Monday, December 04, 2006

In the mood for romantic music

I bought Disney's Little Mermaid animated film on DVD last month and discovered an amazing short animation in the special features section of the DVD. It's a beautifully-done version of Hans Christian Andersen's moving tale, The Little Match Girl. It's set appropriately to the third movement of Alexander Borodin's String Quartet No. 2 in D major. This touching 5-minute film and equally touching musical piece combine masterfully to produce tears in my eyes everytime. I discovered that I happened to have the exact same musical performance done by the Emerson String Quartet on CD. If you're interested, it's on the Deutsch Grammophon label along with Dvorak's amazing "American" Quartet (which I've played before) and Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 1. The entire CD is stunning. The Emerson String Quartet is one of the best ensembles around with numerous recordings under their belt.

I recently acquired a CD that I had been looking for for a few years. I'm sure it was readily available, but I didn't know the title, only the performer, Jacqueline du Pre, a brilliant British cellist who was in the middle of a stellar musical career in the 60s-early 70s when her abilities began deteriorating after her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. I was introduced to her by the young cellist whom I was supposed to accompany on piano at a recital, but I ended up succumbing to my old habit of inadvertently double-booking myself and had to back out. Anyways, this CD is put out by EMI Classics and has a recital of the most romantic short pieces written/arranged for cello. The Delius cello concerto is also included, but it didn't impress me. If you want some romantic, slow evening music, I would highly recommend this album. The recital pieces include: Maria Theresia von Paradis' Sicilienne, Robert Schumann's Three Fantasy Pieces, Mendelssohn's Song without Words in D, Gabriel Faure's Elegie in C minor (my fave), and the somewhat overplayed The Swan from Camille Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals.

Another highly romantic recording from my collection is a very inexpensive CBS Great Performances CD with Leonard Berstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. It contains: Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, op.11, Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis and Fantasia on "Greensleeves," a movement from Tchaikovsky's first string quartet (on the first CD mentioned, also), and the Adagietto movement from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor (with a slightly overdone final cadence). Warning: This CD might be a little schmalzy for trained musicians, but great for amateur ears.

If you're in the mood for romantic piano, you can't go wrong with Chopin's Nocturnes. Unfortunately, I've played them so many times that their romance has worn off for me, but if you're not familiar with them, you'll discover some gems. Some Brahms Intermezzos will hit the spot, too. My favorite is No. 2 in A major, opus 118.

By the way, you don't need to have a partner to feel romantic. I think I've felt the most romantic when I was single -- particularly in high school when my hormones were raging and unrequited love was the norm (my being self-cloistered in an all-girls school).

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