Which Classical Piece Sets the Mood for Romance?

Friday, February 08, 2013 - 09:59 AM

Just as candlelit dinners, flowers and chocolates remain time-honored emblems of romance, so does classical music.

For evidence of this, one need look no further than the recent "50 Shades of Grey" marketing phenomenon. E.L. James's so-called "mommy porn" trilogy – which holds onto the top three slots on the New York Times best-seller list name-drops classical pieces like Spem in Alium, Tallis's great motet for 40 voices.

Does Renaissance vocal music mean sensuality for you? Or how about a Brahms intermezzo, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde or a tango by Piazzolla?

In short: when you think heavy breathing, galloping hearts and long kisses, what do you hear?

Our poll is closed now. Below are your top 12 responses, which we counted down on Valentine's Day:

12. Liszt: Liebstraum No. 3 in A-flat

11. Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2

10. Brahms: Intermezzo No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 117/2

9. Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 1

8. Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

7. Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

6. Piazzolla: Libertango

5. Puccini: La Boheme: O soave fanciulla

4. Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 

3. Bizet: Carmen: L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera)

2. Wagner: Tristan and Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod

1. Ravel: Bolero


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Comments [43]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

I have performed songs or opera roles of all of these composers. My favorite scene where the music is magically erotic is the GARDEN SCENE of Act two of BORIS GODUNOV between the lovers DMITRI and MARINA. It is so seductive !!! I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer, "Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare" and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. My websites where one may download, free, my singing of 37 out of the 100 selections that I have sung in four solo concerts at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall by going to Recorded Selections; www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com.
Roles that are represented in my singing to be heard on my websites are: Tristan, Siegfried, Goetterdaemmerung Siegfried, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegmund, Walther von Stolzing, Florestan Federico and Eleazar.

Feb. 14 2013 10:38 PM


Feb. 14 2013 07:24 PM
Custos Libros from NYC

Liebesgruss (Elgar) & the Schubert four handed fantasy (piano D 940) & Beethoven Op 101, for the stories behind them.

PS I agree with the vote for Franck sonata--great choice--but only on violin, not cello. How about "Ging Heut Morgen Ubers Feld" as done by Elisabeth Kulman and Amacord Wien, if you like Libertango.

Feb. 14 2013 06:42 PM

The Lute Song!!!! Thanks!!!! I was going to mention this but didn't get around to it. Thanks for playing it. Always melts my heart.

Feb. 14 2013 01:26 PM
Pam Mistretta from NY Metro

The song for my love and I is "Song to the Moon", from Rusalka :)

Feb. 14 2013 12:22 PM
William Bird from Nutley NJ

The best is not necessarily any one piece but nearly any beautiful music...especially with violins and cellos. My love, my wife of 18 years, my Marianne and I enjoy the soft firelight, our beloved little poodle Celtie snuggled-up and so much of the wonderful music on WQXR.

Feb. 13 2013 09:49 PM
Nathan Granner from Kansas City, MO

Libertango has been a love of mine for years since singing in a tango band as a young tenor.

Piazzolla is dear to me. Here is one of my best recordings to date!


Feb. 13 2013 02:59 PM
Gillaume Maria Bronn from Lisbon

Gabriel Fauré - Elégie in C minor op.24

Feb. 13 2013 12:41 PM
Peter Ferdico from College Point, NY

How come Schubert's Serenade didn't make the cut?

Feb. 13 2013 11:00 AM
KRISS from Piscataway, NJ

This might seem a bit odd, but for me, the most romantic musical selection is "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." It was the opening piece at our wedding, nearly 34 years ago, and every time I hear it, it reminds me of God's goodness in giving me such a wonderful husband, who loves me with the love of Jesus. Just melts my heart!

Feb. 13 2013 09:35 AM
Marina B. Nebro from Flushing, NY

I must say, I can never get over Beethoven's 9th... if anything is climactic, it's that!

-Marina B. Nebro

Feb. 13 2013 08:18 AM
Kenneth from Brooklyn

Some really bizarre choices on this list. Why not Krzysztof Penderecki: Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima? Anyway, surely Berlioz' Scène d'amour from Roméo et Juliette should have been a choice.

Feb. 12 2013 07:41 PM

I nominate the third movement from Sergei Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony. You list his Second Piano Concerto, a good choice, but the Second Symphony's penultimate movement is better....and much more romantic.

