Music in the Romantic Era 1820-1900

Music in the Romantic Era
The Times
• General Characteristics
– Age of Extremes, Age of Unending Lyricism
– “Roman” – a French Medieval novel
– Timeframe: ends clearly with Modernism;
beginning is more fluid
Ludwig Von Beethoven
• Crucial figure in the transition from Classical to Romantic
• Romantic period began around 1815. Works from this
period are characterized by their intellectual depth, their
formal innovations, and their intense, highly personal
expression. For example, the String Quartet, Opus 131
has seven linked movements, and the Ninth Symphony
adds choral forces to the orchestra in the last movement
String Quartet in Bb Major, Opus 130, 4th Movement
– French Revolution Ideals: Liberté, Egalité,
– Romantic times stressed: Individuality,
Emotion, Imagination
– Importance of nature. Romantics
idealized nature in both visual art and
music for its power, beauty and
Caspar David Friedrich
Social and Political Influences
• Industrialism
– Occurred first in Britain
– Power shifted from aristocratic landowners to middle
class city dwellers.
– Populations moved from an agrarian center to an
urban center.
Nationalism and the Spread of
• One of the most meaningful and definitive forces
in the 19th century
• Throughout Europe people began to promote
their own national identities and resist outside
authority. This push for national identity created
new countries (unification of Italy, formation of
German empire, United States).
• The principles and practices of democracy were
on the rise.
Napoleon Bonaparte
• “After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the monarchy was
restored in France and the old aristocratic order
• Revolutionary fervor and optimism gave way to disbelief
and dissatisfaction and romanticism to a more realistic
view of the world.
• People yearned for reform and a new society.
The Arts in the Romantic
– Stressed Individualism and Emotion
– Breaking away from rules and
– Glorification of Nature
– Nostalgia
– The Macabre and the supernatural
– Exotic Influences
– Realism
Literature and Writing
Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Romanticism was born towards the end of the 18th century with the works of these
two great German writers. Goethe wrote poetry, novels and plays; Schiller was a
playwright. Both of their writings were used to express romantic fascination with
emotion, life and death, sin and redemption, guilt and selflessness.
• Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
– French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist,
visual artist, statesman, human rights activist
– Explored the Romantic theme of conflict
between the individual and society
– Les Miserables, 1862
• Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
– English novelist and social campaigner
– Novels are works of social commentary
– Fierce critic of poverty and social stratification
• Karl Marx (1818-1883)
• German philosopher and economist
• The ideas of Marx, while most influential in the 20th century , said
that the history of society is one of struggle between the ruling class
(capitalists) and the working class (proletariat) who are being
• He predicted a revolution.
• He believed in a society in which all people give according to their
means and take according to their needs.”
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
– In On the Origin of Species, Darwin argued that all species of
life on earth, whether human, animal or plant, were the result of
what he called “natural selection”.
– He coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” to explain why some
species continue to exist while others die out. He believed that
man was simply the end of a long chain of organisms that
stretched back to the first forms of life.
– This theory challenged not only religion but also had social
Art Song and Song Cycle
Lieder, chansons, art songs
Compositions for solo voice and piano
Poetry and music are intimately fused
Typical forms used: strophic and throughcomposed
Franz Schubert (1787-1828)
Austrian composer
Prolific and gifted composer who wrote
600 lieder, piano sonatas, character
pieces, 15 string quartets,
9 symphonies
Erlkönig (1815)
poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Through-composed form
Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896)
• German composer and pianist
• Married Robert Schumann and
premiered many of his piano
• Composed a piano concerto,
piano trio, solo piano pieces and
• Romance
Visual Art
• The Romantic period did not produce its own distinguishing
architectural style. Instead architects chose from the building styles
of the previous eras resulting in an eclectic style
Supreme Court Building, Washington DC, Greek Revival
House of Parliament, London, Gothic Revival
Royal Pavilion, Brighton, England, Eastern culture
• Opera Garnier, Paris, Neo-Baroque
• A few buildings erected during the period
showed how the Industrial Revolution had
affected architecture.
