A sampler platter of symphonic serenades on CD.

What's the most romantic thing you can imagine someone doing for you? I have friends who would love candlelight, roses, latex suits. But for me though, it would be a serenade under the moonlight-corny but fulfilling. But since my guy is no trained musician, I've come up with a substitute (for the serenade, not the beau): just the right selections of classical music.

Classical has, alas, become background instead of foreground; the watercolor wash instead of the broad strokes. In large part it is because the regular guy (or gal) doesn't know all that much about quartets and symphonies and feels cowed by it. I know I once did. But classical isn't like math: You don't need to know the symbols in order to enjoy it. Listening to classical music can be a real joy and release, especially if you do it with someone else. For me, the violin and the cello are miraculous mood setters. The violin, with its high and low range, its song-like voice, makes the spine tingle. And the cello, low, seductive, a call to the hormones, well, there is little more to desire in terms of erogenous sound. What makes music, or anything, romantic, is the emotion it brings up. Music is able to make you feel sexy, lustful, mournful, aroused…You just have to pick the right piece.

***image1***My first selection will be obvious to the already converted, but it's also right on the mark: Joshua Bell's

The Romantic Violin

. What makes this an especially good choice is that Bell will be performing at The Lensic (211 W. San Francisco St., 988-1234) in May, so if you love the CD or what it does for your loving, and if it turns you and yours on, you can grab tickets to the real thing. Bell is known as a young virtuoso, an amazing talent who is willing to cross the traditional line and do a little experimenting to reach new listeners. Though some purists disagree, I say anything done to recruit fresh ears to sublime music is worth a shot. This particular CD is pure classical, however; Bell plays Debussy, Bellini, Puccini and Mozart (among others) with a depth of emotion that will move you to swoon.

***image2*** Another excellent choice is a CD featuring Jennifer Koh. A regular musician with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Koh was amazing during the 2004 season, playing both "new music" with the progressive quartet raw fish, and more conventional music (

The Four Seasons

, which really rocked my world). My choice for getting down with Koh:

Menotti: Violin Concerto, The Death of Orpheus, played by Jennifer Koh and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra

(2002). It will lift you, arouse you and plain knock you breathless in just the right way. But be aware that this concerto commands attention; it's not background music, so be sure to save it for the main course.

Gil Shahan, an Israeli-American violinist who will be playing here in Santa Fe in April, is known far and wide for his emotional playing. One thing that never fails to get someone in the mood is being in the presence of artistic greatness. I kid you not. How can you not get turned on when all around you are the sounds of poignant melody? ***image3***Shahan has dozens of CDs, but my favorite is his

Paganini for Two

, which has yet another version of

The Four Seasons

that really sounds like a totally different (and awesome) piece of music from the one you so often hear as background.

If classical really isn't your thing, tango may be the tone that hits your spot. Think hot nights, sultry eyes, flowing wine, a rhythm that makes your hips sway…that's tango. Yo-Yo Ma's

Soul of the Tango: the Music of Astor Piazzolla

, is definitely tango that will move you (and your honey) into the bedroom. In case you don't know, Yo-Yo Ma is the foremost living cellist, a musician who takes risks and explores all sorts of cool, unusual music.

Soul of the Tango

is a hypnotic CD. You have to hear it to believe it.

***image4***And if you hear it and love it, and want more, one of the coolest CDs I've heard is the Kronos Quartet's

Five Tango Sensations

. Also composed by Astor Piazzolla, the tango tracks on this CD bring Argentina into your house. Composed in 1989, the music is timeless, effortless and transcendent. Also, of course, it's sexy as all get-out. This year, try something new and daring, try seduction by strings. It works.