Feb. 12 2013 05:59 PM
beachsiggy from NJ/NY Metro

Forgot to mention the Meditation from Thais....or most of the opera, for that matter.

Feb. 12 2013 02:57 PM
A Luna from Bronx, NY

Impressiones Intimas - Federico Mompou
Romance Op. 28 - Gabriel Faure
Pavane - Gabriel Faure
2nd Movement Symphony No. 7 - Beethoven

Feb. 12 2013 02:36 PM
Paula Roga from Elmhurst, Queens

Dear WQXR,

Korngold dedicated his Violin Concerto to Alma Mahler. I am dedicating the rapturous 2nd movement to a great concert violinist in London - Peter Fisher (yet to be discovered on this side of the pond) - my muse who has inspired me to learn the piano accompaniment (chords and all) to Korngold's 2nd movement entitled Romance. I look forward to mastering it and one day playing it together in my living room.

Happy Valentine's Day, Paula Roga.

Feb. 12 2013 01:53 PM
M J Clayton from New York NY

I'd like to nominate Nuit d'Ivresse from Berlioz' Les Troyens. Not heard nearly often enough.

Feb. 12 2013 01:30 PM
JL Peters from New York City

I literally cringed when I heard the announcement about the countdown, fully expecting to see Bolero win it in a landslide. While it is undoubtedly some of the steamiest music on the planet, almost anything can fit the bill under the right circumstances--as the comments above plainly show. That said, I was delighted to see Chopin's Ballade No. 1 among the choices. It's a piece of music I never tire of hearing.

It might be interesting to let the readers pick their own choices next year, just to see what your listening audience comes up with.

Feb. 12 2013 01:22 PM
MJ Mormak from Summit, NJ

This is not easy, but nothing says romance like Franck Violin Sonata in A ( especially the Bell/Denk recording ). Toujours l'amour .

Feb. 12 2013 12:10 PM
beachsiggy from NJ/NY Metro

In no particular order:

1st act duet Otello
1st act Walkurie
Tristan Und Isolde Liebesnacht
Concierto de Aranjuez

If I wasn't at work at the moment I could name a few more....

Feb. 12 2013 11:55 AM
Judith Broy from MA

Although all the pieces on your list are wonderful, my very favorite romantic pieces is the "Scherherazade Suite" by Rimsky-Korsakov. Another is Delilah's seduction song to Samson by Saint-Saëns... it gives me a wonderful shiver just to think of it! I hope readers will see this and go and listen to these two glorious pieces again and be delighted!

Feb. 12 2013 11:50 AM
Dale Ramsey from Manhattan

People often forget how lush and romantic Delius is. I recommend his Prelude to Irmelin, or Summer Night on the River for Valentine's Day.

Feb. 12 2013 10:51 AM
Janet from Brooklyn

The Ride of the Valkyrie - those girls are really something!

Feb. 12 2013 10:46 AM
Jorge Cifuentes from Santiago, Chile

Liszt's "Un sospiro" touches the soul; in fact, many pieces of music touch the soul, but "Un sospiro" also grabs your attention so strongly that it seems to take away part of the brain.

Feb. 12 2013 09:22 AM
RG from Boston

Rachmaninov's Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor, third movement; Dvorak's Romance in F Minor.

Feb. 12 2013 09:01 AM
Daryn Kent-Duncan from New York City

My vote: Mon Coeur S'Ouvre a Ta Voix from Samson and Dalilah, Lizst's Un Suspiro, Tchaikovsky "Rose Adagio" from Sleeping Beauty.

Feb. 12 2013 08:20 AM
Stephen J. Herschkorn from Highland Park, NJ

Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2

Feb. 11 2013 10:31 PM
Donna from New Jersey

J.S. Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor, second movement-the loveliest "heavy breathing" imaginable!

Feb. 11 2013 06:11 PM
Jonathan from NYC

I'd vote for the second movement of Barber's Violin Concerto. Only 10 mins. long but the yearning...!

Feb. 11 2013 05:43 PM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

I whole-heartedly agree with NP: "setting the Mood" and "Steamiest" are, so to speak, different movements of a symphony. To set the mood, how about "The Presentation of the Rose" (vocal version) from "Der Rosenkavalier"? Then "The Rite of Spring"? To end, the Meditation from "Thais"?

