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Romantic Period. 1820-1900. Characteristics of Romantic Music Individuality of style Self-expression important People can distinguish composers easily Expressive aims and subjects Love glorified Fascination with fantastic and diabolical Nature important influence .

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Characteristics of Romantic Music

  • Individuality of style
  • Self-expression important
  • People can distinguish composers easily
  • Expressive aims and subjects
  • Love glorified
  • Fascination with fantastic and diabolical
  • Nature important influence

Characteristics of Romantic Music – Cont’d

  • Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century music
  • Nationalism and exoticism
  • Nationalism: music created with specific national identity
  • Used folk songs, dances, legends, history of homeland
  • Exoticism: use of colorful materials from foreign countries
      • Carmen, Madame Jeffery Li
  • Remote, picturesque, mysterious

Characteristics of Romantic Music – Cont’d

  • Program music
  • Instrumental music associated with story, poem, idea
  • Accompanied with an explanation in a program
  • “Union of the arts”

Characteristics of Romantic Music – Cont’d

  • Expressive tone color
  • Timbre really important
  • Orchestra could have 100 musicians
  • Brass, woodwind, percussion had more active role
  • Mahler used 25 brass instruments in 2nd symphony
  • Contrabassoon, bass clarinet, English horn, piccolo added to woodwind section
  • New sounds drawn from old instruments
    • Low-range flutes
    • Pizzicato
  • Piano made better, so better tone; damper pedal added

Characteristics of Romantic Music – Cont’d

  • Colorful harmony
  • New chords
  • Chromatic harmony
  • Dissonance more acceptable
  • Wide variety of keys, rapid modulation
  • Tonic less clear

Characteristics of Romantic Music – Cont’d

  • Expanded range of dynamics, pitch, and tempo
  • ffff, pppp used
  • Frequent crescendos and decrescendos
  • Range of pitch expanded with piccolo, contrabassoon
  • Accelerando, ritardando, rubato

Characteristics of Romantic Music – Cont’d

  • Form: miniature and monumental
  • Short piano pieces for the home by Schubert and Chopin
  • Several-hour Berlioz and Wagner pieces
  • Symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, concertos, operas, choral works still produced
  • individual movements longer than in classical
  • Themes quoted in different movements to unify
  • “Thematic transformation”
  • Transitional passages between movements

The art song

An art song is a vocal music composition, usually written for one singer with piano accompaniment. By extension, the term "art song" is used to refer to the genre of such songs. The art song repertoire is considered by aficionados to create (in the right hands) musical experiences unsurpassed in sophistication, subtlety and dramatic truth.


Franz Schubert

(1797-1828) An Austrian composer. He wrote some 600 Lieder (songs), completed seven symphonies, with his first at 16. His "Great" C Major was considered too difficult, his 8th is the famous "Unfinished Symphony." Other music includes liturgical music, operas, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. He is particularly noted for his genius for original melodic and harmonic writing. He was the primary inventor of the Art Song.

Erlking: Through-composed Lied


Robert Schumann

(1810-1856) A German composer and pianist. He was one of the most famous Romantic composers of the nineteenth century, as well as a famous music critic. An intellectual as well as an aesthete, his music reflects the deeply personal nature of Romanticism. Introspective and often whimsical, his early music was an attempt to break with the tradition of classical forms and structure which he thought too restrictive. He ruined his fingers using one of his inventions intended to strengthen them. He was mentally institutionalized later on in his life. He also created the first music magazine: Die NeueZeitschriftfürMusik

“In the lovely month of May” from A Poet’s Love (Dichterliebe), No. 1: a Lied from a song cycle


Clara Wieck Schumann

a German musician, one of the leading pianists of the Romantic era, as well as a composer, and wife of composer Robert Schumann.

Nocturne, from Music for an Evening Entertainment (Soirees musicales), Op. 6


Frederic Chopin

(1810-1849) FrederykFranciszek Chopin, is a Polish born composer. He is one of the greatest romantic composers of all times. He is well known for his musical introduction to nationalism such as Polonez, Mazurek which are folk songs. They are written in 3/4 time and have characteristics of moderato and has a very European country mood. Chopin is also very well known for his Nocturnes which are more serious and carry a slower tune.

Polonaise in A major, Op. 40, No. 1 (Military)

Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4


Franz Liszt

(1831-1886) Learned the piano at age 6, wrote his first concerto at 9, and his first opera at 14. He wanted to be the 'Paganini' of the piano. Played wild concerts, usually involving many pianos in the event that he might break one. Famous works: Hungarian Rhapsodies

He often used “thematic transformation” in his compositions

The Little Bell (La campanella)


Felix Mendelssohn

(1809-1847) He did his best work in his teenage years, a master of the melody. He remade songs that he heard as he traveled about Europe, he remade them to have no words. He also published some of his sister, Fanny Mendelsohn's, music. 4th Symphony, Italian

Violin Concerto in E minor, 1st movement


Giacomo Puccini

an Italian composer whose operas, including La bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly, are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire. (successor to Verdi)


Richard Wagner

a German composer, conductor, music theorist, and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or "music dramas" as he later came to call them). Unlike most other great opera composers, Wagner always wrote the scenario and libretto for his works himself. Wagner's compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their contrapuntal texture, rich chromaticism, harmonies and orchestration, and elaborate use of leitmotifs: musical themes associated with specific characters, locales, or plot elements. Wagner pioneered advances in musical language including extreme chromaticism and atonality which greatly influenced the development of European music.

Die Walkure (The Valkyrie), Act III, opening and Finale


Gustav Mahler

(1860-1911) Gustav Mahler was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and conductor. Mahler was best known during his own lifetime as one of the leading orchestral and operatic conductors of the day. He has since come to be acknowledged as among the most important post-romantic composers. The spirit of the Lied (German for song) rests in his work. Keenly aware of the colorations of the orchestra, the composer filled his symphonies with flowing melodies and expressive harmonies, achieving bright tonal qualities using the clarity of his melodic lines. Among his other innovations are expressive use of combinations of instruments in both large and small scale, increased use of percussion, as well as combining voice and chorus to symphony form, and extreme voice leading in his counterpoint. His orchestral style was based on counterpoint; two melodies would each start off the other seemingly simultaneously, choosing clarity over a mass orgy of sound. This is shown most clearly by his approach to the issue of so-called 'progressive tonality'. Progressive tonality is the name given to the compositional practice whereby a piece of music does not finish in the key in which it began, but instead 'progresses' to an ending in a different key.


Other Romantic Composers

Hector Berlioz – Symphoniefantastique, 4th & 5thmvmts

Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky

Bedrich Smetana

Antonin Dvorak - Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World, 1stmvmt

Johannes Brahms - Symphony No. 3 in F major, 3rdmvmt

Guiseppe Verdi – Rigoletto, Act III (excerpts)