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 and 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 and 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 about 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, [2] literature, [2] poetry, [2] super-natural elements or the fine arts. It included features such as increased chromaticism and moved away from traditional forms. [3]


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. [4] 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, [5] and education, [6] and was in turn influenced by developments in natural history. [7]

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. [8]


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. [2] 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]

"The music composed by Romantic [composers]" reflected "the importance of the individual" by being composed in ways that were often less restrictive and more often focused on the composer's skills as a person than prior means of writing music. [2]


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, 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]


Early Romantic

Ludwig van Beethoven, painted by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820 Joseph Karl Stieler's Beethoven mit dem Manuskript der Missa solemnis.jpg
Ludwig van Beethoven, painted by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

The transition of Viennese classicism to Romanticism can be found in the work of Ludwig van Beethoven. Many typically romantic elements are encountered for the first time in his works. These works stand here in contrast to vocal music and are "prete" instrumental music. According to Hoffmann, the pure instrumental music of Viennese classical music, especially that of Beethoven, since it is free of material or program, is the embodiment of the romantic art idea. [22] Another one of the most important representatives of early romanticism is Franz Schubert. Because only with him did romantic features come into the German-language opera with his chamber music works and later also symphonies. In this field, his work is supplemented by the ballads of Carl Loewe. Carl Maria von Weber is important for the development of the German opera, especially with his popular Freischütz. In addition, there are fantastic-horrious materials by Heinrich Marschner and finally the cheerful opera by Albert Lortzing, while Louis Spohr became known mainly for his instrumental music. Still largely attached to classical music is the work of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Ferdinand Ries and the Frenchman George Onslow.

Italy experienced the heyday of the Belcanto opera in early Romanticism, associated with the names of Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini. While Rossini's comic operas are primarily known today, often only through their rousing overtures, Donizetti and Bellini predominate tragic content. The most important Italian instrumental composer of this time was the legendary "devil's violion" Niccolò Paganini. In France, on the one hand, the light Opéra comique developed, its representatives are François-Adrien Boieldieu, Daniel-François-Esprit Auber and Adolphe Adam, the latter also known for his ballets. One can also quote the famous eccentric composer and harpist Robert Nicolas-Charles Bochsa (seven operas). In addition, the Grand opéra came up with pompous stage sets, ballets and large choirs. Her first representative was Gaspare Spontini, her most important Giacomo Meyerbeer.

Music development has now also taken an upswing in other European countries. The Irishman John Field composed the first Nocturnes for piano, Friedrich Kuhlau worked in Denmark and the Swede Franz Berwald wrote four very idiosyncratic symphonies.

High Romantic

Richard Wagner in Paris, 1861 Richard Wagner, Paris, 1861.jpg
Richard Wagner in Paris, 1861

The high romanticism can be divided into two phases. In the first phase, the actual romantic music reaches its peak. The Polish composer Frédéric Chopin explored previously unknown depths of emotion in his character pieces and dances for piano. Robert Schumann, mentally immersed at the end of his life, represents in person as well as in music almost the prototype of the passionate romantic artist, shadowed by tragedy. His idiosyncratic piano pieces, chamber music works and symphonies should have a lasting influence on the following generation of musicians.

Franz Liszt, who came from the German minority in Hungary, was on the one hand a swarmed piano virtuoso, but on the other hand also laid the foundation for the progressive "New German School" with his harmoniously bold symphonic poems. Also committed to program music was the technique of the Idée fixe (leitmotif) of the Frenchman Hector Berlioz, who also significantly expanded the orchestra. Felix Mendelssohn was again more oriented towards the classicist formal language and became a role model especially for Scandinavian composers such as the Dane Niels Wilhelm Gade. In opera, the operas of Otto Nicolai and Friedrich von Flotow still dominated in Germany when Richard Wagner wrote his first romantic operas. The early works of Giuseppe Verdi were also still based on the Belcanto ideal of the older generation. In France, the Opéra lyrique was developed by Ambroise Thomas and Charles Gounod. Russian music found its own language in the operas of Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Dargomyschski.

