Basil Howitt delves into the love lives of a cluster of great composers from Gesualdo (born sometime between 1560-66) to Wagner (born in 1813) and finds much to delight, surprise, shock, and even appall his readers - but never bore them! Any music lover who imagined that composers lived other-worldly lives in ivory towers, devoted only to their art, will be shaken rigid by their extremes of behaviour - earthy, obsessive, exotic, bizarre, joyful, soulful, sordid, and sometimes downright criminal - in the name of love.
Observing each composer's love life in its wider personal and creative context, Howitt concludes that each one has to be taken as a package. Lully's élan vital, for example, is inseparable from his debauchery, and Liszt's and Wagner's womanising - to take but two - were indispensable fuel for their creative fires.
To his relief, Howitt does find one or two cases of very contented monogamy, and even bachelorhood! It would seem, for instance, that Handel's appetites usually extended no lower than his stomach!