Feb. 11 2013 03:55 PM
Amani from Morocco

Debussy: Clair de Lune

Feb. 11 2013 02:55 PM
NP from NY

First you asked, "Which Classical Piece Sets the Mood for Romance?" Then you asked, "What's the Steamiest Piece of Classical Music?" Two different things entirely, like the difference between having sex and making love.

Some of the pieces listed are OK, but I'd highly recommend the album "Romances for Saxophone," by Branford Marsalis. The track list is below. To put it delicately and modestly, I've had great success with that album. You can ask the woman I played it for who became my wife.

1. L'Isle Joyeuse - Debussy
2. Pavane - Faure
3. Arabesque No. 1 - Debussy
4. Vocalise - Rachmaninoff
5. Pastorale - Stravinsky
6. Emmanuel - Colombier
7. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 - Villa-Lobos
8. Gymnopedie No. 3 - Satie
9. Prélude. Vif from Le Tombeau de Couperin - Ravel
10. Pièce En Forme De Habanera - Ravel
11. Sicilienne from Pelléas et Mélisande - Faure
12. Serenata from Pulcinella - Stravinsky
13. The Old Castle from Pictures at an Exhibition - Mussorgsky

Feb. 11 2013 01:43 PM

Duets - Pearl Fishers and Lakme

Feb. 11 2013 01:28 PM
Debra McHugh from New Jersey

Saint~Saens Carnival of The Animals~The Swan.

Feb. 11 2013 12:30 PM
Les Bernstein from Miami, Florida

I cast my vote for the Pavillion duet of the second couple, Camille and Vanlancienne in Lehar's "The Merry Widow". It's a beautiful duet and the book is subtle yet romantic: come to the pavillion, it will betray no secrets, we'll make our rendezvous there, etc." "Sieh dort den kleine Pavillon" it begins. (6/8, F major)

Feb. 11 2013 05:06 AM
Anthony from Springfield, NJ

Ravel's Bolero doesn't exactly "set the mood for romance". More accurately it invokes the desire to sit back and share a cigarette as in, "Whew! that was intense!!"

My choice to "set the mood" would be ....

Ravel - Piano concerto in G 2nd Movement
Grieg - Piano Concerto 2nd Movement

Feb. 10 2013 09:25 PM
Anon from NYC

I think I'd vote half of the suggestions off the list. I'm not sure I'd name any of the pieces above the "steamiest" piece of classical music, except maybe Tchaikovsky's Romeo & Juliet and the second movement from Rach 2.

Here are some "romantic" pieces for V-day that I would put on the list instead (list not meant to be in any way exclusive).

Mendelssohn - Midsummer Night's Dream Incidental Music 'Notturno'
Brahms - Intermezzo in A, op. 118 no. 2
Bruch - Scottish Fantasy, Violin Concerto No. 1
Brahms - Piano Trio in B, op. 8, I. Allegro con brio
Faure - Impromptu in D-flat, op. 86
Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu, op. 66, Prelude in A-flat
Rachmaninoff - Prelude in D major, op. 23, no. 4
Rachmaninoff - Moments Musicaux in D-flat, op. 16, no 5.
R. Strauss - Violin Sonata in E-flat, II. Improvisation, Andante Cantabile

Pitching the tried and true "classical hits" for V-day is just a dumb exercise. Try being more creative next time.

Feb. 10 2013 06:35 PM
Randall Gabrielan from Middletown NJ

Berlioz's Royal Hunt and Storm has a highly erotic quality. While not in the mood of what is traditionally thought of as love music, this piece stirs the emotions.

Feb. 10 2013 12:01 PM
Bob from Huntington,NY

My vote is for the transfiguration music from Tod und Verklarung. Isn't falling in love a sort of transfiguration?

Feb. 10 2013 08:50 AM
c adams

what about swan lake?

Feb. 10 2013 12:34 AM
Liege Motta from Manhattan

Although I cast my vote for Ravel's Bolero, in fact the piece that gets my passion juices flowing the most is Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, which has all the steamy, voluptuous, passionate themes of the Mediterranean lands, where my ancestors came from.

Feb. 09 2013 04:36 PM


Feb. 09 2013 01:33 PM
Fran White from Basking Ridge, NJ

My favorite love duet, especially if Luciano Pavarotti is singing.

Feb. 09 2013 06:00 AM

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