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The Romantic Period

1825- 1900

• "Romanticism" was brought about by the social and political stresses following the French Revolution, and

"Romanticism" was brought about by the social and political stresses following the French Revolution, and the resulting

nationalistic trends.

•

It was a period of dramatic thought and action, also involving contradictions between capitalism

and socialism, freedom and oppression, logic and emotion, science and faith. This resulted in a change in the thinking of people, especially

creative artists.

• There was a general impatience with the rules and restraints of Classicism, and music "revolted"

There was a general impatience with the rules and restraints of Classicism, and music "revolted" against the practices of

Mozart and Haydn.

•

The goal was to be different and individualistic. The

ideal for the Romantic composer was to reflect his own

feelings and emotions in his compositions in order to instill in the listener certain preconceived moods. The expression of emotion and the "sparking" of the imagination were a primary goal.

• The center of musical activity shifted from Vienna to Paris, and musicians were no longer

The center of musical activity shifted from Vienna to Paris, and

musicians were no longer

attached to patrons. However, while composers during this

time did not write for the

lower classes, their music

was addressed to the masses to a far greater

degree than before in the

history of music.

• Music became more and more disassociated from real life, while expressing the splendor and pride

Music became more and more disassociated from real life, while expressing the splendor and pride of the

human spirit. In the effort to

capture audiences, a dynamic and colorful personality became an important asset. The concert

manager, or "impresario" as

he was often called, was also an important figure in the business of music.

Another important person behind the scenes of music

was the music critic.

The Romantic era is known for its intense energy and passion. The rigid forms of classical music gave way to greater expression, and music grew closer to art, literature and theatre.

Beethoven pioneered Romanticism and expanded previously strict formulas for symphonies and sonatas,

and introduced a whole new approach to music, giving his works references to other aspects of life - for example, his 'Pastoral' Symphony No. 6 describes

countryside scenes.

As well as symphonies, the tone poem and descriptive overture were popular as pieces of

stand-alone orchestral music that evoked anything from a painting or poem to a feeling of nationalistic

