This week on Intermezzo we knew we wanted to celebrate Valentine's Day, so we decided to get all of the hosts to give us their picks! Tune in to Intermezzo every day at 1 PM for a different work each day!
Victor Hugo once said "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”. Is that why music has been used as the vehicle to express our emotions since the beginning of time?
Whether we're mending a broken heart, enjoying the first days of a new love or celebrating a milestone anniversary music always seems to play a part.
We asked Classic 107 hosts to name their favourite romantic classical works or pieces. From solo piano to to great big orchestral works; from hits to some a little more obscure, our hosts never disappoint!
Tune in every day at 1PM when host Chris Wolf will feature one of the hosts' picks--including himself!
If you missed it. come back here each day to see who's pick Chris featured and what is was.
The Morning Blend and White Light host Simeon Rusnak
Simeon's pick was Beethoven's Piano Sonata no 14 in C sharp minor, the "Moonlight Sonata"
Like many, I grew up listening to the piano - my uncle is a great pianist, and he always plays at family events. When I was a kid, he would regularly play the first movement, and my parents would always remark: "He played this at our wedding" It was one of the selections they had made together, and thus I always equate a romantic nostalgia with the work. I read one story, not sure if factual, that the work was inspired by one of his pupils, and a passion he felt for her. It was an unrequited love; quite the juxtaposition to my parents, who have been dating since high school.
Well, it IS true . . .sort of. Julie ("Giulietta") Guicciardi was an Austrian countess and briefly a piano student of Ludwig van Beethoven. And he did, in fact, dedicate his Piano Sonata No. 14 to her.
Beethoven became acquainted with Guicciardi through the Brunsvik family (often known in English as "Brunswick"). He was particularly intimate with her cousins, the sisters Therese and Josephine Brunsvik (whom he had taught the piano since 1799). In late 1801, he became Guicciardi's piano teacher, and apparently became infatuated with her. She is probably the "enchanting girl", about whom he wrote on November 16, 1801 to his friend Franz Gerhard Wegeler: "My life is once more a little more pleasant, I'm out and about again, among people – you can hardly believe how desolate, how sad my life has been since these last two years; this change was caused by a sweet, enchanting girl, who loves me and whom I love. After two years, I am again enjoying some moments of bliss, and it is the first time that – I feel that marriage could make me happy, but unfortunately she is not of my station – and now – I certainly could not marry now."
In 1802, he dedicated to her (as "Giulietta Guicciardi") the Piano Sonata No. 14, which, although originally titled Sonata quasi una Fantasia (like its companion piece), subsequently became known by the popular nickname, Moonlight Sonata. This dedication was not Beethoven's original intention, and he did not have Guicciardi in mind when writing the Moonlight Sonata. Thayer, in his Life of Beethoven, states that the work Beethoven originally intended to dedicate to Guicciardi was the Rondo in G, Op. 51 No. 2, but this had to be dedicated to Countess Lichnowsky. So he cast around at the last moment for a piece to dedicate to Guicciardi.
After Beethoven's death in 1827, a three-part letter was found among his private papers addressed to a woman whom he called "immortal beloved". Written in the summer of 1812 from the spa town of Teplice, the letter has generated a great deal of speculation and debate amongst scholars and writers as to her identity. Among the candidates are (or were) Giulietta Guicciardi, Thérèse von Brunswick, Josephine Brunsvik, Antonie Brentano, and Anna-Marie Erdödy
Here is the scene from 1994 film Immortal Beloved where Moonlight Sonata is featured.
Intermezzo host Chris Wolf .
Chris' pick is Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18.
The second movement of this work really tugs at my heart strings every time I hear it.
This piece is one of Rachmaninoff's most enduringly popular pieces and established his fame as a concerto composer.
The completion of this work came at a pivotal time in the Russian composer's life. In 1897, his first symphony, now considered a significant achievement, was derided by contemporary critics. Compounded by problems in his personal life, Rachmaninoff fell into a depression that lasted for several years. This second piano concerto confirmed his recovery from clinical depression and writer's block. Rachmaninoff owed his cure to a course of hypnotherapy. And , in fact, dedicated the concerto to Nikolai Dahl, a physician who had done much to restore Rachmaninoff's self-confidence.
Chris talks about how the second movement is key to his heart. Well, he's not the only one. The Adagio sostenuto theme appears in Eric Carmen's 1975 ballad "All by Myself". Carmen first composed the song's interlude, then took the bridge from Rachmaninoff and the chorus from his own "Let's Pretend". Carmen explained that Rachmaninoff was his "favorite music".
The final movement provides the basis for Frank Sinatra's 1945 "Full Moon and Empty Arms". An earlier song of Sinatra's - "I Think of You" - is based on the first movement.
More recently, the first movement--the moderato theme -- appears in Muse's 2001 song "Space Dementia". The lyric line "And tear us apart and make us meaningless again" follows exactly Rachmaninoff's melody in the first movement, which is first played by string instruments in the beginning of the movement, and then again by the piano toward the movement's finale.
Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 is also featured in more than 20 films--features, short and animated!
Here is Rachmaninoff himself performing the opening movement of this concerto with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Leopold Stakowski is the conductor.
Diamond Lane host Sarah Jo Kirsch
Sarah Jo picked Großmächtige Prinzessin, Ariadne auf Naxos (Zerbinetta)
Zerbinetta is an adventurer. I think she fundamentally seeks the limits of experience. This aria takes us on a journey through her variegated sensual appetites in the guise of a pep-talk to the heartbroken 'Great Princess' Ariadne.
Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos), Op. 60, is an opera by Richard Strauss with a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It combine's slapstick comedy and consummately beautiful music, the opera's theme is the competition between high and low art for the public's attention. Großmächtige Prinzessin (High and mighty princess) is the most important aria in the opera.
Ariadne is shown abandoned by her former lover, Theseus, on the desert island of Naxos, with no company other than the nymphs Naiad, Dryad, and Echo. Ariadne bewails her fate, mourns her lost love, and longs for death. Zerbinetta and her four companions from the burlesque group enter and attempt to cheer Ariadne by singing and dancing, but without success. In a sustained and dazzling piece of coloratura singing, Zerbinetta tells the Princess to let bygones be bygones and insists that the simplest way to get over a broken heart is to find another man. In a comic interlude, each of the clowns pursues Zerbinetta. Eventually, she chooses Harlequin, a baritone, and the two sing a love duet together while the other clowns express frustration and envy.
The nymphs announce the arrival of a stranger on the island. Ariadne thinks it is Hermes, the messenger of death, but it is the god Bacchus, who is fleeing from the sorceress Circe. At first they do not understand their mistaken identification of each other. Bacchus eventually falls in love with Ariadne, who agrees to follow him to the realm of death to search for Theseus. Bacchus promises to set her in the heavens as a constellation. Zerbinetta returns briefly to repeat her philosophy of love: when a new love arrives, one has no choice but to yield. The opera ends with a passionate duet sung by Ariadne and Bacchus.
Here is Slovak coloratura soprano Edita Gruberová performing the powerful aria.
Sunday Classics host Paul von Wichert
Paul's romantic pick is Alexander Borodin's String Quartet No. 2 in D Major
It's difficult to choose. There are so many! I'd say my favourite romantic work is Borodin's String Quartet No.2 in D Major. It's full of lyrical Russian melody and ingenious counterpoint, and would be the prefect background for a sumptuous gourmet feast.
Written by Alexander Borodin in 1881, this quartet was dedicated to his wife Ekaterina Protopova. Some scholars suggest that the quartet was a 20th anniversary gift and that it has a program evoking the couple’s first meeting in Heidelberg.
Of its four movements, the third movement “Notturno” is the most famous, and part of it was adapted into the song “And This Is My Beloved” from the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet. This movement also serves as the score to Disney's 2006 short The Little Matchgirl.
Here is the wonderful Julie Andrews singing "And This Is My Beloved".
Here is the Lucerne String Quartet with a beautiful performance of the Notturno.
Morning Light host Michael Wolch
For our final romantic pick, Michael chose The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto.
This is a favourite work of both my wife and myself. We have a beautiful box set that includes two recordings of the concerto. We've listened to it so many times that I always think of my wife any time I hear it.
This concerto is one of the most famous modern works of Chinese music. It's an orchestral adaptation of an ancient legend, the Butterfly Lovers. Written for the western style orchestra, it features a solo violin played using some Chinese techniques.
The violin concerto is written in traditional 5-note technique (pentatonic scale), it uses many Chinese melodies, chord structures and patterns, giving it a distinctive "Chinese" sound, though it uses tonal harmonies.
The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was written in 1959 by two Chinese composers, He Zhanhao (何占豪, born 1933) and Chen Gang (陈钢, born 1935), while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. The music did not attain popularity before the late 1970s, when China loosened its restrictions after the Cultural Revolution. Once released from censorship, it became an embodiment of China in transition. The work is a common feature in figure skating and in concert halls worldwide. This concerto is now often performed with Chinese instruments playing the violin part, the most common being Erhu, Pipa and Liuqin. In such cases the soloist is often accompanied by an orchestra consisting of Chinese instruments.
He Zhanhao is more widely credited for the composition of the concerto. However, his main contribution was the famous opening theme while most of the development was in fact written by Chen Gang. This was revealed in an interview of by China Central Television with several artists contributed in the creation and popularity of this piece of work in China and worldwide.
The 1959 premiere of the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto featured 18-year violinist Yu Lina and took place in Shanghai as part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary year of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It was first recorded in 1959 with soloist Shen Rong on violin and the Symphony Orchestra of Shanghai Music Conservatory conducted by Fan Cheng-wu.