The 6th of July is the International Day of the Kiss. Let’s celebrate it, or rather let’s celebrate kisses in music. Here are 7 small stories filled with kisses and love.
There are days to celebrate almost everything, why not then have a day for the kiss? It has been a sign of social recognition between people since Antiquity, but it was not until the Renaissance that the kiss truly became a symbol of love.
Nowadays, kisses are exchanged between both friends and lovers – on cheeks, on the forehead and on the lips. They can be tender or fiery, shy or steamy. Here are 7 small examples of musical kisses – a baroque snog, a jazzy kiss and lyrical pout.
Henry Lawes – A Steamy Definition
Henry Lawes was a 17th century English composer and musician in the Royal Chapel. In 1653 he published of collections of songs, including the duet A Dialogue on a Kiss.
A question, “Among thy fancies tell me this, what is the thing we call a kiss?”, is asked. The, not very religious, reply is “I shall resolve you what it is: it is a creature born and bred, betwixt the lips all cherry red, by love and warm desires fed”.
Monteverdi – The Coronation of Poppea, Act 1Duo - Come Dolci, Signor
Claudio Monteverdi was not scared of words or sensations. We have already written about his steamy madrigals, so here is another rather hot love duo.
The Emperor and the beautiful Poppea have enjoyed a night of torrid passion. A little later the two lovers meet, Poppea does not hesitate to tell the emperor of the sweetness of his kisses and of his many qualities…. “How sweet, Signor, how sweet last night did the kisses of that mouth seem to you?”.
Strauss – Salomé or the Deadly Kiss
As she is presented with the severed head of the prophet Jokanaan, who refused her advances, Salome approaches and in a moment of desire and revenge, kisses the dead man’s lips.
“Ah! You did not want to let me kiss your mouth, Jokanaan. Well, I’ll bite it now, I will bite it with teeth as one bites a ripe fruit.”
This morbid desire frightens even those under Salomé’s spell. Her father-in-law, Herod, immediately orders his guard to kill the girl. And so ends the Richard Strauss opera; there are some kisses that we would do better to resist…
Bizet – A Kiss Full of Innuendo
In Georges Bizet’s Carmen, the prudish and shy Micaëla is instructed how to kiss Don José by his mother. She is burning with love for the officer is scared and confused at the idea of kissing him, it takes her a long while to confess that this is why she has come.
“A kiss for my mother? A Kiss for her son!”. The maternal kiss evoked here is only a pretext, this duet is really a declaration of love, the calm before the storm. A childish and innocent love between two lovers before the seductress Carmen appears on the scene.
Beethoven - Der Kuss and German Tenderness
Who says that Ludwig can Beethoven only composed grandiose, triumphant music? He was also open to romance.
Der Kuss (The Kiss) follows a young man who finds himself alone in the company of the beautiful Chloe and is dying to kiss her. Chloe however refuses and threatens to scream. The young man continues despite this and Chloe soon relents, giving him a fiery kiss.
Louis Armstrong and the Kiss of Fire
This song was first a tango, El choclo, composed and written by Angel Villoldo in Buenos Aires at the beginning of the 20th century. The tango is accompanied by steamy lyrics, which describe the irresistible attraction of a kiss that we know is dangerous.
“I can't resist you, what good is there in trying?
What good is there denying you're all that I desire?
Since first I kissed you my heart was yours completely.
If I'm a slave, then it's a slave I want to be.
Don't pity me, don't pity me.”
In 1952, El choclo was translated for English and recorded by several artists including the unparalleled trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong who transformed it into a jazz hit.
Besame Mucho, The Last Kiss
We will round off our selection with the ultimate kiss,“As if it were the last time”. Bésame Mucho is one of the most famous Latin-American songs; it is performed across the world.
It was written in the 1930s by a young Mexican pianist Consuelo Velasquez. Her puritan catholic upbringing meant that she had not had the opportunity to even exchange a kiss when she wrote Bésame Mucho.
Consuelo Velasquez liked to rewrite and reuse operatic arias. The melody of Bésame Mucho is inspired by La Maja y el Ruisenor, an aria in the opera Goya by Catalan Composer Enrique Granados.
Of all of the versions of Bésame Mucho we have chosen that of the “barefoot diva”, Cesaria Evora, whose deep and husky timbre matches the nostalgic and languid tone of this song.