Crystal Palace, London, made for World’s Fair 1851
Tour Eiffel, Paris
• Francois Rude (1784-1855)
Arc de Triomphe
“Departure of the Volunteers”
• Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875)
“The Dance”, Opera Garnier
• Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
The Burghers of Calais
The Thinker
The Kiss
The Gates of Hell
• Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863)
– Leader of the Romantic movement,
represented social concerns
Liberty Leading the People, 1831
• Camille Corot (1796-1875)
View Near Volerra, 1838
• Francisco Goya (1746-1828)
The Third of May, 1808
• Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
Burial at Ornans, 1850
• Provided transition to the 20th century
Impression Sunrise, 1872
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Rouen Cathedral, 1894
• Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Dejeuner sur l’herbe, 1863
• Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
The Rehearsal, 1874
• Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Le Moulin de la Galette, 1897
• Georges Seurat (1859-1891)
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1886
• Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Starry Night, 1889
• Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Day of the Gods, 1894
• Musical Milieu
– Public and Subscription Concerts
– Founding of Conservatories
• Composers gradually left the patronage system and
became free agents of their own works.
• This meant that the composer, their music and their
livelihood depended on the public’s approval.
• For the first time, a composer’s work might not be
publicly performed during his or her lifetime.
• Romantics saw themselves as outsiders, isolated from
mainstream society, struggling to express their creative
• In general, composers held higher social status than in
the Classical period.
• Rise of virtuosic performers
• the public was captured by virtuosity and
Niccolo Paganini
Franz Liszt
• Resulted from the orchestras growth in numbers and complexity
• Became necessary to have one person to lead and control the
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
• Polish composer and pianist
• Lived in Paris for most of his life
• Associated with George Sand (Aurore
• The only major composer to have
completely oriented his creative life
around the piano.
• Piano compositions are generally
dances or free-form works (preludes,
etudes, nocturnes and impromptus).
• Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2,
• Night piece
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Hungarian composer and virtuosic pianist
Daughter married Wagner
Innovative composer both harmonically
and formally.
• Used complex and unusual chords
• Created the symphonic poem and utilized
thematic transformation (influenced
• Composed two symphonies, symphonic
poems, piano music, orchestral and
operatic transcriptions
• Transcendental Etude No. 10 in F Minor,
General Musical
 Individuality
 Expressive Aims and Subjects
 Nationalism and Exoticism
 Rise and Importance of Program Music
Musical Elements
• Melody
– Age of lyricism – unending melody
– Melodies appealed to the emotions
– Phrases tended to be longer and irregular in
– Themes were more complex and utilized
– Advent of theme transformation (Berlioz,
• Basically tonal
• By end of the 19th century chromaticism
(movement by half steps) stretched
tonality to the breaking point
• Chromaticism imbued greater dissonance
and tension into the sound
• Metric
• Rhythmic effects were used for “color” – rubato
• Articulations in the instruments tended to be
heavy and intense
• A new vocabulary of music terms arose that
indicated how to achieve the composer’s desired
sound – cantabile, dolce, con amore, allegro
agitato. These designations produced a more
emotional sound and response.
• Essentially homophonic
• The sonority tended to be thick, heavy and
• This period saw a full exploration of the instrumental
• Instruments were used for both their individual and
collective color potential.
• Instrumental timbre was used to convey mood and
• The orchestra became much larger – from 70 players to
more than 100 (resulting in the necessity of a conductor).
• Instruments could play louder and carry farther.
• Instruments were capable of major changes in dynamics.
• String sections increased in
size and were given more
difficult accompaniment parts
(scales, arpeggios)
• Development of new instruments
– saxophone (baritone and tuba) were invented
by Adolf Sax
– piccolo, bass clarinet and English horn were
• Important improvements in wind
– “Boehm system” of fingering for flutes and
clarinets achieved better facility and intonation
for the performer and greater musical range
English Horn
Bass Clarinet
•Addition of valves and improvement to valves on brass instruments allowed
the playing of a full chromatic compass for the first time and to more easily
play quick runs of notes
•Tubas and Trombones were added
• Expanded to include bass drum, snare
drum, cymbals and other exotic
percussion instruments (gong, castanets)
Vocal Genres
Music Drama
Mass and Requiem
Art Song
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
• Italian composer of 15 operas,
a Requiem, a string quartet
• His music became a symbol
of the Italian liberation
movement (struggle against
Austrian domination)
• Rigoletto, 1851
• Act III – La donna è mobile
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
• Italian opera composer
• Unlike Verdi and Wagner – did
not involve himself in politics
• Known for his beautiful lyricism
(critics often cite a “popular”
less-crafted style of
• La Bohème 1896
• Act I: Rodolfo and Mimi arias
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
German composer for the stage – music dramas
Rejecting Italian opera, Wagner worked out a theory
about combining poetry, music, philosophy and drama
into one “complete art work” – music drama.
