Historically, both the LGBTQ+ community and ‘the composer’ have been painted as ‘the outsider’ by many. But LGBTQ+ composers have been present throughout musical history, from the Baroque period, through the height of the Classical age, onwards into nineteenth-century impressionism and modernism, and now within today’s contemporary world of classical music.
Whether or not they were out during their lives, LGBTQ+ history month is a period for us highlight these individuals’ contributions to the classical music canon and acknowledge that members of the LGBTQ+ community have always been present in the musical world. Here is a timeline of just a handful of composers, and their stories, to appreciate the broad history of LGBTQ+ classical music.
Name: Jean-Baptise Lully (1632-1687)
Hometown: Florence, Italy
Listen to: ‘Atys’, ‘Dies Irae’, ‘Trios de la Chambre du Roi’
Italian-born composer Jean-Baptise Lully worked in King Louis XIV’s court as the official court composer. He held much power and controlled music not only in the French court, but also influenced the popular style throughout the rest of Europe. Lully’s ambition allowed him to rise from being a court violinist to music master to the royal family in a matter of years, and by 1674, no opera could be performed in France without his permission. He also gained the title of secrétaires du roi, a privilege typically held only by French aristocrats, showing just how appreciated he was in court. Lully did not only conduct the orchestra, but also many brazen affairs with men and women alike. Unfortunately, the absence of discretion surrounding his public affairs soon left him falling out of favour with King Louis XIV, and by the time he died, he lacked the respect he had once held.