was dedicated to her. She was the sister of his bro, Stephan von Breuning.
Problem: According to one of Beethoven’s letters, it seemed that they had a quarrel of some sort and lost their friendship. She married Franz Wegeler in 1802.
Love: Magdalena Willman. She was a soprano.
Problem: Said Beethoven was “too ugly and half crazy”. She probably only used him to advance her own career.
Love: Therese Malfatti. She was the dedicatee of the famous Fur Elise.
Problem: Beethoven planned to proposed to her, but failed. According to one source, Beethoven planned to perform Fur Elise to her and propose, but got drunk and did not do it. She married Wilhelm von Droßdik, a Hungarian Count instead.
Love: Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. A pupil of Beethoven’s and the dedicatee of the Moonlight Sonata.
Problem: Social class. Married a count instead.
There are many other reported lovers of Beethoven, but this should suffice for understanding about Beethoven’s issues.
And let’s not forget about Beethoven’s physical appearance. According to many reports, Beethoven was short, had bushy eyebrows, lots of small pox scars, not orderly, and dressed badly. One time Beethoven was arrested by the police being confused for a homeless person. While the pictures and sculpture that we have today convey a certain image of Beethoven, we should not forget what sort of image he actually portrayed to the people in front of him.
The majority of Beethoven’s lovers were students of his. They were usually of high social class. Beethoven, being a musician who was quite clumsy with his money, was of a lower social class, which may have led to the demise of many of his relationships. With Magdalena Willman, Beethoven may have had a chance at happiness since they were both musicians, but she was simply not attracted to the poor guy.
With the information above, it can be hypothesized that Beethoven failed at finding a significant other for two reason: he was ugly and was of a low social class.
Johannes Alone Brahms
I have mad respect for this man. Johannes Brahms, the man who willfully stayed in Clara Schumann’s friend zone and took the phrase “bros before hoes” to the next level, ultimately died alone as well.
Did Brahms suffer from the same issues as Beethoven? Was Brahms ugly? Let’s take a look.
Dayum! This man is beautiful! If Disney ever needed an actor for Prince Charming in the 19th century, they would most definitely choose a young Johannes Brahms. Brahms had no problems at attracting the ladies, and was known for having quite a few romantic attractions. But why is it that he never got married?
It’s all her fault! Clara Schumann
Robert Schumann, a fellow composer and friend of Brahms, became sick, and, being a good bro, Brahms helped Robert Schumann’s wife with household chores and communicating with Robert. Brahms quickly fell in love with Robert’s wife, Clara Schumann, and developed a strong friendship with her.
After Robert’s death, Brahms and Clara remained good friends. She became a supporting figure for Brahms, encouraging him to compose and giving him feedback to his music.
It is unknown if Brahms made a move on Clara, but I choose to believe that he remained a true gentleman and never made an advance on her since she was the widow of his dear friend.
I believe that because Brahms was deeply in love with Clara Schumann, he could not quite find himself to love another woman as deeply as he loved her. It may be because of this reason that he never married.
If I could make a dollar for each time I used Chopin’s music to swoon a woman, I’d have enough money to buy a Bosendorfer grand piano (I’m grossly over- exaggerating of course.)
There are two lovers of Chopin that was can study briefly that will give us an understanding of why this romantic man never married.
Maria Wodzinksa was a very talented artist who was the daughter of Count Wincenty and Countess Theresa Wodzińska (meaning she came from a pretty wealthy family). Here is a famous watercolor painting of Chopin she made:
Pretty damn good right?
Maria also was a talented pianist who studied with John Field and Chopin.
Chopin was a friend of the Wodzinksa family since childhood, and was asked to come visit the family in Dresden in 1835.
There, Chopin was able to meet his childhood friend who was at the ripe age of 16 (I believe this was a legal age to marry at that time). Here is a portrait of her:
What a cutie! Chopin may have found a way to make a move on her while teaching her (I’m guessing that it is a trend among great pianists to flirt with their students) and the two fell in love.