He had complete control of every aspect of these
music dramas – music, libretto, staging, costumes
Incorporated German folktales and legends
Used “leitmotifs” – thematic transformation
Extreme use of chromaticism
Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), 1856
The second of the four music dramas in Der Ring des
Wagner uses Nordic mythology to warn that society
destroys itself through lust for money and power.
Act I, Love Scene
Instrumental Music
Absolute music tended to reflect the Classical heritage of Mozart and
Haydn; it tended to be more traditional in compositional style and
Symphony, concerto, sonata, string quartet
Program music was compositionally guided by a story, poem, idea or scene;
it tended to be more progressive in compositional style and instrumentation
Program symphony, Tone poem, Symphonic poem
Character Pieces
In contrast to the large instrumental genres, these were smaller pieces
typically for piano called character pieces
• Gradual
• Much wider range – extremes of dynamic
• Used extensively throughout the
• Stretching of the classical forms:
theme and variation
minuet and trio
• Traditionalists
– Tended to compose in the style of their
teachers (classical era). While extending the
elements of music, they rarely went outside of
the norms.
– Composer Examples: Brahms, Tchaikovsky
Schumann, Mendelssohn, Franck, Schubert,
Chopin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov,
Puccini, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Clara
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
• German composer – 4 symphonies, violin
concerto, string quartets, 200 lieder,
German Requiem
• Befriended by the Schumann family
• Classicist in the Romantic period – often
criticized for being “out of step” with the
music of his time.
• Avoided newly invented forms (program
symphony, tone poem)
• Preferred to say new things within
traditional forms
• Symphony No. 4 in E minor, 1885
• 4th movement
• Progressives
– Tended to extend the boundaries of traditional
sound and scope in their compositions. They
utilized new instrumental techniques and
color. They used increasingly more
– Composer Examples: Wagner, Liszt, Berlioz
and Verdi
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
• French composer of programmatic
• Most of his works call for huge
instrumental and vocal forces
• Very influential in his techniques and
writing about orchestration
• Symphonie fantastique, 1830
• Program symphony in five movements
• Uses idée fixe – thematic transformation
• Fourth Movement: March to the
• Nationalists
– Following the many wars and conflicts of the
19th century country boundaries in Europe
became more defined. Nationalistic music
(music that highlighted folksongs, dances,
folklore) abounded. Most nationalistic music
followed a more traditional pattern of
composition and sound. Many composers
utilized nationalistic melodies, dances and
– Composer Examples: Smetana, Mussorgsky,
Rimsky-Korsakov, Wagner, Chopin, Verdi,
Puccini, Liszt
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
Russian composer
One of the Russian Five: Mily Balakirev,
Cesar Cui, Alexander Borodin, Nikolai
Rimsky-Karsaov Modest Mussorgsky
Utilized Russian folksongs – often based on
church modes, irregular in meter
Pictures at an Exhibition, 1874
Originally a cycle of piano pieces inspired by
pictures in a memorial exhibition honoring
Mussorgsky’s recently deceased friend, the
Russian architect and artist Victor Hartmann.
10 pieces with descriptive titles
This work is best known in its orchestrated
version by Maurice Ravel (1922)
Great Gate of Kiev
Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)
• Bohemian (Czech Republic)
composer of opera and symphonic
poems, pianist and conductor
• Founder of the Czech national
• Music steeped in folk songs dances
and legends of Bohemia
• The Moldau, 1874
• Part of Ma Vlast, a cycle of
symphonic poems