Romantic music

Last updated
Josef Danhauser's 1840 painting of Franz Liszt at the piano surrounded by (from left to right) Alexandre Dumas, Hector Berlioz, George Sand, Niccolo Paganini, Gioachino Rossini, Marie d'Agoult with a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven on the piano. Liszt at the Piano.JPG
Josef Danhauser's 1840 painting of Franz Liszt at the piano surrounded by (from left to right) Alexandre Dumas, Hector Berlioz, George Sand, Niccolò Paganini, Gioachino Rossini, Marie d'Agoult with a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven on the piano.

Romantic music is a stylistic movement in Western Classical music associated with the period of the 19th century commonly referred to as the Romantic era (or Romantic period). It is closely related to the broader concept of Romanticism—the intellectual, artistic and literary movement that became prominent in Western culture from approximately 1798 until 1837. [1]


Romantic composers sought to create music that was individualistic, emotional, dramatic and often programmatic; reflecting broader trends within the movements of Romantic literature, poetry, art, and philosophy. Romantic music was often ostensibly inspired by (or else sought to evoke) non-musical stimuli, such as nature, literature, poetry, super-natural elements or the fine arts. It included features such as increased chromaticism and moved away from traditional forms. [2]


Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, by Caspar David Friedrich, is an example of Romantic painting. Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog.jpg
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, by Caspar David Friedrich, is an example of Romantic painting.

The Romantic movement was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe and strengthened in reaction to the Industrial Revolution. [3] In part, it was a revolt against social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature ( Casey 2008 ). It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, literature, [4] and education, [5] and was in turn influenced by developments in natural history. [6]

One of the first significant applications of the term to music was in 1789, in the Mémoires by the Frenchman André Grétry, but it was E. T. A. Hoffmann who established the principles of musical romanticism, in a lengthy review of Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony published in 1810, and an 1813 article on Beethoven's instrumental music. In the first of these essays Hoffmann traced the beginnings of musical Romanticism to the later works of Haydn and Mozart. It was Hoffmann's fusion of ideas already associated with the term "Romantic", used in opposition to the restraint and formality of Classical models, that elevated music, and especially instrumental music, to a position of pre-eminence in Romanticism as the art most suited to the expression of emotions. It was also through the writings of Hoffmann and other German authors that German music was brought to the center of musical Romanticism. [7]


Ludwig van Beethoven is considered one of the transitioning composers bridging the Classical era and the Romantic era. [8] Other influential composers of the early Romantic era include Hector Berlioz, Frédéric Chopin, Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn, Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Niccolò Paganini, Franz Schubert, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, and Carl Maria von Weber.

Later nineteenth-century composers would appear to build upon certain early Romantic ideas and musical techniques, such as the use of extended chromatic harmony and expanded orchestration. Such later Romantic composers include Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Mykola Lysenko, Modest Mussorgsky, Antonín Dvořák, Alexander Borodin, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov, Edward Elgar, Edvard Grieg, Gabriel Fauré, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.


The classical period often used short, even fragmentary, thematic material while the Romantic period tended to make greater use of longer, more fully defined and more emotionally evocative themes. [9]

Characteristics often attributed to Romanticism:

In music, there is a relatively clear dividing line in musical structure and form following the death of Beethoven. Whether one counts Beethoven as a "romantic" composer or not, the breadth and power of his work gave rise to a feeling that the classical sonata form and, indeed, the structure of the symphony, sonata and string quartet had been exhausted. [14]

Non-musical influences

Events and changes in society such as ideas, attitudes, discoveries, inventions, and historical events often affect music. For example, the Industrial Revolution was in full effect by the late 18th century and early 19th century. This event profoundly affected music: there were major improvements in the mechanical valves and keys that most woodwinds and brass instruments depend on. The new and innovative instruments could be played with greater ease and they were more reliable. [15]

Another development that affected music was the rise of the middle class. Composers before this period lived under the patronage of the aristocracy. Many times their audience was small, composed mostly of the upper class and individuals who were knowledgeable about music. [15] The Romantic composers, on the other hand, often wrote for public concerts and festivals, with large audiences of paying customers, who had not necessarily had any music lessons. [15] Composers of the Romantic Era, like Elgar, showed the world that there should be "no segregation of musical tastes" [16] and that the "purpose was to write music that was to be heard". [17]


