Classical music and homosexuality: four gay composers to be "proud" of

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homosexual homosexuality gay pride
Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears

In order to celebrate Gay Pride Day and the recent United States Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex marriage, Opera World suggests a selection of important gay  composers.

1.- Piotr Ilich Tchaikovski (1840- 1893)

The Russian composer enjoyed certain professional recognition during his lifetime. Nevertheless, he was subject to repeated affective crises and continuous depressions. His emotional instability made him drink a glass of water during a cholera epidemic which could have been a certain death sentence. There is sufficient evidence which suggests that behind these personal conflicts lay a repressed homosexuality and the connected fear brought about by society’s unsupportive demeanour. Tchaikovsky eventually married a woman,  Antonina Miliukova, although the lived together for a very brief period of time. 

2.- Reynaldo Hahn (1874- 1947)

The French-Venezuelan composer Reynaldo Hahn is the main representative of the renowned La Belle Époque period, a time frame of musical splendour which encompasses the last decades of the XIX century and ends with the outbreak of WWI in 1914. Hahn, who was considered a child prodigy, maintained an artistic and personal relationship with Marcel Proust.

Paradoxically, his writings are full of attacks against homosexuality and homosexuals.

3.- Francis Poulenc (1899- 1963)

Poulenc is considered one of the first open homosexual composers in the history of music. Some of his works such as Concierto Campestre, the Stabat Mater or the opera La Voix Humaine, are either dedicated to or were inspired by some of the men with whom he had a relationship.

4.- Benjamin Britten (1913- 1976)

Benjamin Britten’s homosexuality is clearly reflected in his work. His relationship with the tenor Peter Pears lasted more than 40 years and enlightened his music to such a degree than one cannot really fully understand the British composer’s work without the influence and inspiration of his life-partner. Many of his compositions are thought for Mr. Pears’ very peculiar voice and the recordings done together are considered as true reference points within the classical music repertoire.

ELB (Trans. Vasco Fracanzani)