Ever since Beethoven – always the revolutionary – dispensed with the composers’ customary peruke, musicians have struggled with their hair. Some, like Mussorgsky and Grieg, adopted the “dragged through a hedge backward” look, an image that at least conveyed a certain creative abandon.

Rossini Gioachino Rossini

Others, like Berlioz and Liszt, preferred to play the windswept romantic, whipping up a protruding side-quiff or letting it all hang loose in a dashing “catch me if you can” manner. But perhaps the composer whose headgear got him talked about the most was Gioachino Rossini.

He might not look much to write home about in youthful portraits, but back when he was trotting out the hits Rossini was quite the ladies’ man. Sporting a rakish bouffant and matching side-fluff, “The Swan of Pesaro”, as he was known, sailed through the salons of Naples and Paris until he chucked in his day job at the age of 37. Alas, with the composing went his health, a catalogue of “down below” issues that could fill a small book. Although prepared to to live with the catheters and the haemorrhoids, Rossini was not giving in to his incipient baldness, investing in...

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