The next year, Chopin asked Maria to be married. Maria’s parents were not so approving of the relationship, but they allowed the great composer to show them if his health and income could improve, thus showing himself to be a suitable partner for their daughter. And what did Chopin do? He became increasingly sick, and was not doing so well financially either.
In 1837, their relationship ended. Four years later, Maria married to Józef Skarbek, the son of Chopin’s godfather. After their divorce, she married Władysław Orpiszewski in 1848. They lived happily until 1881, when Wladyslaw passed away.
A good bro always has his bro’s back. While Chopin was mourning over his loss and suffering from lung issues, his bro, Franz Liszt (who also made it to the forever alone list), decided to introduce Chopin to a new cutie, George Sand. Let’s take a look at her.
In modern times, it’s no problem (at least it should not be) if we see a woman dressed this way. However, in this time period, being a woman and dressing like a man was extremely improper and repulsive. Being a passionate novelist and feminist, George Sand choose to oppose the status quo of how women should dress. She justified her choice to dress this way by saying it was cheaper and easier to move in men’s clothes. Chopin was quite disgusted when he first met her. He even asked Liszt if she was a woman.
In some bizarre and unknown way, the two fell in love and had a ten year long relationship from 1837-1847. The two seemed to benefit from their relationship by the prolific writings they were both able to produce during this period. However, the couple ran into two major problems.
Problem no. 1 – Chopin was always sick. And being sick, George Sand would have to take the role of a mother and would have to nurse the poor guy. Chopin died two years after their break up in 1847. While some believe that George Sand contributed to Chopin’s early death (he was really sad and was not taking care of himself), I choose to believe that if it was not for George Sand, Chopin may have died much earlier.
Problem no. 2 – Family Drama. I’ll try to make this short. George Sand had a daughter named Solange and was in a bitter fight with her in regards to borrowing money. George asked Chopin to not be in contact with her, and he ignored her. Chopin was accused of being “in love” with Solange, which led to the couple fighting with each other. They eventually broke up, and seized talking to each other. George did not even attend the funeral for Chopin (for reasons unknown).
It seems that overall, the reason why Chopin failed to keep a lover was because he could not take care of himself. Being constantly ill, he should have taken better care of himself, but devoted himself to composing music.
Liszt, a rock star of the piano, was known for making countless women fall in love with him. Even while being in a committed relationship, he was accused of having affairs with other women. Let’s take a quick look at two women he had serious relationships with.
Countess Marie D’Agoult: Met her in 1833 at the age of 22. A married women that Liszt was in a relationship with for 12 years. They had 3 children together. Their daughter, Cosima, would later marry Richard Wagner.
Carolyne Wittgenstein: A princess who Liszt met while in Russia in 1847. She left her husband for Liszt. She also made Liszt stop touring so that he could focus on their relationship (lame). They never officially married because of church issues surrounding her divorce with her husband, but they lived with each other while being unmarried. In 1860, they almost bypassed the church’s regulations of divorcing Carolyne’s husband, but failed. Their relationship ended shortly after.
Liszt was such a charming lad that he was able to attract women of a high class and even have them leave their wealthy spouses. But why is it that he never married?
After his failed love attempts, Liszt decided to become a monk of the Catholic Church in 1863. Two years later, he officially became a monk. He devoted his life to forever aloneness, teaching music and composing until his lonely death.
Liszt basically gave up on trying to find a suitable partner, and made the decision to be forever alone.
It is quite sad to see the issues that the composers to the music we play had to go through. It can be humbling to see that even they faced simple, human problems like we do…
If your problems in dating do not involve being super ugly, poor, never quite getting over a past love, not taking care of yourself, or just giving up on relationships, then maybe your problems will be presented in the following paragraphs.
A quick digression
While reading about the above composers, it is important to not forget that there were many pianists who ended up living happily with a spouse. So if we ever get depressed and think that all pianists end up being alone, we should remember that there are actually more marriage pianists than unmarried. Let’s take a look at some of these pianists.