The second phase of high romanticism runs in parallel with the style of realism in literature and the visual arts. In the second half of his creation, Wagner now developed his leitmotif technique, with which he holds together the four-part ring of the Nibelungen, composed without arias; the orchestra is treated symphonically, the chromaticism reaches its extreme in Tristan and Isolde. A whole crowd of disciples is under the influence of Wagner's progressive ideas, among them, for example, Peter Cornelius. On the other hand, an opposition arose from numerous more conservative composers, to whom Johannes Brahms, who sought a logical continuation of classical music in symphony, chamber music and song, became a model of scale due to the depth of the sensation and a masterful composition technique. Among others, Robert Volkmann, Friedrich Kiel, Carl Reinecke, Max Bruch, Josef Gabriel Rheinberger and Hermann Goetz are included in this party.

In addition, some important loners came on the scene, among whom Anton Bruckner particularly stands out. Although a Wagner supporter, his clear-form style differs significantly from that of that composer. For example, the block-based instrumentation of Bruckner's symphonies is derived from the registers of the organ. In the ideological struggle against Wagner's adversaries, he was portrayed by his followers as a counterpart of Brahms. Felix Draeseke, who originally wrote "future music in classical form" starting from Liszt, also stands between the parties in composition.

Verdi also reached the way to a well-composed musical drama, albeit in a different way than Wagner. His immense charisma made all other composers fade in Italy, including Amilcare Ponchielli and Arrigo Boito, who was also the librettist of his late operas Otello and Falstaff. In France, on the other hand, the light muse triumphed first in the form of the socio-critical operettas of Jacques Offenbach. Lyrical opera found its climax in the works of Jules Massenet, while in the Carmen by Georges Bizet, realism came for the first time. Louis Théodore Gouvy built a stylistic bridge to German music. The operas, symphonies and chamber music works of the extremely versatile Camille Saint-Saëns were, as were the ballets of Léo Delibes, more tradition-oriented. New orchestra colors were found in the compositions of Édouard Lalo and Emmanuel Chabrier. The Belgian-born César Franck was accompanied by a revival of organ music, which was continued by Charles-Marie Widor, later Louis Vierne and Charles Tournemire.

A specific national romanticism had by now emerged in almost all European countries. The national Russian current started by Glinka was continued in Russia by the "Group of Five": Mili Balakirev, Alexander Borodin, Modest Mussorgski and Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov and César Cui. More western oriented were Anton Rubinstein and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, whose ballets and symphonies gained great popularity. Bedřich Smetana founded Czech national music with his operas and the Symphony poems oriented towards Liszt. The symphonies, concerts and chamber music works of Antonín Dvořák, on the other hand, have Brahms as a model. In Poland, Stanisław Moniuszko was the leading opera composer, in Hungary Ferenc Erkel. Norway produced its best-known composers with Edvard Grieg, creator of lyrical piano works, songs and orchestral works such as the Peer-Gynt Suite; England's voice resonated with the Brahms-oriented Hubert Parry and symphonist, as well as the bizarre[ according to whom? ] operettas of Arthur Sullivan.

Late Romantic

Gustav Mahler, photographed in 1907 by Moritz Nahr at the end of his period as director of the Vienna Hofoper Photo of Gustav Mahler by Moritz Nahr 01.jpg
Gustav Mahler, photographed in 1907 by Moritz Nähr at the end of his period as director of the Vienna Hofoper

