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Orchestral Music's Most Romantic Moments

From Mahler’s love song without words, to Beethoven’s pastoral melodies replete with birdsong. Enjoy some moments of romance with this pick of heart-warming orchestral tunes.


2-minute read

Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No 5

No list of orchestral music’s most romantic moments would be complete without the fourth movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No 5, a love song without words for his future wife, Alma. At the movement’s final climax, Mahler invokes one of his greatest songs, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world) from his Rückert Lieder. The poem ends with the words ‘I live alone in my heaven, in my love, in my song’.

Adagio from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No 2

For the third movement of his Symphony No 2, Serge Rachmaninoff borrowed material from the ecstatic love duet in his opera Francesca da Rimini. The whole Symphony contains some of the very best of Rachmaninoff, a master of melody, and creator of a rich, full orchestral sound.

‘A Little Bit in Love’ from Bernstein’s Wonderful Town

Leonard Bernstein’s five-time Tony award-winning musical Wonderful Town follows sisters Ruth and Eileen on their quest to make it big, pursuing careers in writing and acting from their cramped basement apartment in New York’s bohemian Greenwich Village. The musical is a bright and cheery love letter to the city that never sleeps and the colourful characters inhabiting it. ‘A Little Bit in Love’ is one of its best known numbers.

Bruckner’s Symphony No 4, ‘Romantic’

The title ‘Romantic’ was Anton Bruckner’s own choice for his Fourth Symphony, emblazoned on the title page of the manuscript in his finest calligraphy. The opening – solo horn calls sounding through quietly shimmering string tremolandos – is one of the most magical beginnings to a symphony.

Szene am Bach from Beethoven’s Symphony No 6

The second movement from Ludwig van Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony is one of his most gorgeous inspirations. The watery accompaniment figure had its origin in an idea noted down in a sketchbook from 1802–03, where it carried the heading: ‘murmur of the brook … the deeper the brook, the deeper the sound’. Twice the music stops to allow flute, oboe and clarinet to give us birdsong imitations identified by Beethoven as nightingale, quail and cuckoo.

Adapted from notes by Stephen Johnson, Andrew Huth and Lindsay Kemp.

Enjoy even more of orchestral music’s most romantic moments with this collection from LSO Live.