Classical Music Inspired by Love Part 1

Next week is Valentines Day, which means – of course – that there is no better way to celebrate love than by listening to classical music inspired by it. Please enjoy this playlist I have created of classical music inspired by love, and stay tuned for part 2!

Kreisleriana (Op. 16) by Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Background

Kreisleriana is an eight movement work Schumann wrote for solo piano. It is one of his most dramatic (and most popular) works, and it only took the composer four days in April 1838 to compose! The title was inspired by E. T. A. Hoffmann‘s character Johannes Kreisler, a moody and antisocial musical genius – each movement has a different mood, representing Kreisler’s (and possibly Schumann’s own) manic depression.

Inspired by Clara

Schumann’s wife Clara, who was a famous pianist and a (sadly not-as-famous) composer, was Schumann’s muse. She inspired him greatly, and he said to her about Kreisleriana:

“I’m overflowing with music and beautiful melodies now – imagine, since my last letter I’ve finished another whole notebook of new pieces. I intend to call it Kreisleriana. You and one of your ideas play the main role in it, and I want to dedicate it to you – yes, to you and nobody else – and then you will smile so sweetly when you discover yourself in it.”

Beethoven’Andante favori

Background

Written sometime between 1803 and 1804, Andante favori (“favored Andante”) was originally intended to be the middle movement of Beethoven’s famous “Waldstein” piano sonata, Op. 53. However, a friend of Beethoven commented on the length of the piano sonata, and – after reflecting – Beethoven agreed that Op. 53 was too long. He decided to remove the Andante and create a new, shorter movement to go with the piano sonata. About a year later, Beethoven published Andante favori as a solo piano work.

Inspired by Josephine

In 1799, 20-year-old Josephine Brunsvik came to Beethoven for piano lessons, and he was immediately smitten. Josephine probably felt the same, although she wanted to keep their relationship a secret; they could not marry due to a difference in social standing. However, they corresponded via love letters, and he wrote her music.

Beethoven wrote the lyrical, introspective Andante favori for Josephine as a musical declaration of his love.

Liszt’s Liebesträume No. 3

Background

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) is known for his beautiful lyricism and lush harmonies. Much of his music is about love, whether that is through poetic lyrics or melodies that tell stories.

His work Liebesträume (“Dreams of Love”) is a set of three solo piano pieces published in 1850. Originally the works were created as songs based on poems about love, but that same year Liszt published each as a piano transcription. The poem for Liebesträume No. 3 is called “O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst” (“Love as long as you can”) by Ferdinand Freiligrath:

Freilgrath’s Poem English Translation
O lieb’, solang du lieben kannst!
O lieb’, solang du lieben magst!
Die Stunde kommt, die Stunde kommt,
Wo du an Gräbern stehst und klagst!


Und sorge, daß dein Herze glüht
Und Liebe hegt und Liebe trägt,
Solang ihm noch ein ander Herz
In Liebe warm entgegenschlägt!


Und wer dir seine Brust erschließt,
O tu ihm, was du kannst, zulieb’!
Und mach’ ihm jede Stunde froh,
Und mach ihm keine Stunde trüb!


Und hüte deine Zunge wohl,
Bald ist ein böses Wort gesagt!
O Gott, es war nicht bös gemeint, –
Der andre aber geht und klagt.


O lieb’, solang du lieben kannst!
O lieb’, solang du lieben magst!
Die Stunde kommt, die Stunde kommt,
Wo du an Gräbern stehst und klagst!


Dann kniest du nieder an der Gruft
Und birgst die Augen, trüb und naß,
– Sie sehn den andern nimmermehr –
Ins lange, feuchte Kirchhofsgras.


Und sprichst: O schau’ auf mich herab,
Der hier an deinem Grabe weint!
Vergib, daß ich gekränkt dich hab’!
O Gott, es war nicht bös gemeint!


Er aber sieht und hört dich nicht,
Kommt nicht, daß du ihn froh umfängst;
Der Mund, der oft dich küßte, spricht
Nie wieder: Ich vergab dir längst!


Er tat’s, vergab dir lange schon,
Doch manche heiße Träne fiel
Um dich und um dein herbes Wort –
Doch still – er ruht, er ist am Ziel!


O lieb’, solang du lieben kannst!
O lieb’, solang du lieben magst!
Die Stunde kommt, die Stunde kommt,
Wo du an Gräbern stehst und klagst!

O love, as long as love you can,
O love, as long as love you may,
The time will come, the time will come
When you will stand at the grave and mourn!


Be sure that your heart burns,
And holds and keeps love
As long as another heart beats warmly
With its love for you


And if someone bears his soul to you
Love him back as best you can
Give his every hour joy,
Let him pass none in sorrow!


And guard your words with care,
Lest harm flow from your lips!
Dear God, I meant no harm,
But the loved one recoils and mourns.


O love, love as long as you can!
O love, love as long as you may!
The time will come, the time will come,
When you will stand at the grave and mourn.


You will kneel alongside the grave
And your eyes will be sorrowful and moist,
– Never will you see the beloved again –
Only the churchyard’s tall, wet grass.


You will say: Look at me from below,
I who mourn here alongside your grave!
Forgive my slights!
Dear God, I meant no harm!


Yet the beloved does not see or hear you,
He lies beyond your comfort;
The lips you kissed so often speak
Not again: I forgave you long ago!


Indeed, he did forgive you,
But tears he would freely shed,
Over you and on your unthinking word –
Quiet now! – he rests, he has passed.


O love, love as long as you can!
O love, love as long as you may!
The time will come, the time will come,
When you will stand at the grave and mourn.

Inspired by Life

While Liebesträume No. 3 isn’t necessarily inspired by anyone in particular, Liszt did compose this masterpiece a few years after he met the love of his life Princess Carolyne (of course he had been married and divorced prior to this relationship, so he knew a thing or two about love’s emotions; that is the story told in this piece). 

Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev

Background

Composed in 1935, Romeo and Juliet began as a ballet. The composer also wrote three orchestral suites and ten pieces for piano from the ballet; read more here.

This theme plays when Romeo and Juliet dance together, and it perfectly captures the emotions of new love while foreshadowing the play’s tragic ending.

Inspired by Life

Prokofiev had lived outside of Russia for almost 20 years when he was commissioned to write a ballet for a Russian dance theater. Amidst the turmoil in the Soviet Union (by this point Shostakovich had been exiled for his innovative music), Prokofiev thought this was his opportunity to reestablish himself as one of the Soviet Union’s great composers. However, he took many unconventional liberties and – as a result – the ballet was heavily censored and changed to conform more to Soviet standards.

While there was no one person who inspired Prokofiev to write Romeo and Juliet, his love for Russia and his craft – and the love Romeo and Juliet shared – inspired Prokofiev as he scored this love story.

That’s all for now! What classical music do you enjoy listening to that was inspired by love?

P.S. Head over to my Instagram to check out more music and behind-the-scenes:

Classical Music Inspired by Love Part 1

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I'm a pianist, composer, writer, photographer, and overall classical-music-lover who is always open to new sounds.

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