In late Romanticism, also called post-Romanticism, the traditional forms and elements of music are further dissolved. An increasingly colorful orchestral palette, an ever-increasing range of musical means, the spread of tonality to its limits, exaggerated emotions and an increasingly individual tonal language of the individual composer are typical features; the music is led to the threshold of modernity. Thus, the symphonies of Gustav Mahler reached previously unknown dimensions, partly give up the traditional four-sentence and often contain vocal proportions. But behind the monumental facade is the modern expressiveness of the Fin de siècle. This psychological expressiveness is also contained in the songs of Hugo Wolf, miniature dramas for voice and piano. More committed to tradition, particularly oriented towards Bruckner, are the symphonies of Franz Schmidt and Richard Wetz, while Max Reger resorted to Bach's polyphony in his numerous instrumental works, but developed it harmoniously extremely boldly. Among the numerous composers of the Reger successor, Julius Weismann and Joseph Haas stand out. Among the outstanding late romantic sound creators is also the idiosyncratic Hans Pfitzner. Although a traditionalist and decisive opponent of modern currents, quite a few of his works are quite close to the musical progress of the time. His successor include Walter Braunfels, who mainly emerged as an opera composer, and the symphonist Wilhelm Furtwängler. The opera stage was particularly suitable for increased emotions. The folk and fairy tale operas of Engelbert Humperdinck, Wilhelm Kienzl and Siegfried Wagner, the son of Richard Wagner, were still quite good. But even Eugen d'Albert and Max von Schillings irritated the nerves with a German variant of verism. Erotic symbolism can be found in the stage works of Alexander von Zemlinsky and Franz Schreker. Richard Strauss went even further to the limits of tonality with Salome and Elektra before he took more traditional paths with the Rosenkavalier. In the style related to the works of Strauss, the compositions Emil Nikolaus von Rezniceks and Paul Graeners are shown.

In Italy, opera still dominated during this time. This is where verism developed, an exaggerated realism that could easily turn into the striking and melodramatic on the opera stage. Despite their extensive work, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Pietro Mascagni, Francesco Cilea and Umberto Giordano have only become known through one opera at a time. Only Giacomo Puccini's work has been completely preserved in the repertoire of the opera houses, although he was also often accused of sentimentality. Despite some veristic works, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was mainly considered a revival of the Opera buffa. Ferruccio Busoni, a temporarily defender of modern classicity living in Germany, left behind a rather conventional, little played work. Thus, instrumental music actually only found its place in Italian music again with Ottorino Respighi, who was influenced by Impressionism.

The term Impressionism comes from painting, and like there, it also developed in music in France. In the works of Claude Debussy, the structures dissolved into the finest nuances of rhythm, dynamics and timbre. This development was prepared in the work of Vincent d'Indy, Ernest Chausson and above all in the songs and chamber music of Gabriel Fauré. All subsequent French composers were more or less influenced by Impressionism. The most important among them was Maurice Ravel, a brilliant orchestral virtuoso. Albert Rousse first processed exotic topics before he anticipated Neoclassical tendencies like Ravel. Gabriel Pierné, Paul Dukas, Charles Koechlin and Florent Schmitt also dealt with symbolic and exotic-oriental substances. The loner Erik Satie was the creator of spun piano pieces and idol of the next generation. Nevertheless, Impressionism is often attributed to the epoch of modernity, if not seen as its own epoch. Hubert Parry and the Irishman Charles Villiers Stanford initiated late Romanticism in England, which had its first important representative in Edward Elgar. While he revived the oratorio and wrote symphonies and concerts, Frederick Delius devoted himself to particularly small orchestral images with his own variant of Impressionism. Ethel Smyth wrote mainly operas and chamber music in a style that reminded Brahms. Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose works were inspired by English folk songs and Renaissance music, became the most important symphonist of his country. Gustav Holst incorporated Greek mythology and Indian philosophy into his work. Very idiosyncratic composer personalities in the transition to modernity were also Havergal Brian and Frank Bridge.

In Russia, Alexander Glasunov decorated his traditional composition technique with a colorful orchestral palette. The mystic Alexander Skryabin dreamed of a synthesis of colors, sound and scents. Sergei Rachmaninov wrote melancholic-pathetic piano pieces and concertos full of intoxicating virtuosity, while the piano works of Nikolai Medtner are more lyrical.

In the Czech Republic, Leoš Janáček, deeply rooted in the music of his Moravian homeland, found new areas of expression with the development of the language melody in his operas. The local sounds are also unmistakable in the music of Zdeněk Fibich, Josef Bohuslav Foerster, Vítězslav Novák and Josef Suk. On the other hand, in the work of the Polish Karol Szymanowski, there is a slightly morbid exoticism and later classicist measure in the work of the Pole Karol Szymanowski. The most important Danish composer is Carl Nielsen, known for symphonies and concerts. Even more dominant in his country is the position of the Finn Jean Sibelius, also a symphonist of melancholy expressiveness and clear line design. In Sweden, the works of Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Wilhelm Stenhammar and Hugo Alfvén show a typical Nordic conservatism, and the Norwegian Christian Sinding also composed traditionally.

