Looking for some romantic music to celebrate Valentine's Day? We have a playlist for that! Our WFIU music hosts have curated their favorite Valentine's Day songs for jazz, classical, and early music lovers. Sit back, relax, and enjoy their selection of music all about love!
WFIU’s classical music director Aaron Cain shares his thoughts on the top 10 classical music songs for Valentine's Day:
10. Giacomo Puccini – Che gelida manina from La bohème
It’s one of the most recorded tenor arias for a reason. It’s an operatic “meet-cute” that starts out pretty conversational and rapidly blossoms into a full-blown manifesto about art and love.
9. Edward Elgar – Salut d'amour
Elgar wrote and dedicated the sweet and understated Salut d’amour (Love’s Greeting) to his fiancée, Alice Roberts, in 1888. The story goes that tears streamed down her cheeks as he played it for her.
8. Reynaldo Hahn – A Chloris
This sweet, simple melody was written in 1916 by a French composer born in Venezula, using a text written around two hundred years earlier. It would have been perfectly at home even a couple hundred years before that, being sung by some shepherd to a nymph in some impossibly perfect pasture.
7. Richard Wagner – Tristan and Isolde: Prelude
Okay, so the lovers here are kind of doomed from the start, but the sense of obsessive longing that Wagner captures before the curtain even rises on this opera is extraordinary.
6. Jean-Paul-Égide Martini – Plaisir d’amour
There are more than a few well-known, present-day love songs that it might surprise people to learn how long ago they were written. Most folks might not have heard of Martini, or know this French love song from the 1780s, but I’d bet they do know Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which uses the same melody.
5. Robert Schumann – Fantasie in C
It’s hard to resist pieces that play a big part in the real-life love stories of the composers who wrote them. Here’s another one, written when Schumann was apart from his beloved, Clara Wieck. It manages to convey both sorrowful restlessness and loving tenderness.
4. Camille Saint-Saëns – Samson and Delilah, aria: Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix
Here’s another one of those gorgeous love songs for which we kind of have to ignore the context, since Delilah is using this sumptuous song (“My heart opens itself to your voice”) to seduce Samson into revealing the source of his prodigious strength.
3. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet: Fantasy Overture
Yes, it depicts all kinds of events from Shakespeare’s play, including pensive friars and battling families, but its “love theme” is tough to top. And it’s used all over popular culture as musical shorthand for love at first sight.
2. Sergei Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 2, Second Movement, Adagio sostenuto
This heartfelt movement will be familiar to many from its prominent use in the 1945 film Brief Encounter, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For example, Eric Carmen used its melody for his 1975 ballad “All by Myself,” John Williams used it as inspiration for Marion’s Theme in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and boodles of gymnasts and figure skaters have selected it to accompany their routines.
1. Gustav Mahler – Symphony No.5, Fourth Movement: Adagietto
This movement is often referred to as a special love letter from Mahler to his muse and future wife, Alma Schindler. In it, Mahler forgoes his usual dense orchestrations and fireworks, setting the music for just strings and harp, and creating something entirely unlike any of his other works.
Christopher Burrus, host and producer of Ether Game, lists his favorite love songs from classical, opera, and musical theater:
1. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Wedding March, Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
2. Le Nozze di Figaro ("The Marriage of Figaro"): Overture, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
3. Der Rosenkavalier: "Mir ist die Ehre widerfahren" (Presentation of the Rose), Richard Strauss (1864–1949)
4. The Bartered Bride Overture, Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884)
5. Les Noces: Scene One, Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)
6. Madrigali Amorosi (Eighth Book of Madrigals): Altri Canti di Marte ("Let Others Sing Of Mars"), Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
7. Eugene Onegin: "Vy mne pisali" (Love Letter Scene), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
8. Book 1: If my complaints could passions move, John Dowland (1562-1626)
9. String Quartet No. 2, "The Intimate Letters": III. Moderato, Leoš Janáček (1854–1928)
10. Get Me to the Church on Time, Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner
Mark Chilla, producer and host of Afterglow, shares the top 10 most romantic songs from the Great American Songbook:
1. “But Beautiful”
2. “The Way You Look Tonight”
3. “My Funny Valentine”
4. “The Nearness of You”
5. “My Romance”
6. “My One and Only Love”
7. “Isn’t It Romantic”
8. “La Vie En Rose”
9. “Love Walked In”
10. “Embraceable You”
David Brent Johnson, jazz director and Night Lights and Just You & Me host, recommends these jazzy love tunes:
1. Chet Baker – “Let’s Get Lost”
2. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – “Dedicated to You”
3. Ella Fitzgerald – “Do I Love You”
4. Ella Fitzgerald – “All Through the Night”
5. Billie Holiday – “Life Begins When You’re in Love”
6. Billie Holiday – “Easy Living”
7. Norah Jones and Jakob Dylan – “Never My Love”
8. Nellie McKay, “Meditation”
9. Frank Sinatra, “Where or When”
10. Jo Stafford, “The Nearness of You”
Harmonia staff Angela Mariani, Wendy Gillespie, and Aaron Cain share their Valentine's Day music selections—some happy and some sad—for early music lovers:
1. Claudio Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea, duet: Pur ti miro, pur ti godo (TEATRO REAL / Philippe Jaroussky / Danielle De Niese)
("I gaze upon you, I desire you")
2. Giulio Caccini: Amarilli, mia bella (Philippe Jaroussky, contertenor)
3. Josquin des Pres: Baisiez-moi (Kings Singers)
4. Purcell, If Music Be the Food of Love (Daniel Taylor)
5. Thibaut de Champagne: Aussi come unicorne sui (Anne Azema)
(“Like the unicorn, I am lost in wonder.”)
6. Thomas Ford: Since first I saw your face (Early Music Alberta)
7. Claudio Monteverdi: Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti (L'Arpeggiata Ensemble)
8. Cipriano de Rore: Ancor che col partire (Domus Artis)
(Ancor che col partire / Io mi senta morire - "Although with leaving you / I feel myself die.")
9. Cantigas de Amigo, Martin Codax ("friend song") (Ensemble Ars Nova)
10. Senfl: Ach Elslein, liebe, Elslein meine ("Oh little Else, my little Else dear") (Calmus Ensemble)
11. Baude Cordier: Belle, bonne, sage
12. Luca Marenzio: Solo e pensoso (Deller Consort)
13. Guillaume Dufay: Se la face ay pale (Cantica Symphonia)
("If my face seems pale, the cause is love")
14. Machaut, Rose, liz, printemps, verdure ("Rose, lily, spring, greenery") (Ferrara Ensemble)
15. Josquin, Mille regretz (Hilliard Ensemble)
16. Michelangelo Falvetti: Il dliuvio universale, duet: Dolce sposo Noè (Leonardo García Alarcón · Choeur de Chambre de Namur · Cappella Mediterranea)
(Noah and his wife sing a love duet)
17. Anon: Lai du chèvrefeuille (Ensemble Alla Francesca)