fervour

What’s the difference between the Classical and Romantic symphony? • The classical symphony follows form and
What’s the difference between the
Classical and Romantic symphony?
• The classical symphony follows form and structure
very meticulously, where as the romantic
symphony does not. Often, romantic symphonies
have larger orchestrations and a larger variety of
instrumentation. Sometimes, it could be said that
romantic period symphonies are larger than life;
they are much more expressive in terms of
harmonization, rhythmic patterns, and dynamics.
Function of Music in the Romantic Period • Romanticism still served a sophisticated and aristocratic society,
Function of Music
in the Romantic Period
• Romanticism still served a sophisticated and
aristocratic society, as had been the case with
Classical music. Aristocratic patronage was
smaller, but the intimacy of the exclusive
salon was still the ideal setting for
performances.
• Performance, however, was no longer by mere amateurs, for Romantic music was usually too technically
Performance, however, was
no longer by mere amateurs,
for Romantic music was
usually too technically
demanding for unskilled
performers. Standing outside
the circle of the exclusive
salon was a large concert-
going public which loved
music.
• Romantic composers were constantly striving to gain
recognition of this large audience and, in an effort to win
acceptance, they were very sensitive to the likes and dislikes of
these music-lovers. Performers, as well as composers, had the
urge to be acceptable and to dazzle audiences. Composers were
often fine performers as well, such as Liszt and Chopin, who
wrote a large number of virtuoso pieces to thrill the public with
technical display.
• The Romantic composer expressed his own feelings and convictions, writing music to express himself in
• The Romantic composer expressed his own feelings
and convictions, writing music to express himself in
personal "documents of art". The church was no longer
considered a patron of music, with very little music
written for liturgical purposes. The teaching of music,
however, became an established profession. Many fine
conservatories and schools of music were founded for
the education of the performing and creative musician.
Research in music history and theory was introduced
into programs of many universities by the end of the
1800's. Many prominent composers and performers
such as Liszt, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Schumann
achieved wide recognition as teachers. Thus, to meet
pressing needs for pedagogical (instructional) material,
such composers wrote etudes (studies) and other short
pieces for teaching.
Prominent Musical Characteristics Basically, there are six chief musical characteristics in Romanticism:
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Basically, there are six chief
musical characteristics in
Romanticism:
Subjectivity Emotionalism Nationalism Programmatic Compositions Thick Timbre Chromaticism
Subjectivity
Emotionalism
Nationalism
Programmatic Compositions
Thick Timbre
Chromaticism
Subjectivity: Music was not objective (outside of human emotions) as in the Classical period, but had
Subjectivity: Music was not objective (outside of
human emotions) as in the Classical period, but
had to be joined with extramusical ideas. In this
respect, some of Beethoven's later music was held
to be the model to be emulated. Because music
could not convey pictures or ideas, some
composers resorted to "objective" devices which
imitated natural sounds. Much of the music
during the nineteenth century has a sentimental
quality.
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Emotionalism: All music has some degree of emotionalism. However, the Romantic composer sought to intensify this
Emotionalism: All music has some degree of
emotionalism. However, the Romantic composer
sought to intensify this aspect of his music. By
the use of chromaticism (progression by half
steps) in melodies and chords, and modulations
(changing keys) and by exploiting tension in the
music (by not resolving dissonances
immediately), the composer was to keep the
listener in a state of suspense for long periods of
time.
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Nationalism: Composers were greatly influenced by the intense nationalistic feelings that developed after the Napoleonic wars.
Nationalism: Composers were greatly influenced
by the intense nationalistic feelings that
developed after the Napoleonic wars. Some
composers were political outcasts (Chopin and
Wagner), while others promoted a love for their
country (Russian Five). The main areas of
nationalistic music during the nineteenth century
were Germany, Italy, France, Central Europe and
Russia.
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Programmatic Compositions: The development and use of descriptive music became an important part of the Romantic
Programmatic Compositions: The development
and use of descriptive music became an important
part of the Romantic movement. The trend from
the subjectivity of the composer to the
emotionalism in the listener was natural. As
mentioned previously, composers resorted to
"objective" devices in their music. The devices
included descriptive titles, melodic formulas,
harmonic cliches and instrumental effects.
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Thick Timbre: The availability of improved musical instruments allowed composers to experiment with novel orchestral effects.
Thick Timbre: The availability of improved
musical instruments allowed composers to
experiment with novel orchestral effects. The
timbre and texture of the orchestral color became
more evocative as the nineteenth century
progressed. The use of chromaticism and
dissonance led to a very complex orchestral
timbre by the end of the century:
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Thick Timbre: The use of chromaticism and dissonance led to a very complex orchestral timbre by
Thick Timbre: The use of chromaticism and
dissonance led to a very complex orchestral
timbre by the end of the century:
1. At the beginning of the century, the woodwind
parts often doubled those of the strings. Brass
instruments were mainly used to "fill in" louder
passages.
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Thick Timbre: The use of chromaticism and dissonance led to a very complex orchestral timbre by
Thick Timbre: The use of chromaticism and
dissonance led to a very complex orchestral
timbre by the end of the century:
2. About the middle of the century, the woodwinds
were combined with the strings in all registers. The
brass instruments were generally used to double
other parts and to play for louder passages.
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Thick Timbre: The use of chromaticism and dissonance led to a very complex orchestral timbre by
Thick Timbre: The use of chromaticism and
dissonance led to a very complex orchestral
timbre by the end of the century:
3. In the second half of the century, complete
instrumentation was employed in each section of
the orchestra. Each section tended to be treated on a
more equal footing.
Prominent Musical
Characteristics
Chromaticism: The harmonic system established by Rameau in 1722 began breaking down during the Classical period.
Chromaticism: The harmonic system established by
Rameau in 1722 began breaking down during the
Classical period. The Romantic composers exploited
the use of altered chords and modulation to such a
degree that the feeling for a central tonality often
became obscure. This is especially true of music
written after about 1850. The increased use of
dissonance and half step movements in all the voices,
and the avoidance of a "too-well-defined" tonality,
paved the way for the Impressionistic and
Expressionistic movements of the twentieth century.
Prominent Musical
Characteristics

Music Forms/ Styles

Program music - An instrumental music which relays ideas or narrates a story.

Character pieces - A short piece for the piano that depicts a single emotion, often in ABA form.

