Feb 14, 2013
We all know what it is like to feel incredibly close to someone – even if we have never been able to express these feelings to that special someone. This sensation can be so overwhelming that we seek to convey it physically as well as verbally. Do we think that composers have shared this experience? You bet they have! When composers choose to combine words with music to express these emotions, we find that they have created thousands of love songs over the centuries from the composers of the Renaissance to Beyonce’s songwriters.
Now the question is, do composers also use their special gifts for composing abstract sounds – you know, music without words – to convey that state of feeling unbelievably connected to someone? After all, we must accept the fact that these powerful emotional states often completely defy verbal description.
Well, we have For Elise, for instance! Who was Elise anyway? Musicologists disagree about the identity of Elise. But perhaps we can assume, if this composition was indeed written by Beethoven (yet another musicological dispute) that whoever she was, she was obviously one of Beethoven’s flames.
Are there other examples of the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day in the realm of abstract musical composition? I suppose that it’s really up to you to decide, but I am inclined to think that we can find many of these.
In Discovery Orchestra Chat 91, I mention that the 2nd Movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony expresses for me the way I feel about my wife Marcia. I can’t say with absolute certainty that Rachmaninoff was expressing strong romantic feelings for some individual in this music – but that’s how it grabs me.
Another one that comes to mind is the Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. When Mahler sent the manuscript of this music to Alma, he wrote an accompanying note saying in effect: You’ll know what this music is about. . .what it means. …And I think that Mahler’s message is rather clear.
But right now, on this Valentine’s Day – take 10 to 15 minutes. Select one of these movements, click on the music, close your eyes, think of your loved one…and see how it affects you. Happy St. Valentine’s Day!