Top 12 List: Classical Music for Valentines Day - Without Cheating!

We haven’t been able to keep this blog on quite a daily basis lately. But we’re finally able to take break with a few days in Punta Gorda, Florida and on this Valentine’s Day I aim to become only the latest blogger to present a list of Classical Music for Valentine’s Day picks.

Certain choices show up on nearly all lists: the various settings of Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Gounod), Puccini’s La Boheme (entire second half of Act 1 but especially “Che Gelida Manina” and “O Suave Fanciulla”), Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Tristan und Isolde or Die Walkure (Act 1, all of it), any number of opera arias and art songs, programmatic instrumental pieces by Liszt, Strauss, Schumann…

In just one of many La Scena Musicale has six musical valentines you can email to your loved one. Visit their website to hear the six musical selections, which are:

  • Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (Prelude)
    Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Saint-Saëns: Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix (Samson et Dalila)
    Rita Gorr, mezzo-soprano, with Jon Vickers, tenor and Georges Prêtre conducting the 
    Orchestre du Théatre de l’Opéra de Paris
  • Duparc: L’invitation au voyage
    Gérard Souzay, baritone with Dalton Baldwin, piano
  • Puccini: Che gelida manina (La Bohème)
    Jussi Bjõrling, tenor with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the RCA Victor Symphony
  • Richard Strauss: Morgen
    Jussi Björling, tenor with Harry Ebert, piano
  • Berlioz: Le spectre de la rose, (Les nuits d’été)
    Linda Maguire, mezzo-soprano

These are very a short lists of only the most obvious selections — and they’re obvious because they’re among the best musical depictions or specifically romantic stories. Interestingly, the six musical valentine choices were chosen by web poll from a larger list that DID include purely instrumental selections. (http://www.scena.org/quiz/valentinequiz.asp) It’s not surprising that opera and song just seem more romantic.

Still, I think we can come up with many, many romantic choices from purely instrumental works without romantic programs (i.e. without cheating)? A search of blogs, news items, and concert event calendars shows that even in this narrower vein, the choices are vast. One short list I like is by The Harvard Independent’s Alana Mendelssohn (no relation, presumably) suggests

  • Beethoven’s Cavatina from his String Quartet in B-flat major (Op. 130)
  • the Adagios from his Harp Quartet (Op. 74 No. 10), and his Fifth Piano Concerto
  • the second movement of Brahms’ First Symphony
  • the Adagio from Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major
  • the Adante Cantabile from Schumann’s Piano Quartet Op. 47

Here are some of my favorite romantic, purely instrumental choices. It can’t help but be a little cello-centric.

  1. Bach, Oboe & Violin Concerto, BWV 1059R, Siciliano
  2. Borodin, “Nocturne” (from String Quartet No. 2)
  3. Chopin, impossible to choose one piano piece, but I can vouch for the Polonaise Brilliante for Cello and Piano
  4. Elgar, Cello Concerto, Adagio Moderato
  5. Franck, Violin Sonata in A Minor
  6. Grenados, anything played by himself on a piano roll.
  7. Grieg, Holberg Suite, Op. 40, Sarabande
  8. Mahler, Fourth Symphony, Adagio
  9. Mendelssohn, Frühlingslied  from Lieder ohne Wörte No.30 in A, Op.62 No.6
  10. Mozart, Flute Quartet No. 1, K.285, Slow movement
  11. Rachmaninoff, Second Piano Concerto and Vocalise (yep, I’m counting that as instrumental)
  12. Schumann, Fantasiestucke for Cello and Piano, or the Piano or Cello Concertos

After you send your Tristan valentine and it does the trick, how should you set the ambience if you don’t have any of these selections on your music system? The answer is on your desktop.

In the tradition of the WPIX Yule Log, play this YouTube video (from wintermood) of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, with a file of moon photography.