The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music survey: What is the best classical music for Valentine’s Day? | February 14, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Today — Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010 — is Valentine’s Day.

The holiday is generally credited to the medieval French poet Charles D’Orleans who wrote a love letter to his beloved while he was in prison.

But for me the day always brings thoughts of beautiful music to me. Nothing expresses love better than music. (See Caravaggio’s painting of Cupid surrounded by musical instrument, below.)

I think one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts is to play some music for someone — or to have it played for you.

As an avid amateur pianist, I tend to think of smaller pieces like Brahms’ Romance (Op. 118, No. 5); of Chopin’s waltzes; of Gabriel Faure’s “Romance Without Words No. 3”; and of Schumann’s Romance in F-sharp major.

So I send these out to my own Valentine who, I hope will read and listen to today’s posting:

But there are Beethoven’s two Romances for violin and orchestra. You could listen to lots of operas and single arias by Mozart and Handel as well as arias by Puccini, Verdi and Wagner (the “Love Death” in “Tristan and Isolde”).

Of course there are the many songs by Schubert, Faure and Schumann, and by so many others who find love poems an endless source of inspiration and lyrics.

Add in the cantatas of J.S. Bach.

Then the never-ending list of concertos and symphonies by dozens of composers.

And then add in chamber music.

The choices for great love music are endless, even if we exclude popular music and other non-classical genres.

So help The Ear narrow down the choices.

What is the best piece of classical love music ever composed?

What piece of classical music would you most like someone – or some group – to perform for you to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day?

What is the best piece of love-related classical music you can think to listen to, even if it isn’t performed for you?

Give our readers some suggestions that we can act on – if not this Valentine’s Day, then next year’s.

Posted in Classical music


  1. Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in e-minor. 1st and 2nd movement heartbreakingly beautiful, third upbeat and virtuostic

    Comment by Sebastian Stefanović — October 23, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

    • HI Sebastian,
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      It so happens that I just listened to the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and it would be hard to argue with you.
      It is a great and beautiful piece of music that feels more emotionally intimate than barnstormingly dramatic.
      Good choice.
      Great choice.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 23, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

  2. Yes, of course Brahms’ waltzes. Thank you. The one I didn’t double-check.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — February 15, 2010 @ 2:24 am

  3. Brahms Intermezzo 118 no. 2 in A major. Longing, exploration, tentative surrender, a hint of satisfaction, a tinge of regret, and heart-breaking leave-taking all going on simultaneously. It’s a chick flick in 58 bars minus the repeats!

    Comment by Jeff Ballowe — February 14, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

    • Jeff,
      I love your quip at the end. Makes it all the more appealing.
      You offer an excellent choice. The Intermezzo is indeed full of longing and those other qualities you mention.
      Brahms packs a lot in a little.
      And it seems to be in favor again. I just read where both Radu Lupu and Peter Serkin played it recently at Carnegie Hall for encores.
      These things appear to go in cycles.

      Comment by welltemperedear — February 14, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

  4. Let me nominate the lovely aria “Bist du bei mir” (“Be thou with me”) from Bach’s 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. In double-checking this I learned that the melody is actually by the German composer Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. It’s attributed to Bach because he included it in the notebook. But no matter.

    For more enthusiastic music, I’d have to nominate Schubert’s Liebeslieder Waltzer.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — February 14, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

    • Excellent choice — even with the new information. Still, it will always be Bach for me.

      Win one, lose one.

      The Liebeslieder Waltzes, both sets, are by Brahms — not Schubert. But they are beautiful and full of love, both joyous and bittersweet, nonetheless. So they too are a great choice.

      Score two out of two for you!

      Comment by welltemperedear — February 14, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

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