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Romantic classical music: My top five pieces

Romantic classical music: My top five pieces

Romantic classical music: My top five pieces

Music has such power to express romantic feelings: as the French novelist Victor Hugo wrote, 'Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.' Here are my top five romantic pieces of classical music – inspiration for my latest novel, Concerto, the love story of a pianist composer and a music therapist.

Craig Armstrong – Romeo & Juliet Balcony Scene

Such a beautiful modern classical piece, composed by Craig Armstrong for Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and adapted by Des’ree in ‘Kissing You’. Here it is, played by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

Puccini – ‘O mio babbino caro’
This aria, which in English translates to ‘Oh my dear papa’, is from Puccini’s one-act opera Gianni Schicchi (1918), and it’s simply beautiful. It’s sung by Lauretta, who is begging her father, Gianni, to let her marry Rinuccio. She tells her father how much she loves Rinuccio, and that if she cannot be with him, she will throw herself in the Arno River – ‘Babbo, pietà, pietà!’ she finishes; ‘Father, have pity, have pity!’ Here, the aria is sung by mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins.

Beethoven – ‘Moonlight Sonata’
Beethoven wrote this sonata (officially ‘Piano Sonata no. 14 in C-sharp minor, “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27, No. 2’) in 1801 and dedicated it to the Countess Giulietta Guicciardi – ‘a sweet, enchanting girl,’ he wrote, ‘who loves me and whom I love.’ The song was a key inspiration for Concerto and I listened to it often while writing to set the mood. Before the hero and heroine of the novel even meet, they connect through this song:

Someone was playing the piano: Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. It had once been likened by the German poet Ludwig Rellstab to the effect of moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne, and to Catriona tonight it was as if the silvery orb was shining on the far-off Mediterranean. Entranced, the eighteen-year-old musician listened with a beating heart to the liquid notes that floated to her through the night, a mesmerizing melody that held her in its charm long after it had ceased to play.

Here is the ‘Moonlight Sonata’, played so passionately by Anastasia Huppmann at the Yamaha Concert Hall in Vienna.

Elgar – ‘Salut d’amour’
Elgar called this work ‘Liebesgruss’ (‘Love’s Greeting’), and he wrote it as an engagement gift for his future wife, Caroline Alice Roberts, in 1888. Such a romantic gift! In the lilting melody you can hear all of Elgar’s joy and hope at a future with the woman he loved. Here it is, played by the Berlin Philharmonic.

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2, Second Movement
If you think you are not familiar with this concerto, think again! I am sure that you will have heard it, for it has featured prominently in popular culture, especially in the film Brief Encounters and as the inspiration for the popular song ‘All By Myself’. It was composed by Rachmaninov in 1900 and was dedicated to his hypnotherapist, who had pulled Rachmaninov from depression and instilled in him the confidence and direction to write music again (shades of my novel Concerto!). Here, the movement is played by Khatia Buniatishvili.

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