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The Romantic Period (1820 1900)

110 to 180 years ago.


Romanticism was a distinct movement in music, art, and literature, away from the classical ideals of
organization, balance, control and reason.
One of the key features of Romantic music is its strong association with other art-forms,
particularly literature and paintings.
Often expressed human emotions love, happiness, sorrow and the beauty of the natural world.

Romantic Art

Romantic artists often used melancholic themes and dramatic tragedy.


There was an emphasis on prominent brushstrokes and the use of impasto (laying out the paint very
thickly on the canvas such that brushstrokes are visible) to provide texture on the canvas.
a) Joseph Turner Rain, Steam & Speed
A mature work painted in 1844 by Joseph Mallard Turner, an English Romantic landscape
painter, watercolorist and printmaker. In this painting, oil is used ever more transparently, with
Turners suggestion of almost pure light by use of shimmering colours.
His abstract portrayal of light and the elemental forces of nature laid the ground work for impressionism
and post impressionism. His fascination with light is a concept said to have transcended from the canvas
to even influence Impressionist musicians.

Fashion in the Romantic Period

Ladies large romantic wide hats, and the emphasis of fuller chest with the help of rigid corset.
Meanwhile skirts were looped and draped and worn over underskirts.
Gentlemen dark tail coat and trousers with a dark waist coat as formal wear. In the meantime, the
tuxedo was invented as a relaxed, formal attire.

Music Venues

a) Baroque period
Churches Music were used for religious purposes
b) Classical period
Royal court music as a form of entertainment for the aristocrats
c) Romantic period
Concert Halls The industrial revolution has made it possible for people to travel easily.
Performers can now attract a bigger crowd of audience. Also, with the development of
machineries, it has become possible to build bigger places which can support large groups of
musicians. Hence this also explains the expansion in the orchestra size.
Taverns / Salons People gather in taverns or salons to appreciate light music. Salon music
is usually written for solo piano, and is usually fairly short and often focuses on virtuoso
pianistic display or emotional expression of a sentimental character.

Romantic Composer

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist, also known as the
poet of the piano. Most of his works were written for solo piano, although he also wrote 2 piano
concertos, a few chamber pieces and some songs. His compositions are often technically demanding,
at the same time emphasizing on tones and expressive depth.

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Robert Schumann (1810 1856) was a German composer, art lover and influential music critic.
He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era. His
specialty was lieder (songs for voice and piano); orchestral and other piano works.
Fun Fact: Schumann had been assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could become the
finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical
energies on composing.

The Romantic Orchestra (in comparison to the classical orchestra)

Expansion of the orchestra sound is due to the development of instruments and including new ones.

The new instruments introduced to the orchestra:

Family New Instruments


Woodwind Piccolo Cor Anglais (English Horn) Contrabassoon
Brass Trombone Tuba -
Percussion Side drum Cymbals Xylophone, etc.
String Harp - -

Romantic Music Feature

Unlike Classical period music, Romantic period music is very much away from the former period
ideals of organization, balance, control and reason. A good listening example for Classical period
music is: Mozart Rondo Alla Turca.
Freedom of style a more intense personal expression of emotion in which fantasy, imagination
and a quest for adventure play an important part.
Listening example: Schumann Forest Scenes; Grieg Solviegs Song; Mendelssohn Song
without Words.
Descriptive programme often composers wrote this type of music based on non-musical ideas,
such as paintings, literature or events. This is because it enables to invoke in the listener a specific
experience or emotions.
Listening example: Schumann Forest Scenes; Brahms Hungarian Dance No.5; Grieg In the
Hall of the Mountain King.
Melodies are more chromatic and lyrical adventurous modulation; richer harmonies and the
striking use of discords often create songlike melodies.
Listening example: Schumann Frightening; Brahms Hungarian Dance No.5; Mendelssohn
Song without Words.
Harmony has more dissonance and colour denser, weightier textures with bold dramatic
contrasts, exploring a wider range of pitch, dynamics and tone-colours.
Listening example: Schumann Frightening; Brahms Hungarian Dance No.5; Grieg
Solviegs Song.