The music of Spain also increased in popularity again after a long time, first in the piano works of Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados, then in the operas, ballets and orchestral works of Manuel de Falla, influenced by Impressionism.

Finally, the first important representatives of the United States also appeared with Edward MacDowell and Amy Beach. But even the work of Charles Ives belonged only partly to late Romanticism - much of it was already radically modern and pointed far into the 20th century.


New German School

Franz Liszt in 1858 by Franz Hanfstaengl Franz Liszt 1858.jpg
Franz Liszt in 1858 by Franz Hanfstaengl

The New German School was a loose collection of composers and critics informally led by Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner who strove for pushing the limits of chromatic harmony and program music as opposed to absolute music which they believed had reached its limit under Ludwig van Beethoven. [23]

This group also pushed for the development and innovation of the symphonic poem, thematic transformation in musical form, and radical changes in tonality and harmony. [24]

Other important members of this movement includes the critic Richard Pohl and composers Felix Draeseke, Julius Reubke, Karl Klindworth, William Mason and Peter Cornelius.

The German Conservatives

Robert Schumann in an 1850 daguerreotype Schumann-photo1850.jpg
Robert Schumann in an 1850 daguerreotype

The conservatives were a broad group of musicians and critics who maintained the artistic legacy of Robert Schumann who adhered to composing and promoting absolute music. [25]

They believed in continuing along the footsteps of Ludwig van Beethoven of composing the symphony genre in the classical mold, though they would implement their own musical language. [26]

The most prominent members of this circle were Johannes Brahms, Joseph Joachim, Clara Schumann, and the Leipzig Conservatoire, which had been founded by Felix Mendelssohn.

The Mighty Five

Balakirev (top), Cui (upper left), Mussorgsky (upper right), Rimsky-Korsakov (lower left), and Borodin (lower right). Mighty Handful.jpg
Balakirev (top), Cui (upper left), Mussorgsky (upper right), Rimsky-Korsakov (lower left), and Borodin (lower right).

The Mighty Five were a group of Russian composers centered in Saint Petersburg who collaborated with each other from 1856 to 1870 to create a distinctly Russian national style of classical music. They were often at odds with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky who favored a more Western approach to classical composition.

Led by Mily Balakirev the group’s main members also consisted of César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin.

The Belyayev Circle

The Belyayev circle was a society of Russian musicians who met in Saint Petersburg from 1885 and 1908 who sought to continue the development of the national Russian style of classical music following in the footsteps of the Mighty Five although they were far more tolerant of the Western compositional style of Tchaikovsky.

This group was founded by Russian music publisher philanthropist Mitrofan Belyayev. The two most important composers of this group were Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov. Members also included Vladimir Stasov, Anatoly Lyadov, Alexander Ossovsky, Witold Maliszewski, Nikolai Tcherepnin, Nikolay Sokolov, and Alexander Winkler

Transition to Modernism

During the later half of the 19th Century, some prominent composers began exploring the limits of the traditional tonal system. Important examples include Tristan und Isolde [27] by Richard Wagner and Bagatelle sans tonalité [28] by Franz Liszt. This limit was finally reached during the Late Romantic period where progressive tonality is demonstrated in the works of composers such as Gustav Mahler. [29] With these developments, Romanticism finally began to break apart into several new parallel movements forming in response, bringing way to Modernism.

The two most important movements to form in response to Romanticism’s collapse were Expressionism with Arnold Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School being its main promoters and Neoclassicism with Igor Stravinsky being its most influential composer.



Carried to the highest degree by Ludwig van Beethoven, the symphony becomes the most prestigious form to which many composers devote themselves. The most conservative respect to the Beethovenian model includes composers such as Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Johannes Brahms. Others show an imagination that makes them go beyond this framework, in form or in the spirit: the most daring of them being Hector Berlioz.

Finally, some will also tell a story throughout their symphonies; like Franz Liszt, they will create the symphonic poem, a new musical genre, usually composed of a single movement and inspired by a theme, character or literary text. Since the symphonic poem is articulated around a leitmotiv (musical motif to identify a character, the hero for example), it is to be compared to music with a symphonic program.