During the Romantic period, music often took on a much more nationalistic purpose. Composers composed with a distinct sound that represented their home country and traditions. For example, Jean Sibelius' Finlandia has been interpreted to represent the rising nation of Finland, which would someday gain independence from Russian control. [18] Frédéric Chopin was one of the first composers to incorporate nationalistic elements into his compositions. Joseph Machlis states, "Poland's struggle for freedom from tsarist rule aroused the national poet in Poland. … Examples of musical nationalism abound in the output of the romantic era. The folk idiom is prominent in the Mazurkas of Chopin". [19] His mazurkas and polonaises are particularly notable for their use of nationalistic rhythms. Moreover, "During World War II the Nazis forbade the playing of … Chopin's Polonaises in Warsaw because of the powerful symbolism residing in these works". [19] Other composers, such as Bedřich Smetana, wrote pieces that musically described their homelands. In particular, Smetana's Vltava is a symphonic poem about the Moldau River in the modern-day Czech Republic and the second in a cycle of six nationalistic symphonic poems collectively titled Má vlast (My Homeland). [20] Smetana also composed eight nationalist operas, all of which remain in the repertory. They established him as the first Czech nationalist composer as well as the most important Czech opera composer of the generation who came to prominence in the 1860s. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Impressionism in music was a movement among various composers in Western classical music whose music focuses on mood and atmosphere, "conveying the moods and emotions aroused by the subject rather than a detailed tone‐picture". "Impressionism" is a philosophical and aesthetic term borrowed from late 19th-century French painting after Monet's Impression, Sunrise. Composers were labeled Impressionists by analogy to the Impressionist painters who use starkly contrasting colors, effect of light on an object, blurry foreground and background, flattening perspective, etc. to make the observer focus their attention on the overall impression.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Romanticism</span> Artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism, clandestine literature, idealization of nature, suspicion of science and industrialization, and glorification of the past with a strong preference for the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, chess, social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing conservatism, liberalism, radicalism, and nationalism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sonata</span> Type of instrumental composition

Sonata, in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata, a piece sung. The term evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms until the Classical era, when it took on increasing importance. Sonata is a vague term, with varying meanings depending on the context and time period. By the early 19th century, it came to represent a principle of composing large-scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded—alongside the fugue—as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. Though the musical style of sonatas has changed since the Classical era, most 20th- and 21st-century sonatas still maintain the same structure.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">German Romanticism</span> Intellectual movement in German-speaking countries

German Romanticism was the dominant intellectual movement of German-speaking countries in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, influencing philosophy, aesthetics, literature, and criticism. Compared to English Romanticism, the German variety developed relatively early, and, in the opening years, coincided with Weimar Classicism (1772–1805). In contrast to the seriousness of English Romanticism, the German variety of Romanticism notably valued wit, humour, and beauty.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johann Nepomuk Hummel</span> Austrian composer and pianist (1778–1837)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel was an Austrian composer and virtuoso pianist. His music reflects the transition from the Classical to the Romantic musical era. He was a pupil of Mozart, Salieri and Clementi. He also knew Beethoven and Schubert.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tonality</span> Musical system

Tonality is the arrangement of pitches and/or chords of a musical work in a hierarchy of perceived relations, stabilities, attractions and directionality. In this hierarchy, the single pitch or triadic chord with the greatest stability is called the tonic. The root of the tonic chord forms the name given to the key, so in the key of C major, the note C is both the tonic of the scale and the root of the tonic chord. Simple folk music songs often start and end with the tonic note. The most common use of the term "is to designate the arrangement of musical phenomena around a referential tonic in European music from about 1600 to about 1910". Contemporary classical music from 1910 to the 2000s may practice or avoid any sort of tonality—but harmony in almost all Western popular music remains tonal. Harmony in jazz includes many but not all tonal characteristics of the European common practice period, usually known as "classical music".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Rosen</span> American pianist and writer on music

Charles Welles Rosen was an American pianist and writer on music. He is remembered for his career as a concert pianist, for his recordings, and for his many writings, notable among them the book The Classical Style.

20th-century classical music describes art music that was written nominally from 1901 to 2000, inclusive. Musical style diverged during the 20th century as it never had previously. So this century was without a dominant style. Modernism, impressionism, and post-romanticism can all be traced to the decades before the turn of the 20th century, but can be included because they evolved beyond the musical boundaries of the 19th-century styles that were part of the earlier common practice period. Neoclassicism and expressionism came mostly after 1900. Minimalism started much later in the century and can be seen as a change from the modern to post-modern era, although some date post-modernism from as early as about 1930. Aleatory, atonality, serialism, musique concrète, electronic music, and concept music were all developed during the century. Jazz and folk music became important influences on many composers during this century.

Absolute music is music that is not explicitly 'about' anything; in contrast to program music, it is non-representational. The idea of absolute music developed at the end of the 18th century in the writings of authors of early German Romanticism, such as Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, Ludwig Tieck and E. T. A. Hoffmann but the term was not coined until 1846 where it was first used by Richard Wagner in a programme to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Empfindsamkeit or Empfindsamer Stil is a style of musical composition and poetry developed in 18th-century Germany, intended to express "true and natural" feelings, and featuring sudden contrasts of mood. It was developed as a contrast to the Baroque Affektenlehre, in which a composition would have the same affect throughout.

