Every year on February 14, we keep seeing a lot of music recommendations or make up playlists ourselves for the Day of Love. One could easily get lost in the variety of romantic ambient music for the occasion but sometimes you don’t need to overwhelm yourself in the quantity.
On this day, we decided to focus rather on the stories behind the pieces that were composed ‘because of’ and ‘for’ love, picking three pieces that speak the universal language of love. Let’s have a look at them and get inspired right now. It’s time!
Franck: Piano Quintet
No doubt many of you played this piece but how many played it without knowing the story? Franck’s quintet is one of his most intense works in terms of emotion. Learning what lead to its creation brings more meaning and awareness to the performance. The Piano Quintet was composed when César Franck was 57 years old. At that time, he worked as professor at the Paris Music Conservatoire and that’s where he met Augusta Holmès. Augusta used to be his student attending organ and composition classes. Being a young attractive woman, she was quite popular among men who surrounded her with lots of attention and care, so Franck had a lot of competitors. One of them, was another talented composer – Saint-Saëns (44 at the time) – who even proposed to the young lady a few times. Being married, Franck was definitely out of luck on that battlefield. All the emotions he felt were poured right into this piano quintet, which is dedicated not to Augusta by the way, but to his rival Saint-Saëns.
Brahms: Intermezzo No.2 from Op. 118
In that famous tangle Schumann-Clara-Brahms, there are quite a few historical speculations and guesses that will never be entirely untangled. But a sure thing was Brahms’ deep love for that woman and the mutual respect they had. "Six Pieces Op. 118", Brahms’ penultimate work for piano solo, are officially dedicated to Clara and were published in their lifetime. Clara would read the tender lines from Brahms’ letters and listen to the virtuoso piano Intermezzo in A minor. “My Beloved Clara… I should like to spend the whole day calling you endearing names and paying you compliments without ever being satisfied…”
Debussy: L'Isle Joyeuse
The origins of another lovesong is based on another love twist that actually turned into a double triangle. Emma Bardac was a femme fatale for several men including Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy who she finally chose to spend the happy life with. At the time when she was married to the banker Sigismund Bardac, Fauré worked closely with her as a soprano and couldn’t help falling in love with this woman. He later composed his ‘L’Hiver A Cessé’ (from La Bonne Chanson) for her. But the woman opted to change her life in a different direction. Emma fell in love with Claude Debussy who was also a married man at the time. Well, seems that music artists were not the most faithful of people back in time. The two started seeing each other and spent a lot of time on the Jersey Island in La Manche. That’s where “The Island of Joy” was born, a beautiful lyrical work capturing the happy carefree time of Emma and Claude. The lovers got their divorces (Emma – easier, Debussy – with more drama), gave birth to a child, got married and with time purchased an estate on that beloved island of theirs. Now when you listen to or play this music work, it’s going to be much easier to envision and truly experience the joy of love together with the couple.
We wish all those celebrating Valentine’s Day a lot of mutual love, understanding and appreciation of the moment. Do not forget that going back to the history helps to live the full of a masterpiece and enjoy every note composed even more.