While Beethoven and his nephew came to blows more than once and Gesualdo actually went so far as to murder his wife, cases of one composer assaulting another are relatively rare. But while Shostakovich may never have slugged it out with Strauss, the Romantics were more physically inclined.

Robert Schumann

Take Schumann. Numerous accounts exist of his moodiness. Even Clara could receive the rough edge of Robert’s tongue, especially when the subject was their rival careers as musicians. There were many reasons why the purse-lipped Schumann might take against the flamboyant Franz Liszt, but the occasion for fisticuffs came along quite unexpectedly one balmy June evening in 1848.

At that point, the two were friends of eight years standing. Back in 1840, Liszt had championed Schumann’s Op. 17 Fantasieand had assuaged his fellow composer’s pre-marital woes by refusing free tickets to wicked old Friedrich Wieck, who at that point was dragging his future son-in-law...