Romantic music

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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 Anton Dietrich's 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 Anton Dietrich's 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 Europe from approximately 1800 until 1910.


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, or the fine arts.

Influential composers of the early Romantic era include Adolphe Adam, Daniel Auber, Ludwig van Beethoven, Hector Berlioz, François-Adrien Boieldieu, Frédéric Chopin, Sophia Dussek, Ferdinand Hérold, Mikhail Glinka, Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn, John Field, Ignaz Moscheles, Otto Nicolai, Gioachino Rossini, Ferdinand Ries, Vincenzo Bellini, Franz Berwald, Luigi Cherubini, Carl Czerny, Gaetano Donizetti, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Carl Loewe, Niccolò Paganini, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Anton Reicha, Franz Schubert, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Louis Spohr, Gaspare Spontini, Ambroise Thomas 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 Albéniz, Bruckner, Granados, Smetana, Brahms, MacDowell, Tchaikovsky, Parker, Mussorgsky, Dvořák, Borodin, Delius, Liszt, Wagner, Mahler, Goldmark, Richard Strauss, Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Lalo, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schoenberg, Sibelius, Stanford, Parry, Scriabin, Elgar, Grieg, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Rachmaninoff, Glazunov, Chausson and Franck.


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 ( Encyclopædia Britannica n.d. ). 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, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography ( Levin 1959 , [ page needed ]) and education ( Gutek 1995 , 220–54), and was in turn influenced by developments in natural history ( Nichols 2005 , 308–309).

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 really established the principles of musical romanticism, in a lengthy review of Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony published in 1810, and in 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 centre of musical Romanticism ( Samson 2001 ).


Characteristics often attributed to Romanticism:

Such lists, however, proliferated over time, resulting in a "chaos of antithetical phenomena", criticized for their superficiality and for signifying so many different things that there came to be no central meaning. The attributes have also been criticized for being too vague. For example, features of the "ghostly and supernatural" could apply equally to Mozart's Don Giovanni from 1787 and Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress from 1951 ( Kravitt 1992 , 93–95).

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. Schumann, Schubert, Berlioz and other early-Romantic composers tended to look in alternative directions.[ citation needed ] Some characteristics of Romantic music include:[ citation needed ]

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 had a profound effect on 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 ( Schmidt-Jones and Jones 2004 , 3).

Another development that had an effect on music was the rise of the middle class. Composers before this period lived on the patronage of the aristocracy. Many times their audience was small, composed mostly of the upper class and individuals who were knowledgeable about music ( Schmidt-Jones and Jones 2004 , 3). 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 ( Schmidt-Jones and Jones 2004 , 3). Composers of the Romantic Era, like Elgar, showed the world that there should be "no segregation of musical tastes" ( Young 1967 , 525) and that the "purpose was to write music that was to be heard" ( Young 1967 , 527).


During the Romantic period, music often took on a much more nationalistic purpose. For example, Jean Sibelius' Finlandia has been interpreted to represent the rising nation of Finland, which would someday gain independence from Russian control ( Child 2006 ). 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" ( Machlis 1963 , 149–50). 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" ( Machlis 1963 , 150). 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) ( Grunfeld 1974 , 112–13). 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 ( Ottlová, Tyrrell, and Pospíšil 2001 ).

See also

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