Neoromanticism in music is a return to the emotional expression associated with nineteenth-century Romanticism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carl Dahlhaus</span> German musicologist (1928–1989)

Carl Dahlhaus was a German musicologist who was among the leading postwar musicologists of the mid to late 20th-century. A prolific scholar, he had broad interests though his research focused on 19th- and 20th-century classical music, both areas in which he made significant advancements. However, he remains best known in the English-speaking world for his writings on Wagner. Dahlhaus wrote on many other composers, including Josquin, Gesualdo, Bach and Schoenberg.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Galant music</span>

In music, galant refers to the style which was fashionable from the 1720s to the 1770s. This movement featured a return to simplicity and immediacy of appeal after the complexity of the late Baroque era. This meant simpler, more song-like melodies, decreased use of polyphony, short, periodic phrases, a reduced harmonic vocabulary emphasizing tonic and dominant, and a clear distinction between soloist and accompaniment. C. P. E. Bach and Daniel Gottlob Türk, who were among the most significant theorists of the late 18th century, contrasted the galant with the "learned" or "strict" styles.) The German empfindsamer Stil, which seeks to express personal emotions and sensitivity, can be seen either as a closely related North-German dialect of the international galant style, or as contrasted with it, as between the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, a founder of both styles, and that of Johann Christian Bach, who carried the galant style further and was closer to classical.

Musical historicism signifies the use in classical music of historical materials, structures, styles, techniques, media, conceptual content, etc., whether by a single composer or those associated with a particular school, movement, or period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">N. Simrock</span>

N. Simrock was a German music publisher founded by Nikolaus Simrock which published many 19th-century German classical music composers. It was acquired in 1929 by Anton Benjamin.

Stephen Hinton is a British-American musicologist at Stanford University. A leading authority on the composer Kurt Weill, he has published widely on many aspects of modern German music history, with contributions to publications such as Handwörterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie, The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, and Funkkolleg Musikgeschichte. His most recent book, Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform, the first musicological study of Weill's complete stage works, received the 2013 Kurt Weill Book Prize for outstanding scholarship in music theater since 1900. The reviewer for the Journal of the American Musicological Society described the book as "a landmark in the literature on twentieth-century musical theater."

Silke Leopold is a German musicologist and university lecturer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Transition from Classical to Romantic music</span> Period of change in European Art music

The transition from the classical period of European Art music, which lasted around 1750 to 1820, to Romantic music, which lasted around 1815 to 1910, took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Composers began transitioning their compositional and melodic techniques into a new musical form which became known as the Romantic Era or Romanticism due to the implementation of lyrical melodies as opposed to the linear compositional style of Classical music.

Hermann Danuser is a Swiss-German musicologist.


  1. "The Romantic Period". Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  2. Truscott, Harold (1961). "Form in Romantic Music". Studies in Romanticism. 1 (1): 29–39. doi:10.2307/25599538. JSTOR   25599538.
  3. "Romanticism - Music". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  4. Kravitt, Edward F. (1972). "The Impact of Naturalism on Music and the Other Arts during the Romantic Era". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 30 (4): 537–543. doi:10.2307/429469. JSTOR   429469.
  5. Gutek, Gerald Lee (1995). A history of the Western educational experience (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL. ISBN   0-88133-818-4. OCLC   32464830.
  6. Nichols, Ashton. ""Roaring Alligators and Burning Tygers: Poetry and Science from William Bartram to Charles Darwin"". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 149 (3): 304–315.
  7. Rothstein, William; Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (2001). "Articles on Schenker and Schenkerian Theory in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Edition". Journal of Music Theory. 45 (1): 204. doi:10.2307/3090656. ISSN   0022-2909. JSTOR   3090656.
  8. NEWMAN, WILLIAM S. (1983). "The Beethoven Mystique in Romantic Art, Literature, and Music". The Musical Quarterly. LXIX (3): 354–387. doi:10.1093/mq/lxix.3.354. ISSN   0027-4631.
  9. Wildridge, Dr Justin (18 April 2019). "Classical vs Romantic Music (Differences Between Classical And Romantic Music)". CMUSE. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Wildridge, Dr Justin (15 July 2018). "Characteristics of Romantic Era Music - CMUSE". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  11. "Composers on Nature". All Classical Portland. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  12. Boyd, Delane (1 May 2016). "Uncanny Conversations: Depictions of the Supernatural in Dialogue Lieder of the Nineteenth Century". Student Research, Creative Activity, and Performance - School of Music: 9–13.
  13. 1 2 3 "The Romantic Period of Music". Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  14. Hammond, Kathryn (1965). The Sonata Form and its Use in Beethoven's First Seventeen Piano Sonatas (MA thesis). Utah State University. pp. 26–28. doi:10.26076/6295-2596.
  15. 1 2 3 Schmidt-Jones, Catherine (2006). Introduction to music theory. Russell Jones. [United States]: Connexions. ISBN   1-4116-5030-1. OCLC   71229581.
  16. Marshall., Young, Percy (1967). A history of British music. p. 525. OCLC   164772776.
  17. Marshall., Young, Percy (1967). A history of British music. p. 527. OCLC   164772776.
  18. "Salonen on Sibelius: 'Finlandia'". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  19. 1 2 music., Machlis, Joseph, 1906-1998.tEnjoyment of (1990), Recordings for The enjoyment of music and The Norton scores, Norton, ISBN   0-393-99165-2, OCLC   1151514105 , retrieved 9 November 2021
  20. Grunfeld, Frederic V. (1974). Music. New York: Newsweek Books. pp. 112–113. ISBN   0-88225-101-5. OCLC   908483.
  21. Ottlová, Marta; Pospíšil, Milan; Tyrrell, John (2001). Smetana, Bedřich. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.52076.

Further reading