We’re going to start with the honourable mention of “Toccata Arpeggiata” by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, a composer from the early Baroque, best remembered for his lute music, being an important contributor to the development of plucked string instruments. This is a beautiful short piece, with a calming effect, that I could listen to over and over again.
At number 3 we have something that I probably wouldn’t have included here, if it weren’t for the lyrics and a version that I absolutely adore. It’s the song “Les Chemins de l’amour” (“The Paths of Love”) by Francis Poulenc and these are the lyrics that drew me to it, which coincidentally also have the best melodic part (full lyrics in original French and English translation here).
If one day I have to forget him,
life effacing everything,
I wish, in my heart, that one memory should remain,
stronger than the other love.
The memory of the path,
where trembling and utterly bewildered
one day, upon me, I felt
your hands burning.
“Les Chemins de l’amour” was composed in 1940 and dedicated to the French singer Yvonne Printemps, which has a pretty nice version of this song (listen below). However, my favourite, and the one that sold the song for me was by soprano Beverly Sills (listen here).
Going back to the Baroque era, number 2 is the “Concerto Grosso in D major, op 6 no. 1” by Arcangelo Corelli. The only reason this is not my first choice of the week is because like most of the violin works, when the notes are too high, all I hear is a piercing ear-splitting sound. However, this part 2. Largo reaches exactly that soft spot of my heart, the sound is just perfect.
Felix Mendelssohn comes at number 1 with the “Octet in E flat major, op. 20”, a work for a double string quartet (4 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos) which just exudes energy. He wrote it when he was just 16 years old, as a birthday present for his violin teacher. His young age and happy upbringing are transpiring in the liveliness and joyfulness of the piece, which has the power to lighten up any mood. I would definitely use this composition as an introduction to classical music for someone that is not very familiar with it or wary to explore it.
Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list of all the works curated by Clemency Burton-Hill in the book “Year of Wonder: Classical music for every day”. To enjoy the full catalogue of pieces proposed by the author along with her comments on the composers and the music itself, feel free to pick up her awesome book here (not affiliated, nor sponsored).