This musical genre appeared with the evolution from pianoforte to piano during the romantic period. The lied is vocal music most often accompanied by this instrument. The singing is taken from romantic poems and this style makes it possible to bring the voice as close to feelings as possible. One of the first and most famous lieder composers is Franz Schubert, with Erlkönig, however, many other romantic composers have devoted themselves to the lied genre such as Saint-Saëns, Duparc, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Strauss.


It is Beethoven who inaugurates the romantic concerto, with his five piano concertos (especially the fifth) and his violin concerto where many characteristics of classicism can still be recognized. His example is followed by many composers: the concerto rivals the symphony in the repertoire of major orchestral formations.

Finally, the concerto will allow instrumentalist composers to reveal their virtuosity, such as Niccolò Paganini on the violin, and Frédéric Chopin, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt on the piano.


Daguerreotype of Chopin, c. 1849 Frederic Chopin photo.jpeg
Daguerreotype of Chopin, c.1849

The nocturne is presented as a short-lived confidential piece, which the Irish composer John Field was one of the first to cultivate it. Immersed in the climate of the night, an atmosphere privileged by romantics, it is often of ABA structure, with a very flexible and ornate melody, accompanied by a left hand with undulating arpeggios. The tempo is usually slow, and the central part is often more agitated.

Frédéric Chopin has set the most famous form of the nocturnes. He wrote 21, from 1827 to 1846. First published in series of three (opus 9 and 15), they are then grouped in pairs (opus 27, 32, 37, 48, 55, 62).


The Romantic ballet was developed throughout the 19th century, especially by composers such as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in Russia and Léo Delibes in France.



Bizet photographed by Etienne Carjat (1875) Georges bizet.jpg
Bizet photographed by Étienne Carjat (1875)

During the 19th century, romanticism took a hold of opera and it was Paris that became one of its main centers. Most romantic operas were composed by composers living in France, such as Luigi Cherubini, Gaspare Spontini, François-Adrien Boieldieu, and Daniel-François-Esprit Auber. The apogee of the style of great operas is marked by the works of Giacomo Meyerbeer. Hector Berlioz's Les Troyens was first ignored, Benvenuto Cellini is consputed during the premiere, while Charles Gounod's Faust is one of the most popular French operas of the mid-19th century.

During the second part of the 19th century, Georges Bizet will revolutionize opera with Carmen: "local color based on the use of Spanish songs and dances" according to Nietzsche, it is "a ray of Mediterranean light dissipating the fog of the Wagnerian ideal". Interest in "local color" works is confirmed with Lakmé by Léo Delibes, and Samson and Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns. The most productive French composer of operas of the last part of the century was Jules Massenet composing works such as Manon, Werther, and Thaïs.

Jacques Offenbach, who composed Les Contes d'Hoffmann, established himself as the master of French opera-comique of the 19th century, inventing a new genre, the French opera food, which later was confused with the operetta.

At the beginning of the 20th century, romanticism in France was gradually abandoned in favor of other currents such as Impressionism or symbolism, carried in particular by Claude Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande (1902).


Carl Maria von Weber, with Der Freischütz (1821) creates the first German romantic opera; the first important opera being Beethoven's Fidelio (1805), the only operatic work of this composer.

Richard Wagner, from the Der fliegende Holländer, introduces the leitmotiv and the "cyclical melody" process. He revolutionizes opera by duration and instrumental power. His major work, Tetralogy is one of the summits of German opera. He creates the "musical drama" in which the orchestra now becomes the protagonist in the same way as the characters. In 1876, the Bayreuth Festival was created dedicated to the exclusive representation of Wagner's works.

Wagner's influence continues in virtually all operas, even in Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck. The dominant figure is then Richard Strauss, who uses orchestration and vocal techniques similar to those of Wagner in Salomé and Elektra while developing his own path. Der Rosenkavalier is the work of Strauss that had the most flamboyant success at the time.


The iconic Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi (1886) by Giovanni Boldini Verdi by Giovanni Boldini.jpg
The iconic Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi (1886) by Giovanni Boldini

Italian romanticism begins with Gioachino Rossini who composed works such as The Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola. He created the "bel canto" style, a style adopted by his contemporaries Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti.

