Midge Woolsey, WQXR Host
Midge Woolsey's grounding in opera and musical theater led her to become a producer and host for public television and radio, proudly serving the tristate community with her soothing presence for over 30 years.
To celebrate Valentine's Day, we're reading your romantic stories and playing some of your favorite romantic pieces. Tell us how classical music added romance to your by commenting below.
Here's what the WQXR hosts have to say about romance and romantic music.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, our thoughts turn to romance--the most romantic gift to give, the most romantic place to eat, the most romantic words to say.
My idea of a steamy moment in classical music is a really fine mezzo-soprano performance (Marilyn Horne perhaps?) of Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta Voix (‘My Heart Opens to your Voice’) from the opera Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint Saens.
I’m curious to know about the piece of classical music that you find romantic. Maybe it’s a romantic song, maybe it’s a symphony or a tone poem that tells a romantic story, maybe it’s something that brings back a romantic memory or maybe it’s a work that simply stirs romantic feelings in your heart.
Talk to me and tell me what you like to listen to when you are in the mood for romance.
First, there are no native-born Americans of the electronic media age who can say that classical music has not added romance to their lives. So many movie, radio, and television love scenes are decorated by classical music that our emotional response to richly scored, swelling orchestral sounds is virtually Pavlovian. But, Midge, since you asked what music strikes a romantic mood for me, here you go: It’s Liszt’s Liebestraum No.3 for piano. It’s rich, florid, very beautiful, and it verges on going out of control and launching itself into some other dimension--and that’s a pretty good description of romantic love, isn’t it? The poetry Liszt copied onto the score says to love while you can, because the time for mourning will inevitably arrive. This music heeds that warning spectacularly; it is about the passion of loving now. If you have someone to share that experience with, you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day already.
For me, the most fulfilling romantic involvement is when emotions, ideas, and dreams are openly and boldly expressed; and the ability to express those things through music is the hallmark of some the world’s greatest compositions. There are three musical works that characterize my experience with romance: Chopin’s Minute Waltz, Scott Joplin’s A Real Slow Drag and Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration.
The most romantic music I can think of is Claude Debussy's Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orléans. Debussy composed choral settings for three poems by Charles of Orléans (the original Orléans, not the "New" one that just triumped in the Super Bowl). Charles d'Orléans was a 15th century French duke who was captured in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, after which he was held prisoner in England for 24 years. That's when he wrote most of his 500-plus poems, and Debussy turned three of those poems into gorgeous part songs for unaccompanied voices. The first one is an unabashed love song: "Dieu! Qu'il la fait bon regarder!" (God, she is beautiful!). In the second one, "Quant j'ai ouÿ le tambourin" (When I heard the little drum), Debussy has most of the voices imitate a drum, backing up one of the most sensuous solos ever written. And even in the final song, "Yver, vous n'estes qu'un villain" (Winter, you're nothing but a villain), which has a very fierce opening and closing, there's a languorous middle section looking forward to summer. My idea of great romantic listening!
How has classical music added romance to your life? Tell us below.