40 Most Beautiful Love Themes (CD review)
In the mid Fifties, when I was in fifth or sixth grade, I remember buying a LP box set of excerpts from famous classical masterpieces. It was quite a revelation to me at the time because my parents didn't care much for classical music, and I had only heard classical pieces on the Big John and Sparky Saturday morning radio show and occasionally in Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons. The set of excerpts was, therefore, something of an introduction to the classics for me, no matter how truncated the music.
That was a long time ago, but the same thing happens here with 40 Most Beautiful Love Themes. On two discs, Warner Classics offer up forty excerpts of classical music representing some of the most romantic tunes ever written, things like Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, Saint-Saens' "The Swan," Borodin's String Quartet No. 2, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Satie's Gymnopedes No. 1, Liszt's Liebestraum No. 3, Massenet's "Meditation" from Thais, Ravel's Bolero, and so on. You name the tune, it's here. Of course, the pieces are not often in their entirety, between three and seven minutes each, often fading out just as they're getting started, but you'll get enough of the music to count.
The idea is for classical-music lovers to listen to it in the car, maybe, or as background music, and for nonclassical music listeners to learn a little more about the subject. The music is well played by top-name artists, so there's nothing to fear in terms of mediocrity: Kurt Masur, Lawrence Foster, Hugh Wolff, Andrew Davis, Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Jean-Francois Paillard, Bernard Haitink, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Lorin Maazel, Eliahu Inbal, and many other first-rate conductors contribute.
Warners chose the material from their catalogues of Erato, Teldec, and Warner Classics, the recordings spanning the years 1964-2004. Yes, there is some small variation in the sound characteristics, with none of it audiophile quality, yet it's all quite acceptable for casual listening. It makes a pleasant diversion that doesn't require one's full attention.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.