However, the face of Italian opera is Giuseppe Verdi whose Nabucco’s slave choir is a very important hymn to all of Italy. The trilogy formed by Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata are among his major works but he reaches the peak of his art with Otello and Falstaff at the end of his career. He has infuled his works with unparalleled dramatic vigour and rhythmic vitality.

In the second part of the 19th century, Giacomo Puccini, Verdi's undisputed successor, transcends realism into verism. La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, and Turandot are melodic operas loaded with emotion.

Other countries

Other works of national inspiration:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Classical period (music)</span> Era of classical music (c. 1730–1820)

The Classical period was an era of classical music between roughly 1750 and 1820.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johannes Brahms</span> German composer and pianist (1833–1897)

Johannes Brahms was a German composer, pianist, and conductor of the mid-Romantic period. Born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, he spent much of his professional life in Vienna. He is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the "Three Bs" of music, a comment originally made by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow.

<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">Clara Schumann</span> German pianist and composer (1819–1896)

Clara Josephine Schumann was a German pianist, composer, and piano teacher. Regarded as one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era, she exerted her influence over the course of a 61-year concert career, changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital by lessening the importance of purely virtuosic works. She also composed solo piano pieces, a piano concerto, chamber music, choral pieces, and songs.

A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music, usually in a single continuous movement, which illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting, landscape, or other (non-musical) source. The German term Tondichtung appears to have been first used by the composer Carl Loewe in 1828. The Hungarian composer Franz Liszt first applied the term Symphonische Dichtung to his 13 works in this vein, which commenced in 1848.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carl Czerny</span> Austrian composer, teacher and pianist (1791–1857)

Carl Czerny was an Austrian composer, teacher, and pianist of Czech origin whose music spanned the late Classical and early Romantic eras. His vast musical production amounted to over a thousand works and his books of studies for the piano are still widely used in piano teaching. He was one of Ludwig van Beethoven's best-known pupils and would later on be one of the main teachers of Franz Liszt.

<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).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano concerto</span> Type of concerto of consisting of a solo piano composition accompanied by an orchestra

A piano concerto, a type of concerto, is a solo composition in the classical music genre which is composed for piano accompanied by an orchestra or other large ensemble. Piano concertos are typically virtuosic showpieces which require an advanced level of technique. Piano concertos are typically written out in music notation, including sheet music for the pianist, orchestral parts, and a full score for the conductor.

20th-century classical music is art music that was written between the years 1901 and 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 postmodern era, although some date postmodernism from as early as about 1930. Aleatory, atonality, serialism, musique concrète, electronic music, and concept music were all developed during the century. Jazz and ethnic folk music became important influences on many composers during this century.

Sonata form is one of the most influential ideas in the history of Western classical music. Since the establishment of the practice by composers like C.P.E. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert and the codification of this practice into teaching and theory, the practice of writing works in sonata form has changed considerably.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beethoven's musical style</span> Overview of the musical style of Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most influential figures in the history of classical music. Since his lifetime, when he was "universally accepted as the greatest living composer", Beethoven's music has remained among the most performed, discussed and reviewed in the Western world. Scholarly journals are devoted to analysis of his life and work. He has been the subject of numerous biographies and monographs, and his music was the driving force behind the development of Schenkerian analysis. He is widely considered among the most important composers, and along with Bach and Mozart, his music is the most frequently recorded.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Felix Weingartner</span> Austrian conductor, composer, and pianist (1863–1942)

Paul Felix Weingartner, Edler von Münzberg was an Austrian conductor, composer and pianist.

The "War of the Romantics" is a term used by some music historians to describe the schism among prominent musicians in the second half of the 19th century. Musical structure, the limits of chromatic harmony, and program music versus absolute music were the principal areas of contention. The opposing parties crystallized during the 1850s. The most prominent members of the conservative circle were Johannes Brahms, Joseph Joachim, Clara Schumann, and the Leipzig Conservatoire, which had been founded by Felix Mendelssohn. Their opponents, the radical progressives mainly from Weimar, were represented by Franz Liszt and the members of the so-called New German School, and by Richard Wagner. The controversy was German and Central European in origin; musicians from France, Italy, and Russia were only marginally involved.

