Love is undoubtedly a feeling that has inspired many composers. Just listen to Pachelbel's "Canon in D” and be transported to a state of exalted love. Mendelssohn's "The Wedding March” will instantly send you to a wedding celebration.
With Valentine’s just days away, we’re celebrating some of the most romantic music ever composed, as well as the stories of inspiration that gave this music life.
Whatever you’re doing on Valentine’s day here are seven songs (and love stories) from the Romantic Period that make for the perfect soundtrack for however you choose to celebrate the day.
Wedding Day at Troldhaugen by Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg wrote this cheerful piece in 1896 in celebration of the 25th wedding anniversary to his wife, Nina. Originally titled “The Well-Wishers Are Coming,” the opening depicts a festive procession of guests giving their best wishes to happy newlyweds. From there, the second section shifts to a more reflective and subdued mood.
You can feel the lifespan of their marriage. The joyous, celebratory beginnings, moving to the intimacy and nostalgia of a mature, deep-rooted relationship.
Salut D’Amour by Edward Elgar
Originally written for violin and piano, this charming three-minute salon piece has become one of Elgar’s best-loved compositions. Composed in 1888 in response to a poetic gift from his wife-to-be, Alice Roberts.
She was a student of Elgar’s, and gave him a love poem. In turn, he wrote this lovely piece, which he handed to her later. On top of the composition, he also proposed. She accepted.
Let this colourful and dreamy piece inspire you when you are deciding on a thoughtful, creative gift to your partner (or put in to accompany a proposal like Elgar did).
Liebestraum by Franz Liszt
This passionate solo piano piece is the final piece of a trio, which took its inspiration from the poems by Uhland and Freiligrath.
Liebestraum is a homage to the unconditional love that Freiligrath writes about in his poems. Liszt captures those feelings, starting with the sweetness of new love, moving to an impassioned climax, and finally returning to its more tranquil opening mood. It is a wonderfully dreamy and passionate journey.
Widmung by Robert Schumann
This lieder comes from the song cycle titled “Myrthen” and is set to the text of the poet Rückert. It was Schumann’s wedding present to his bride, Clara. That's what makes the title, Myrtles, so appropriate - myrtles are European evergreen shrubs with white or rosy flowers that are often used to make bridal wreaths.
Widmung means dedication and opens the Myrthen song cycle. Composed in 1840 it expresses all of the things that Clara was to Robert: his peace, angel, repose, rapture, heart, soul, grave for sorrows, better self, and his heaven.
Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2 by Johannes Brahms
Not only did Clara Schumann inspire Robert, but she also inspired Brahms, creating the most famous love triangle in classical music.
Brahms was a strong presence for the Schumann family during Robert Schumann's last years and beyond. His letters indicate his strong feelings for Clara. He writes, “‘My Beloved Clara, I wish I could write to you as tenderly as I love you and tell you all the good things that I wish you. You are so infinitely dear to me, dearer than I can say. I should like to spend the whole day calling you endearing names and paying you compliments without ever being satisfied.”
The second piece from Op.118 portrays the tender love, devotion, and affection Brahms had for Clara.
O Soave Fanciulla from La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini
“The dream that I see in you is the dream I'll always dream!”
It would be impossible to talk about love without mentioning Puccini - I mean, just look at that line above! His operas have become amongst the most popular and regularly performed of all opera composers.
La Boheme centres around a bohemian couple living in the Latin quarter of Paris in the mid-19th Century. This piece comes from act one. It is a love duet between Rodolfo and Mimi. It is rich with the passion of love and adoration like so much of Puccini’s music.
Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler
In which way I love you, my sunbeam,
I cannot tell you with words.
Only my longing, my love and my bliss
can I with anguish declare.
Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler was composed in 1901 and 1902, during the summer months at Mahler's holiday cottage at Maiernigg. He was recuperating from a major haemorrhage.
It was written as a declaration of love to Alma Schindler, who Mahler would soon marry. He sent it to her as a sort of musical love letter. It included the passionate text above, written by Mahler himself.
Listen to Romantic Classical Music on Calm Radio
Hopefully, these love stories and the inspiring music that followed inspires you this Valentine’s Day.
Add a classical touch to your celebration with our wonderful array of classical music, including 16 composers of the Romantic period.
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