'Tutti' tells all

January 05, 1995

The marketing of classical music has always been an uphill battle. Only a minuscule fraction of record, tape and CD buyers go into the stores looking for Beethoven instead of Beastie Boys. But what classical music lovers lack in numbers they more than make up in devotion.

That's why getting a wider audience hooked on classics can add up to big bucks over time -- and why record companies, concert promoters and local musical organizations are always on the lookout for new ways to pique the interest of pop music listeners.

Take the recent appearance of Tutti, a new classical music magazine oriented toward young people. The magazine's publisher describes it as an innovative attempt to jazz up the staid classical canon. How? By satisfying readers' perennial curiosity about the lifestyles of the rich and famous with juicy, gossipy tidbits about romance among the celebrity set. Tutti promises to do for Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner what Vanity Fair does for Donald Trump and Darryl Hannah: Tell all.

A recent issue of Tutti profiled Mozart as a skirt-chasing, pool-sharking, semi-alcoholic bon vivant whenever he wasn't composing immortal symphonies, concertos and sonatas in his head. It's a portrait of lusty, errant genius made familiar to millions through the film and stage productions of "Amadeus," which sparked a mini-industry around Mozartiana during the composer's bicentennial. It is also a characterization with which few serious scholars are completely comfortable.

Yet some of the greatest composers did lead lives that seem straight out of the tabloids. Franz Liszt, for example, was an inveterate womanizer who gave new meaning to the term "Romantic composer." He shamelessly seduced other men's wives but was mortified when Richard Wagner brazenly carried off his own daughter, Cosima, as his mistress.

Franz Schubert was probably gay, as was Tchaikovsky. Brahms apparently preferred prostitutes, even though he carried on a long-term love affair with the widow of his friend, Robert Schumann. And where did hard-working J.S. Bach find time to father 21 children -- talk about prolific! -- while churning out more than 1,000 masterpieces? Trust Tutti to publish the scoop. It may not be Grammaphone or the American Record Review, but Tutti believes that sex sells. And like middle-period Beethoven, it's peddling an attitude as well as an aesthetic: If you've got it, flaunt it.

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