The 10 most romantic pieces of classical music

9 February 2024, 17:13

The 10 most romantic pieces of classical music
The 10 most romantic pieces of classical music. Picture: Alamy

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

From ardent opera arias to sweeping piano concertos, indulge in the most romantic pieces of classical music imaginable.

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Looking for a romantic soundtrack for Valentine’s Day? Enjoy our live playlist, Romantic Classics on Global Player – one continuous stream of the most indulgent classical music.

But for now, let’s explore the top 10…

  1. Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No.2

    This concerto was made famous as the heart-rending soundtrack to the film Brief Encounter. But its romance is all its own. Here, French pianist Alexandre Tharaud performs the stunning slow movement – a swelling melody, that would go on to inspire Eric Carmen’s ‘All By Myself’ – with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

    Read more: 10 of Rachmaninov’s greatest pieces of music

    Alexandre Tharaud plays Rachmaninov with the RLPO

  2. Elgar – Salut d’amour

    ‘Salut d’amour’ was born from a poem written by Alice, Elgar’s wife. As a musical love token for his betrothed, the composer set it to music, scoring it for piano and calling it ‘Liebesgruss’ (Love’s Greeting). It was later published under the French, rather more sumptuous sounding title, ‘Salut d’amour’.

    Min Kym plays Elgar's 'Salut d'amour' with Ian Brown

  3. Puccini – O soave fanciulla, from La bohème

    Puccini does romance, anguished or joyful, better than most, and this aria is one of his most charged duets. It captures the exact moment Mimì and Rodolfo, the operatic lovers, fall utterly and completely for each other, before tragedy befalls them. It’s a musical match made in heaven, and when in doubt, Pavarotti does it best.

    La bohème - Puccini - O soave fanciulla - Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti

  4. Rota – Love Theme, from Romeo and Juliet

    The story itself didn’t end all that well, but Italian composer Nino Rota’s music inspired by Shakespeare’s most famous romance is so affecting, so purely emotional, it sweeps you up into believing that things might yet work out. For another beautiful, musical representation of the star-crossed lovers, try Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture.

    Nino Rota - Love Theme (Romeo und Julia Soundtrack) | WDR Funkhausorchester

  5. Mascagni – Intermezzo, from Cavalleria Rusticana

    Mascagni’s hit opera contains one of opera’s most loved tunes, the wordless ‘Intermezzo’, which acts as an orchestral interlude within the opera. Just one blast of those rich string lines at full volume is guaranteed to melt absolutely anyone…

    Mascagni - Intermezzo Sinfonico (Cavalleria rusticana) | Semyon Bychkov | WDR Sinfonieorchester

  6. Morricone – Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso

    Cinema Paradiso is a tale of love – romantic love, friendship, and one man’s devotion to the movies. The Love Theme is both hopeful and nostalgic, a far cry from Morricone’s Spaghetti Western scores. The Italian composer’s soundtrack makes the perfect accompaniment to the sentimental, romantic story on the screen.

    Ennio Morricone - Love Theme - Cinema Paradiso (Tema d’ Amore)

  7. Tchaikovsky – ‘Pas de deux’ from The Nutcracker

    The ‘Pas de deux’ from The Nutcracker delivers oodles of romance. As the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince express their love through ballet steps, Tchaikovsky gives us a dreamlike harp, and gorgeous cascading, legato strings. What could be more romantic?

    The Nutcracker – Sugar Plum pas de deux: Adagio (Nuñez, Muntagirov, The Royal Ballet)

  8. Florence Price – ‘Adoration’

    Florence Price wrote this beautiful, devotional piece two years before she died. Its lyrical melodies combined with its stately accompaniment, give it a dignified quality – perhaps of an everlasting love, one of deep affection and constancy.

    Randall Goosby, Zhu Wang - Price: Adoration

  9. Chopin – Nocturne No.9 No.2

    The Polish composer Frédéric Chopin was in his early 20s when he composed what is now arguably his most famous solo piano piece. It has a deeply intimate quality, as the composer invites us in with ever more elaborate improvisational passages, while never straying from that beguiling main melody. Perfect for a cosy evening.

    Chopin - Nocturne in E Flat Major (Op. 9 No. 2)

  10. Mahler – ‘Adagietto’ from Symphony No.5

    One of the greatest love songs of them all, the Adagietto was Gustav Mahler’s declaration of love for Alma Schindler, likely shortly before their marriage in 1902. It’s a piece full of longing and anguish, beginning so tenderly before its melodies rise gradually, building to a passionate climax. Alma could have been in no doubt as to his feelings.

    Gustav Mahler - Adagietto | Leonard Bernstein (4K)

    80 years after Mahler’s death, Leonard Bernstein decided he loved the music so much, he wanted to be buried with a copy of the score of Mahler’s Symphony No.5 laid across his heart, opened to the page featuring the Adagietto.

Join us on Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2024, for an evening of romantic classical music in the company of Zeb Soanes, from 7pm on Classic FM.