Scarlatti – Married to Maria Caterina Gentili (1728-1742). After her death, he married Anastasia Maxarti Ximenes.
J.S. Bach – Married to Maria Barbara Bach (1707-1720) and Anna Magdalena Bach (1721-1750). Maria died suddenly in 1720 from unknown causes (possibly pregnancy complications).
Haydn – Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia. He was known for not being happy with her.
Mozart – Married to Constanze Mozart (1782-1791)
Robert Schumann – Married to Clara Schumann.
Mendelssohn – Married to Cecile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud (1887-1847).
Scriabin – Married to Vera Ivanova isokovich.
Rachmaninoff – Married to Natalia Alexandrovna Satina (1902-1943)
Of course, there are many other composers that could be added to the list, but this should suffice.
Playing the Piano Vs. Being a Pianist
(This may potentially be very depressing to read. Be warned)
Being a classically trained pianist in today’s time is not only difficult in terms of finding a job, but also with finding someone you are compatible being with.
One of the best things about being a pianist is our ability of creating romance. I can’t think of a single person who does not enjoy being serenaded by music. And being a pianist, we are pros at created a mesmerizing atmosphere.
The goal of any date for a pianist (at least for me) is to find a way to lead the date to the piano. Once we are at our craft and are making music, it’s game, set, and match.
However, a huge problems occurs either during or after this romantic occasion.
What is this problem?
The problem that occurs is in the title of our occupations!
Let’s say if someone were to play the piano, a data scientist or an auditor for example, their dating experience would be quite different. Actually, anyone whose occupation does not involve being a pianist would more than likely be in a better position with playing the piano for their date in comparison to a pianist. Why is this you may ask?
This is how I imagine my date (if it’s a bad date) sees me when I play piano. They unfairly believe that artists are incapable of becoming successful, and at best, are able to transcend from their usual pathetic selves only during the moment of creating art.
Even if I am fortuitous enough to get another date after playing, I will inevitably be viewed as the above video.
And the following video is how I imagine a non-pianist with a fancy spancy title job looks like playing the piano:
Just in case you don’t know, that’s Chopin Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 in E minor being played in this clip in 50 Shades of Grey.
And yes, this is what I imagine what most dates want – A sophisticated and successful person who is not pursuing a career in piano that has the ability to play the piano.
There are unfortunately many people who view pianists very lowly. The stereotype against us is that there a very few jobs out there for pianists, and you essentially have to be a rock star of the piano to get a decent job. There are, in fact, many suitable and stable jobs out there for pianists (perhaps I’ll write another post about this).
However, if your occupation is playing the piano, your date may not see it as impressive as having a different occupation and being able to play the piano as well.
Of course, everything that is being mentioned above is something that occurred from my bad dating experiences. There are those that respected the fact that I am pursuing what I love and believe that I will become very successful in life. If you ever meet someone who is belittling and makes you feel guilty for what they do, then they do not deserve to have you.
Finding someone that can appreciate what you do, and does not look down on what you do because of what society may say about it is rare, but necessary for having a stable relationship. If you can find someone like this, then they are a keeper!
Let’s look at what would happen if a pianist were able to play for another pianist during a date? Could anything possibly go wrong?
Dating Another Pianist
The pros of dating someone who is also a pianist is enormous! Immediately, you will have something in common that you love and spend the majority of your time doing. And best of all, they will understand that you need to practice 4-8 hours a day and may not ask you to constantly go out.
You can go to concerts with each other, have incredibly nerdy conversations about your favorite pianists and piano competitions, and help each other musically.
Now let’s look at some cons. If you are super lucky, you may never experience such things such as this. However, if you are a typical forever alone pianist, you will be able to relate to the following issues.
The Pressure of Playing for Another Pianist
If you decide to play piano for someone who is not a musician, usually the stress level of playing is really low. You can get away with mistakes, missed notes, and won’t have to worry about warming up before playing.