The Piano

During the Romantic period, the piano

(pianoforte) became the most popular

single instrument. It became a musical symbol of Romanticism, and was enlarged to give it a wider range and more tonal power. The piano reached

such heights of popularity that it

became the favorite household instrument with every family that could

afford it. The orchestra grew to be the favorite large instrument of the century.

Added were the English horn, the

clarinet, more brass and percussion. Opera was also a major medium of expression.

The Piano During the Romantic period, the piano (pianoforte) became the most popular single instrument. It

Ballet Music

Ballet is defined by dance, naturally, but it's also the gateway to some of the greatest music in the classical canon.

What's the deal with ballet music? Well, it depends on the

ballet. When ballet was coming into its own as a dance medium,

throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the music was very much a

background element. It took a long time for the music to be considered anything close to equal to the dance on stage, but it didn't stop some of history's favourite composers ploughing their best material into the medium.

Ballet Music

Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake was a game-changer for ballet music. It was the first time an exclusively symphonic composer had composed a score for ballet, and that wasn't until 1876. Tchaikovsky's fingerprints are all over the work

and, notably, Swan Lake is perfectly digestible if you listen with or without dance. It's packed with tunes, from the

gentle Dance of the Little Swans to the clattering finale (which you might recognise from old Frankenstein and Dracula movies from the '30s, as well as Billy Elliot).

Ballet Music

But that's just an entry point. Before that, composers had to be specialists when it came to ballet, and were often seen as far less important or artful than their more symphonic peers. The focus was strictly on dance, and the composer's job was simply to accompany. Early examples to look at would be Jean-Phillipe Rameau's Les Indes Galantes from 1735 (which is actually more of an opera-ballet - listen to an extract below), and perhaps Jean Baptiste Lully's Psyché ou la puissance de l'amour from 1656. They show the art form in its infancy, when composers were still working out how best to write music for dance.

Ballet Music

Does it work outside the theatre?

Ballet is, by its very definition, a visual art form as much as a musical one. Performances of Tchaikovsky's work in particular, from the festive fun of The Nutcracker to the lush drama of Swan Lake , are extremely visual and are still exceptionally popular with audiences. But the fashion for turning ballet music

into straight orchestral works (usually called 'Ballet Suites' or something similar) has meant that much of this music is just as enjoyable without all the tights and prancing.

The Composers

of the Romantic Era

1833

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a German composer

and pianist and is considered a leading composer in the

romantic period. His best known pieces include his Academic Festival Overture and German Requiem.

1840

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was a Russian composer whose works included symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, and chamber music.

1849

Frederic Chopin

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of French-Polish parentage. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music.

1851

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi (18131901) was one of the few composers whose genius was recognised while he was alive. Verdi's

reputation as the greatest of all Italian opera composers is beyond dispute.

1856

Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann (18101856) was a German romantic composer and influential music critic. Although Schumann

was no child prodigy, he went on to become one of the most important composers of the 19th century and is recognised as such 200 years after his birth.

1858

Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini (18581924) was an Italian composer whose operas, including La Bohème, Tosca, Madama

Butterfly, and Turandot are among the most frequently performed.

1860

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler (18601911) was an Austrian composer and a master of the symphony, who thought "The symphony must

be like the world; it must embrace everything".

1862

Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy (18621918) was a 20th-century French composer and one of the most prominent figures working

within the field of impressionist music.

1865

Jean Sibelius

Jean Sibelius 1865 1957 Few composers of Sibelius's stature have divided the critics so sharply. Many feel that it was Sibelius rather than Mahler who was the last master in the grand Beethoven symphonic tradition.

1873

Sergei Rachmaninov

Sergei Rachmaninov (18731943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninov, it

seemed, could do nothing right by most of his

contemporary critics' and composers' standards. As a person, he appeared somewhat cold and aloof - Stravinsky once called him "a six-and-a-half foot tall scowl".

1883

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner (18131883) was a German composer, conductor and theatre director who was

primarily known for his operas. Sometimes called the greatest musical visionary of the 19th century. Some say he is an insatiable megalomaniac who didn't know when

to stop

1886

Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt (18111886) was one of the most important composers of the Romantic period. His compositions inspired a whole generation of keyboard virtuosi.