The organ repertoire is considered to be the largest and oldest repertory of all musical instruments. Because of the organ's prominence in worship in Western Europe from the Middle Ages on, a significant portion of organ repertoire is sacred in nature. The organ's suitability for improvisation by a single performer is well adapted to this liturgical role and has allowed many blind organists to achieve fame; it also accounts for the relatively late emergence of written compositions for the instrument in the Renaissance. Although instruments are still disallowed in most Eastern churches, organs have found their way into a few synagogues as well as secular venues where organ recitals take place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Symphonic poems (Liszt)</span> Group of 13 orchestral works

The symphonic poems of the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt are a series of 13 orchestral works, numbered S.95–107. The first 12 were composed between 1848 and 1858 ; the last, Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, followed in 1882. These works helped establish the genre of orchestral program music—compositions written to illustrate an extra-musical plan derived from a play, poem, painting or work of nature. They inspired the symphonic poems of Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Richard Strauss and others.

The radical change Franz Liszt's compositional style underwent in the last 20 years of his life was unprecedented in Western classical music. The tradition of music had been one of unified progression, even to the extent of Johannes Brahms' First Symphony being known as "Beethoven's Tenth". Beethoven's own three periods of composition are monolithic and united. Liszt's, by comparison, seem deconstructivist. Replacing pages which in Liszt's earlier compositions had been thick with notes and virtuoso passages was a starkness where every note and rest was carefully weighed and calculated, while the works themselves become more experimental harmonically and formally.

Thematic transformation is a musical technique in which a leitmotif, or theme, is developed by changing the theme by using permutation, augmentation, diminution, and fragmentation. It was primarily developed by Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz. The technique is essentially one of variation. A basic theme is reprised throughout a musical work, but it undergoes constant transformations and disguises and is made to appear in several contrasting roles. However, the transformations of this theme will always serve the purpose of "unity within variety" that was the architectural role of sonata form in the classical symphony. The difference here is that thematic transformation can accommodate the dramatically charged phrases, highly coloured melodies and atmospheric harmonies favored by the Romantic composers, whereas sonata form was geared more toward the more objective characteristics of absolute music. Also, while thematic transformation is similar to variation, the effect is usually different since the transformed theme has a life of its own and is no longer a sibling to the original theme.

Although Franz Liszt provided opus numbers for some of his earlier works, they are rarely used today. Instead, his works are usually identified using one of two different cataloging schemes:

<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 1800 to 1910.


  1. "The Romantic Period". Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Collisson, Steve; Chilingiran, Levon; O'Donovan, Matthew; Hall, George; Hayes, Malcolm; Lankester, Michael; Lutchmayer, Karl; McGowan, Keith; Ogano, Kumi; et al. (Authors) (2022). The Classical Music Book. New York: DK. pp. 168–169. ISBN   978-0-7440-5633-4.
  3. Truscott, Harold (1961). "Form in Romantic Music". Studies in Romanticism. 1 (1): 29–39. doi:10.2307/25599538. JSTOR   25599538.
  4. "Romanticism - Music". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  5. 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.
  6. Gutek, Gerald Lee (1995). A history of the Western educational experience (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. ISBN   0-88133-818-4. OCLC   32464830.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. Marshall., Young, Percy (1967). A history of British music. p. 527. OCLC   164772776.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. "Salonen on Sibelius: Finlandia". NPR. 1 December 2006. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  19. 1 2 Machlis, Joseph (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.
  22. E.T.A. Hoffmann on Beethoven's Fifth. 16. April 2020, retrieved on 2. December 2021.
  23. Brendel (1858) , p. 111
  24. Searle, 11:28–29.
  25. Burger, Ernst (1999). Robert Schumann. Mainz: Schott. p. 334.
  26. Bonds, New Grove (2001), 24:835, 837.
  27. Millington 1992, p. 301.
  28. Searle, New Grove 11:11:39.
  29. William Kinderman and Harald Krebs, eds. (1996). The Second Practice of Nineteenth-Century Tonality, p.9. ISBN   9780803227248
  30. "Giovanni Boldini, 160 opere in mostra al Vittoriano". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). 26 March 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2023.

Further reading