We often hear from listeners whose pets enjoy listening to All Classical Portland, so you may already know a pup who loves classical music. There have also been quite a few classical musicians who love dogs. We’ll meet just a few of those humans, and their canine friends, in this list.
Portrait of Wilhelmine von Bayreuth (1740s) by Antoine Pesne
Folichon and Wilhelmine of Bayreuth
Princess Friederike Sophie Wilhelmine (1709-1758) was a composer, as well as the sister of Frederick the Great (amateur flutist, employer of C.P.E. Bach, and Prussian king). Wilhelmine was the Margravine of the Bavarian city of Bayreuth, and that city’s reputation as a center of opera began with the influence of Wilhelmine, a talented composer of opera and a staunch patron of the arts.
In addition to music, Wilhelmine of Bayreuth loved her little lap dog Folichon, who appears in several of her portraits. We have records of a letter that Folichon wrote (with Margravine Wilhelmine’s help) to her brother Frederick’s dog, Biche.
Drago and Franz Schubert
In 1827, Hungarian artist Gabór Melegh (1801-1831) painted this portrait of Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Melegh and Schubert moved in the same artistic circles in Biedermeier Vienna. This dog enjoying a pleasant morning with Schubert might be Drago, a pup who belonged to Schubert’s friend Leopold Kulepwieser. Kupelwieser was another artist in Schubert’s circle, who painted Schubert and Drago in the corner of another piece: Charades Game in Atzenbrugg.
Pups make a slightly spooky appearance in Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise: he illustrates their barking in the Lied “Im Dorfe.”
Portrait of Pauline Viardot-García (c.1853) by Eugène Pluchart
Pauline Viardot-García and this Lovely Pup
In this portrait, painted around c.1835 by Eugène Pluchart, composer Pauline Viardot-García is pictured with a gorgeous pup. Viardot-García (1821-1910) was a French bel canto mezzo soprano and an influential vocal pedagogue, as well as a composer of art song and opera.
She frequently set texts by her dear friend (and perhaps lover), Russian author Ivan Turgenev, including her song “La petite chevrière,” about a goatherd and his trusty dog.
Photograph of Elgar and his dogs Marco and Mina, from the Elgar Foundation and the British National Trust.
Mina, Marco, and Edward Elgar
English composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was extremely fond of dogs, especially late in his life. His beloved canine companions included an Aberdeen terrier named Meg, a spaniel named Marco, and a cairn terrier named Mina.
Devoted Elgar fans might already know that Elgar composed music about dogs as well. One of the variations in his Enigma Variations was inspired his friend’s bulldog Dan, and Elgar’s very last composition was a sweet tribute entitled Mina.
Photograph of Dame Ethel Smyth and her dog Marco (1891)
Marco and Ethel Smyth
Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) was an English composer of opera, songs, choral and symphonic works. She was also an influential writer, the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Oxford, an advocate for women composers, an assistant radiologist during the first World War, and a champion for women’s suffrage.
Photograph of Glenn Gould as a child, with his dog Nicky and parakeet Mozart.
Nicky and Glenn Gould
A love for dogs clearly began early for Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982). In this frankly adorable portrait, a thirteen-year-old Gould poses at the piano with his dog Nicky’s paw upon his leg, and his parakeet Mozart perched atop his sheet music. With practice companions like that, how could he not become one of the 20th century’s most influential (if eccentric) pianists?
Photo of Wang Jie and Pilot from Wang Jie and Classical915.org
Pilot and Wang Jie
Wang Jie is an award-winning composer whose oeuvre includes orchestral works, chamber music, electronic music, and much more. To date, she has composed eight genre-bending operatic works, and her symphonies have been conducted by the likes of JoAnn Falletta and Leonard Slatkin.
In a beautiful 2018 article, Wang Jie tells the story of how and why she became a composer. She also describes her love for Pilot, her “exceedingly rare Sealyham Terrier,” explaining that “She is the cutest white dog of all dogs.”
Photo of Karen Walwyn & Roscoe from ClassicalMusicforPets.com
Roscoe and Karen Walwyn
Dr. Karen Walwyn is a composer and concert pianist, a Steinway Artist and a champion of the music of Florence Price: she recently played the first-ever recording of Price’s Piano Concerto. She also loves dogs: here she is with her pup Roscoe. One of Walwyn’s many creative projects is a pet music therapy recording series: Allegro Paws, lovely classical piano albums especially for pups.
Read other posts by Emma Riggle Music Researcher & Archivist