Poster Cincinnati String Quartet perform at a wedding.
Cincinnati String Quartet performing at a wedding.
Tracy Lee Carroll - Creative Commons

What's the most romantic instrument?

Everyone has their own opinions about what instruments they deem to be romantic. But, what are the most romantic instruments? Current and former staff at Classical MPR and American Public Media shared what instrument they think is the most romantic and why.


"ALL of Einaudi's music for piano is romantic, I think. He does something really special with the harmonies of his pieces, playing with major and minor keys in a really lovely and, occasionally, unexpected way. Plus, he somehow is always able to bring out the delicacy of the piano - a real challenge, sometimes, for this powerful and forceful percussion instrument." — Elena See, assistant program director/host

Recommended listening: "Golden Butterflies" by Ludovico Einaudi

"Whether it's played on a piano or an orchestra I love the atmosphere Clair de Lune creates. It's serene and shimmers and reminds me of having dinner outside under the stars on a warm night. It makes me feel good just thinking about it." — Brad Althoff, managing producer for national classical programs

Recommended listening: "Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy

LISTEN — Debussy — Clair de Lune



"I'm completely biased, as a harpist, but the ethereal quality of the instrument is why I believe harp is the most romantic. This is shown in Alphonse Hasseleman's La Source which imitates the ebb and flow of a fountain — my heart rises and drops with every crescendo. There's a reason so many people have harps at their weddings!" — Brooke Knoll, former assistant digital producer

Recommended listening: La Source by Alphonse Hasselmans Honorable Mentions: "Ballade" by Carlos Salzedo; Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2 by Maurice Ravel

LISTEN — Hasselmans — La Source

Hasselmans - La Source


"I'm trained as a trumpet player, but if I had to choose another instrument, it would be the cello for its timbre, versatility, and expression. The third movement of the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata shows off just how romantic the cello can be. My favorite part is the upward 5th jump in the theme and how it gets echoed between the two instruments, perhaps like a conversation between two people in love!" — Rachel Bearinger, former associate digital producer, Performance Today

Recommended listening: Cello Sonata in G minor Op. 19, 3rd movement by Sergei Rachmaninoff

LISTEN — Rachmaninoff — Cello Sonata in G minor: III. Andante

Rachmaninoff - Cello Sonata in G Minor

"Maybe I'm a little biased because I'm a cellist, but honestly it would probably be my pick anyway. The range of the cello is so like the human voice — warm and rich, capable of fiery passion and ultimate tenderness, anger, sadness, longing. Even the way it's played — literally embraced by your arms, shoulders leaning against your chest, lower bout touching knees, neck nestled into neck. Piazzolla's Oblivion is the perfect display of the cello as a singer of love songs." — Valerie Kahler, national host/producer

Recommended listening: Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla


"The guitar is like a best friend that will go anywhere with you. It's like your own little orchestra as it can imitate the sounds of so many instruments, but on a smaller and much more intimate scale. You cradle this instrument in your arms and hold it right next to your heart to feel all its vibrations throughout your entire body, all the way down to your fingertips and toes before those same vibrations hit the listener. Andres Segovia said, 'You don't just listen to the guitar — you dream with it.'" — Melissa Dundis, former national host/producer

Recommended listening: "El Mestre," Catalan Folksong No. 4 by Miguel Llobet

LISTEN — Llobet — El mestre

Miguel Llobet - El mestre

"I know musical stereotypes are just empty calories, but I can't escape the sticky appeal of the chocolate lava cake of a rock band, the lead guitarist: the tough but vulnerable artist with heart of gold and a glorious mane of hair. We can discuss Eddie Vedder later, but to me the most romantic instrument, the crème brule of music, is the classical guitar. I love its singing timbre that imitates a human voice. The fast rasquiado technique in this piece is the musical expression of the butterflies you feel in your stomach, falling in love." — Suzanne Schaffer, former senior producer of Performance Today

Recommended listening: "Recuredos de la Alhambra" by Francisco Tarrega

LISTEN — Tarrega — Recuredos de la Alhambra



"This instrument that ALL of us have in our throats can make the most exquisite music. A lullaby — what is it except a parent's love song to the most precious possession on earth, the baby? And in Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, a song without words, the beauty and romance of it is in what we can imagine is being sung by the lover to the beloved." — Brian Newhouse, managing director

Recommended listening: Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Viola d'amore

"As a string player myself (violin/viola) I have to say Viola d'amore ('viol of love') is the most romantic instrument, because of the name but also because it has such a wonderful, ethereal and lovely sound. It can be tuned in a number of different ways, with different numbers of strings — which speaks to the differences in people and kinds of love. It has sympathetic strings that respond to what's being played — a perfect romantic characteristic. It is an old instrument which lost out to modern, louder sounding stringed instruments, but it is still played sometimes and has devoted followers. I got to try one once and the viola d'amore is just very special among instruments." — Andrea Blain, former national/host producer: Music through the Night

Recommended listening: Concerto for Viola d'amore in A minor, RV 397 by Antonio Vivaldi

LISTEN — Vivaldi — Concerto for Viola d'amore in A minor: II. Largo

Vivaldi - Viola d'amore Concerto II. Largo


"How can something so simple like Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel be so arresting? The keyboard part conveys a sense of time while the viola line conveys a timeless quality. The viola part consists of a series of incomplete scales that alternate. The first line reaches upward the second downward and so forth. The darker colors of the instrument alternate with the more transparent colors of the higher strings. The whole piece is like a tender conversation between lovers." — Steve Staruch, Classical MPR host

Recommended listening: Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt


"The ancestor of the modern oboe is the oboe d'amore, or 'oboe of love,' and that has always made sense to me. There is a warmth and voice-like richness to the oboe's timbre that lends itself to bewitching expressiveness, even sensuality. In the hands of oboe master Albrecht Mayer, this Bach concerto beckons us into a realm where hearts and souls can recognize each other and unite." — Vaughn Ormseth, former manager of community outreach

Recommended listening: Concerto for Oboe d'amore II. Andante by Johann Sebastian Bach

What do you think is the most romantic instrument — is yours missing from the list? Let us know!

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