However, if your date is also a serious pianist, you’re screwed! Trying to make a simple romantic gesture of playing for them turns into competing in an international piano competition. You will most definitely have to practice before hand, and only play pieces that are performance ready. A single mistakes turns into worrying if you’ll get another date. A memory slip turns into a sign of incompetence.
This, of course, can be a pro as well (only if you’re lucky). Playing and critiquing each other is an excellent way to grow on the piano, and to grow with each other.
Perhaps, if you are mega super lucky, you can turn into something like Robert Shannon/Haewon Song piano duet performers (They are faculty at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music).
Finding Other Things in Common
This is a huge problem. While it is really nice to be able to talk about the piano (which is something that can’t be done with too many people), it would also be really nice to have other things to talk about too.
I believe that a pianist’s day can be split into three parts or three 8 hour segments. These segments include Sleep/Eat, Practice, and Other.
Of course, there can be variations with this chart, but for the most part, let’s look at it like this.
For 8 hours a day, pianist should spend time practicing piano or doing something that involves musical activity and learning. These 8 hours that we spend practicing focus on personal growth.
It is very difficult to share with another person what it is that we do during these 8 hours of practice. If someone asks us what we did during the day, and all we did was practice technical exercises, it will be very difficult to say something more interesting than “I practiced piano.” Imagine trying to explain to someone that this is what you did all day:
I’ll give it a shot. “Today, I decided that I wanted to strengthen my fourth and pinky finger in my right hand, and work on smooth legato playing. I decided to work on Pischna finger exercises, which are very effective in building movement in the fourth and fifth fingers by having the third finger staying sustained on the fifth scale degree while the fourth and fifth fingers oscillate between the sixth and flat seventh. By doing this, I am actually trilling with my fourth and fifth fingers and cannot use the wrist to aid with movement. This forces the fourth and fifth fingers to word harder, thus strengthening them. I worked on this using all the major keys, so that my hands can feel comfortable playing in each key.”
How boring does that sound? Imagine if you were trying to explain this to a non-musician? They will instantly think you are a loser and will not want to hang out with you.
Since these hours of our day focus on personal growth, I believe that it is not something that we should try to share with other people, in terms of having a conversation about it. This time should be spend by ourselves, and for ourselves.
So then, what else is there that we can share with another person? This is where the handy 8 hours of “Other” comes into play. With these 8 hours of time, we can spend time doing hobbies, learning about new things, and exploring the world. These are things that can easily be shared with other people.
Side note: I have a friend who is a pianist, and they like to spend a portion of their day watching sports and watching ESPN highlights. Do they do this because they like sports? No. Actually, the reason for doing so is to have something in common with the average person, so that they can hopefully fit in in any social situation.
Having many things in common with a person is really nice, and allows for bonding to happen at multiple angles.
It is healthy for a pianist to have other interests besides piano, not just for reasons such as dating, but just to have a more full perspective of the world they live in.
Dating Other Musicians
Being with someone that studies another musical instrument also has its advantages and disadvantages.
The plus side is that you can share so many things with each other that is musical related. You can make music with each other, go to concerts with each other, just like dating another pianist, and you will not have to worry as much about making mistakes if you decide to play for them.
The down side is that you usually turn into their free piano accompanist. And they will ask if you can accompany their friends for free as well.
I am fortunate that I am able to experience dating a wide variety of people. I have been exposed to many different ideas, lifestyles, and beliefs that have helped me shape who I am and what it is that I want in a significant other.
Overall, things that I know that I want and believe that any pianist should want in a SO include:
- A background in piano training – They do not have to be a serious pianist, but at least understand the sort of work I have to do on a daily basis. It is also really nice to be able to share nerdy piano thing.
- Passion oriented over money oriented – While money and financial stability is important, it is not everything. Being with someone that is also passion oriented will allow me to focus on doing what I love, and not worry if I am pursuing something meaningless in life.
However, seeing how even the great musical geniuses failed to find a suitable life partner, I understand that I have no right to complain.