The most relaxing classical violin music ever written
5 November 2020, 17:24 | Updated: 9 November 2020, 11:57
Lie back, and let the Stradivarius work its magic…
Sometimes, when things are stressful, nothing but the soothing sound of a solo violin will cut it to bring your heart rate down and induce a state of musical bliss.
For those moments, we’ve chosen a handful of most soothing pieces of music for the fiddle.
Massenet: Méditation (Thaïs)
Put this on… and draw a breath deeper than you’ve taken all day. Marked Andante religioso, Massenet’s exquisite Intermezzo for solo violin and orchestra is to be played with an almost religious emotion. From the offset, the ‘Méditation’ creates a dream-like soundscape, the violin undulating up and down, cushioned by harmonies from the harps. Then we reach the climax, a wonderfully indulgent moment marked poco più appassionato, before the violin fades away to almost silence.
Literally a ‘Cradle Song’, Fauré’s ‘Berceuse’ is a sweet violin and piano miniature which, despite being allegedly dismissed by the composer himself as a merely “conventional little piece”, has stood as impressively on the world’s concert stages as it has in street busking spots. Usually played with mute, it boasts none of the indulgence of Massenet’s ‘Méditation’, instead encouraging a light, tender tone from the instrument.
Pärt: Spiegel im Spiegel
Literally ‘Mirror in the Mirror’, Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s meditative violin and piano composition is grounded by a sustained A in the violin and tonic triads in the keys, repeated over and over to create a feeling of the melody being reflected back and forth – like mirrors in a mirror. It’s one of the most iconic minimalist works, and an absolutely beautiful listen.
Lili Boulanger: Nocturne
Lili Boulanger, the sister of Nadia Boulanger who taught Philip Glass and Leonard Bernstein, wrote this delicately coloured violin and piano work, gently chromatic in places, at the age of just 18 – seven years before the end of her tragically short life.
The ‘Nocturne’ begins simply, the violin becoming more virtuosic and reaching moments of increasing intensity, as the texture thickens.
Beethoven: Violin Romance No. 2
Listening to the sweet, youthful melodies in the Romance No. 2 in F, it’s incredible to think of the contrastingly cruel events taking place in Beethoven’s life around the same time. In 1803, the year this surprisingly delicate music was written, the composer was slowly coming to terms with his increasing deafness, that would, ultimately, completely deteriorate by the end of his life.
Well worth a listen in relaxing violin repertoire is this elegant work by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a prolific English composer of African descent (not to be confused with the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge). In the early years of the 20th century, Coleridge-Taylor enjoyed considerable acclaim for his orchestral works, in which he married influences from Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, and Grieg with melodies from African American folk music.
Bach: Air on a G String
When it comes to Bach, it’s hard to choose just one of his achingly beautiful melodies written for violin. A gentle, resolute bass line is the key to this breath-taking ‘air’, a curious but perfectly placed moment in his Suite No. 3.
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
We couldn’t do a list of violin music without including The Lark Ascending. It’s become a beacon of English classical repertoire, as demonstrated in the Classic FM Hall of Fame where it has topped the chart nine times in 24 years. A deeply nostalgic piece, The Lark is full of the folk melodies that Vaughan Williams loved to collect, the singing solo violin rising to ever loftier heights.
Speaking to Classic FM, violinist Jennifer Pike attempted to capture the piece’s magic. “It’s this sense of stillness, that everybody has stopped. And you feel this atmosphere in the hall… it’s almost like being in meditation. I can’t describe how special it is to play it.”