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Listening Lists: Inspired By Love

Updated: May 12, 2023

Listening Lists: Inspired By Love. Classical music works by Monteverdi, Schumann, Elgar, Mahler, Tchaikovsky.

With Valentine's Day coming up this weekend, here are some of our favourite classical music works inspired by love!


Monteverdi - L'incoronazione di Poppea: Pur ti miro

This love duet between the Emperor Nero and his mistress Poppea is found at the very end of the opera, once Poppea has been crowned Empress, and after plenty of deceit, betrayal, jealousy, and death throughout the rest of the story.

The role of Nerone (Nero) may be sung by a countertenor male or a mezzo-soprano/contralto female voice. It was originally composed for a castrato (castrated) male voice.

The guitar-like instrument with a really long neck which features in this work is called a theorbo, and is part of the lute (instrument) family.


I gaze at you

I tighten closer to you

I delight in you

I am bound to you

I no longer suffer

I no longer die

Oh my life, Oh my treasure.

I am yours

You are mine

My hope, say it, say,

The idol of mine, Yes, my love,

You are mine, tell me so

The idol of mine,

Yes, my love,

Yes, my heart, my life, yes.

I gaze at you

I tighten closer to you

I delight in you

I am bound to you

I no longer suffer

I no longer die

Oh my life, Oh my treasure.


Schumann - Myrthen: Widmung

The love story of Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck is legendary in classical music history. Both talented musicians, they had to keep their relationship secret for some time as Clara's father did not approve of Robert. Eventually, they were able to marry in 1840. Robert composed a song cycle (set of songs) called "Myrthen" as a wedding present to his new wife. The first song, "Widmung" (Dedication), is Robert's love song to his better half! The text is by Friedrich Rückert.

You my soul, you my heart,

You my bliss, O you my pain,

You my world in which I live,

My heaven you, in which I float,

O you my grave, into which

I gave my sorrow forever!

You are rest, you are peace,

You are bestowed on me from heaven.

Your love for me gives me my worth,

Your eyes transfigure me in mine,

You raise me lovingly above myself,

My good spirit, my better self!


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Elgar - Salut d'amour

Elgar composed this piece in 1888 for his fiancée Caroline Alice Roberts as an engagement gift. His beloved was fluent in German, so he called it "Liebesgruss" (Love's greeting). It had a French dedication: "à Carice" (CAR-oline Al-ICE) - two years later, Carice was the name the couple gave to their daughter.

The piece was first published in editions for violin and piano, cello and piano, solo piano, and small orchestra. Eventually, the piece was re-titled "Salut d'amour" so more copies of the score would sell in France and elsewhere in Europe.


Mahler - Symphony No. 5: IV. Adagietto

The Adagietto from Gustav Mahler's fifth symphony (1901-1902) is the most frequently performed of his works. According to a letter from his wife Alma to conductor Willem Mengelberg, Mahler left a poem for her with this work. The poem translates as follows:

In which way I love you, my sunbeam, I cannot tell you with words. Only my longing, my love and my bliss can I with anguish declare.

Unfortunately, Alma and Gustav's love was not to last. They married in 1902, and one of the conditions of their marriage was that Alma (a composer herself) give up composing. Eventually, due to an unhappy marriage and the stifling of her art, she fell into depression and also had an affair. Gustav found out about the affair, and attempted to reconcile with Alma. He began encouraging her composing and helping to prepare some of her works for publication, but died soon after.

The Adagietto became commercially popular in the 1970s due to its use in the film "Death in Venice". It was also used in the commemorative events following the September 11 attacks in the United States.


Tchaikovsky - Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

Tchaikovksy's "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture" is an example of a "symphonic poem" - a piece of orchestral music which tells a story. It is based on three main strands of the Shakespearean tale - Friar Lawrence (religion/mysticism/fate), the feuding Capulet and Montague families, and the love between Romeo and Juliet.

If you have ever played the first game of The Sims franchise, you may recognise the love theme (listen at 8:58)! When two Sims kissed, this is the music that played! It has also been featured in many TV shows, films, and other popular media.


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