The Fleisher Collection in LGBTQ+ Cinema

By Mark C. RSS Wed, June 5, 2024

The Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia houses over 22,000 pieces. Works are available for loan to amateur and professional performance groups worldwide, and many motion picture soundtracks feature these pieces.

Music is a powerful storytelling and plot-driving apparatus in film. The director’s choice of accompaniment can make viewers laugh or cry with the characters. Specific melodic swells in a piece might give some audience members goosebumps in a phenomenon known as frisson

LGBTQ+ movies often have a vivid connection to the music. Classical orchestral pieces can be evocative due to a known queer connection with the composer, or they resonate with the aesthetic beauty of the music. They run an emotional gauntlet. Of course, ideas about human sexuality have changed over time. Today's labels cannot apply to composers who are no longer alive to say how they would identify. So, listing LGBTQ+ composers would be inaccurate at best (at worst, it would be problematic). Rather than guessing, it's better to look at how others have used composers' output in known queer ways.

Dr. Kit Heyam’s book, Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender, considers gender identity and observes how we make academic history. These findings can also be applied to queer history. One excerpt states,

"Historians tend to interpret people from the past as, effectively, cis until proven otherwise. Though we might not admit it (or even realize it consciously), this approach also enables historians to avoid the horror of (gasp) accidentally mislabeling a straight, cis person from the past as queer. And if, as a result, we mislabel a queer or trans person as straight or cis … well, funnily enough, that doesn’t cause as much anxiety. Our sense of what we need to be cautious about has been insidiously shaped by homophobia and transphobia."

Heyam asks us to think more about how we consider our histories and refutes the idea of rewriting the past. The past has already happened, and so cannot be changed. All histories, no matter their origin, have some bias.

The new Fleisher Discoveries playlist covers music used in LGBTQ+ films (many available in the Free Library's catalog) from 1969 to now, covering composers alphabetically from Bach to Vivaldi. The Pride Playlist is a collection of film music from the Fleisher Collection. It brings queer expression to you in stereo. Each film features  LGBTQ+-related themes, issues, or characters. Wherever possible, and if applicable, the specific movement of the piece used in the movie is noted. Sadly, not all the amazing music from queer films is in the Fleisher Collection, but, this playlist offers a taste of the collection's array of music. It may even offer a new queer movie recommendation! Have a happy and music-filled Pride, everyone!



Pride Playlist: Classical Music featured in LGBTQ+ Cinema

Key: Movie (year), Composer - Composition title, Fleisher call number/catalog link, feature notes

  • Maestro (2023), Mahler - Symphony no. 2 in C Minor, 6431, Im Tempo des Scherzo is featured 
  • Maestro (2023), Beethoven - Symphony no. 8 in F Major, 145, Allegro vivace con brio is featured 
  • Maestro (2023), Schumann - Overture to Manfred op. 15, 67 
  • Benediction (2022), Stravinsky - Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) Pt. 1: L’adoration de la Terra (The adoration of the Earth), 2117 critical edition [Kalmus] 
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), Debussy - Clair de Lune, 7835 arranged for piano and orchestra 
  • Fire Island (2022), Vivaldi - Winter, op. 8, no. 4: from The Four Seasons, 264V, Allegro non molto is featured 
  • Tár (2022), Mahler - Symphony no. 5 in C# Minor, 1790, Trauermarsch and Adagietto are featured 
  • Tár (2022), Elgar - Cello Concerto in E Minor op. 85, 347C, Adagio and Allegro are featured 
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), Vivaldi - Summer, op. 8, no. 2: from The Four Seasons, 266V, Presto is featured 
  • Call Me By Your Name (2017), Ravel - Une Barque sur L'océan, 8030, part of a five-movement set called Miroirs for solo piano, this version is prepared for full orchestra 
  • Princess Cyd (2017), Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis: for double stringed orchestra, 502S 
  • Tangerine (2015), Beethoven - Overture to Coriolan: op. 62, 16 
  • The Way He Looks (2014), Art School Confidential (2006), Brahms - Hungarian Dance no. 5, 527 
  • Behind the Candelabra (2013), Transamerica (2005), Chopin - Nocturne op. 9, no. 2, 5208 
  • Blue is the Warmest Color (2013), Mozart - Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. V. 622, 525M, Adagio is featured 
  • Kill Your Darlings (2013), Brahms - Symphony no. 3 in F major, op. 90, 530, Poco allegretto is featured 
  • I Love You Phillip Morris (2009), Mozart - The marriage of Figaro : overture, K. 492, 225 
  • Running with Scissors (2006), Vivaldi - Spring, op. 8, no. 1 : from The Four Seasons, 267V 
  • Kinsey (2004), Sibelius - Violin concerto: D minor, op. 47, 470V, Allegro moderato is featured 
  • The Deep End (2001), Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake. No. 29. Scène finale, 8333 
  • The Birdcage (1996), Rossini - William Tell : Overture1324 
  • The Watermelon Woman (1996), Mozart - Eine Kleine Nachtmusik: für Zwei Violinen, Viola,Violoncello und Kontrabass, K. V. 525, 71S, Rondo is featured 
  • Heavenly Creatures (1994), Puccini - E lucevan le stelle: from Tosca, 1250M 
  • Orlando (1992), Handel - Semele: Where’er you walk, 1253M 
  • Edward II (1991), Mozart - Divertimento: (Sechsundzwanzigstes Quartett) für 2 Violinen, Viola, und Violoncello, K.V. No. 138, 2083S, Andante is featured 
  • Paris is Burning (1990), Verdi - Aida. Triumphal march and ballet Finale act II, 6743 
  • Torch Song Trilogy (1988), Bach - Drittes Brandenburgisches Konzert = Third Brandenburg Concerto: G-dur = G major, BWV 1048, 2498S 
  • Maurice (1987); Women in Love (1969), Tchaikovsky - Symphony no. 6 (“Pathétique”) in B minor, op. 74, 137 
  • Pink Narcissus (1971), Mussorgsky - A night on Bald Mountain: concert fantasy, 8247
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), Mozart - Così fan tutte: K.V. 588, 8330, Trio is featured


Be sure to check out Fleisher Discoveries on Spotify for this and other playlists featuring music from the Fleisher Collection.

Did you watch any of these movies? How did you experience the music? Comment below!

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