So much of classical music evokes a feeling of romance and love. It’s perfect for setting the ambiance for a romantic dinner or a cozy evening cuddling with the kids while reading a story. It’s no wonder that some of the greatest composers created songs of romantic love. They were in the midsts of some inspiring love stories. Go behind the classical music and discover the love stories that inspired some of the most beautiful classical compositions.
Widmung by Robert Schumann
If your little one takes piano lessons with us, you’ve been introduced to Clara Schumann as part of the “Music for Little Mozarts” curriculum. A brilliant pianist and composer, Clara was married to another talented composer – Robert. During their courtship he wrote her music, but it wasn’t necessarily a smooth courtship. Clara had accepted Robert’s offer of marriage, but they had to fight her father who was opposed to it. Like most fathers, he thought no one was good enough for his daughter. Eventually they took Clara’s father to court. The judge ruled in their favor, and they married the day before Clara’s 21st birthday.
As a wedding gift, he wrote a set of songs for his new wife – “Widmung” and “Dedication”. These were but 2 of the over 130 songs that he wrote that were inspired by his relationship with Clara. You’d think that would be hard to top. After watching this video of an excerpt from Robert Schumann’s “Widmug”, you may be surprised by the next entry.
Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2 by Brahms
Brahms’ talent caught the attention of Clara Schumann when she was much older and her husband’s health was declining. There is no proof that there was anything other than friendship between them, but it was clear that Brahms loved her dearly. It could just simply be a case of unrequited love.
In a letter to Clara, Brahms wrote:
My Beloved Clara, I wish I could write to you as tenderly as I love you and tell you all the good things that I wish you. You are so infinitely dear to me, dearer than I can say. I should like to spend the whole day calling you endearing names and paying you compliments without ever being satisfied.
Brahms dedicated to Clara Six Pieces Op. 118. One of the more beautiful pieces in it is teh Intermezzo in A.
Un Bal (A Ball) from Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz
This one might sound familiar, because we highlighted another song from Symphonie Fantastique for Halloween. This symphony has an interesting back story. When he was 24, Berlioz, a French composer, went to a performance of Hamlet. The actress Harriett Smithson caught his eye, and he fell head-over-heels in love with her. He sent her love letters, but she didn’t give him the time of day. So Berlioz figured the best way to get her attention was to write Symphonie Fantastique inspired by the fact that Harriett spurned his love for her.
At its premiere in December 1830, Berlioz wrote in the program the entire story of Symphonie Fantastique for his audience. At the time, it was highly unusual to have a program that explained the music in such detail. He explained in detail that it was a story about a Parisian artist scorned by a woman. After it’s premier Berlioz was welcomed into the upper echelons of society. And then Harriett went to the second performance of the piece. Well, she must have realised that it was about her in some way. And it helped that he was rather talented and now in society. They married the following year.
Salut d’amour by Elgar
Elgar is another one of our “Music for Little Mozart” characters. Like most musicians during his time, he had students. Before going on vacation during the summer of 1888, one of his students, Alice Roberts, gave him a love poem. Like most musicians, he wrote the only thing he knew how in return. He gave her this song when he came back from vacation. He also proposed. She said “yes!”
Andante Favori by Beethoven
Known as Beethoven Bear to our piano students here at My Little Conservatory, Beethoven is another composer who used his musical talents to woo his future wife. In 1799, Beethoven had a new piano student, Countess Jozefina Brunszvik de Korompa (aka Josephine Brunsvik). It was love at first sight for both of them. But because she was an aristocrat, and in an arranged marriage, they could not be together. Yet they wrote letters and Beethoven secretly dedicated many compositions to her. Andante Favori is thought to be written as a declaration of Beethoven’s love of Josephine.
The Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo by Benjamin Britten
The composer Benjamin Britten and the great English tenor Peter Pears met in 1937 and fell in love. Peter became Britten’s muse, but given the time in which they lived their relationship wasn’t public. However their friends knew. They built a life together as both life partners and musical partners for 40 years until Britten died in 1976. Britten wrote many songs and leading roles for Pears. One of Pears most memorable performances was the tenor part in one of Bitten’s most moving works, War Requiem. When The Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo debuted during WWII, it was not translated for the audience. If it had, the audience may have suspected that it was written about Britten’s love for Pears.