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Music In The Romantic Period Essay, Research Paper

The Romantic Period, lasting from about 1825 to 1900, saw the beginning of great individualism in music styles. The era consisted of great contrasts in both musical literature and musical esthetics, the branch of philosophy that deals with beauty and taste. The Romantic Era was the period marked by distinctive character of such music forms as the short intimate preludes, music that precedes a fugue or introduces an act in an opera, and the extraordinarily big concertos of Liszt. Romanticism derives its name from medieval “romances,” which were tales and poems about heroic people written in the languages of those peoples instead of Latin which was used by scholars. The approach to life represented by romanticism greatly differed from that in the Classical Period. Classicism was objective and impersonal, operating under rules. Romanticism usually expressed freedom, tending to be personal and subjective. The entire nineteen century is generally referred to as the Age of Romanticism because the personal element in creative expression was so apparent.

The Romantic Era began as a literary movement in Germany during the late eighteenth century. Romantic Ideas spread throughout Europe through about the next forty years. It became the philosophy of not only poets, but of dramatists, painters, dancers and composers. Because of poetic inspiration, musical compositions were often named with descriptive titles and or complied to literary programs like paintings that attempted to illustrate stories. Romanticism can be thought of as a subconscious rebellion against the increasing Industrial Revolution and machines taking over work which some believed threatened mankind’s dignity.

Artists got their inspiration in stories of distant lands and times. They would also turn to nature, examining the raging sea and storm. The work of Romantic composers seemed to always be reaching for something out of the writer’s reach, like a woman, heroism, or a peaceful, untroubled life. However their desires were never attained. Romantic artists were also concerned with the slightly opposing ideas of nationalism and the universal brotherhood of man, longing for political and social freedom. The music represented the period of time that saw the American and French Revolutions, then the joining of Germany and Italy, and the abolition of slavery in the United States.

The Romantic Era spawned the popular idea people have of a composer being a “long- haired Bohemian who, between love affairs, wrote music that no one can understand.” Though this was not necessarily true, there were however, many differences between Romantic composer. Early composers were trained when they were very young to be professional musicians and skilled in all branches of both composition and performance. Many nineteenth century composers began their music later in life, such as Berlioz, Wagner, Schumann, and Mussorgsky. Demonstrating a new branch of performance was Wagner and Berlioz, who were professional conductors, thus requiring more musical knowledge than technical skill. The audience also had a lot to do with the changing of music styles in the Romantic age. Audiences became made up of the recently prosperous and rising middle class who were as attracted to artistic showmanship as to the artistic merit itself. The flocked to hear “the wizard of the violin” Paganini, the most impressive of all pianists Liszt, and the “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind.

With the supporting of whatever musician was popular at the time came the solo recital.

Music was no longer only performed in concert halls, salons, and opera houses. The newly invented accordion and harmonium made making music at home popular. A piano was in the parlor of every well-to-do family and the women of the household were expected to play on them. Because of the increasing number of amateur musicians, pieces were created that were short and easy to play. Although many did not aspire to play more than these simple works, many young women realized that a concert career was open to them. Woman appeared as professionals for the first time including Clara Schumann, who became an amazing concert artist.

The call for supremely skilled performers caused the writing of exercises and etudes starting pianists could practice to gain skill. The early methods were created by Johann Baptist Cramer, which were published in 1815, and Muzio Clementi, published in 1817. Practicing these became a daily routine for generations of hopeful piano players. The demand for music training caused the creation of conservatories in both Europe and the United States. The Conservatoire National de Musique was established in 1795. Similar institutes later set up in Prague (1811), Brussels (1813), Vienna (1821), London’s Royal Academy of Music, (1823) and Leipzig. The Leipzig became the model for many conservatories .established in America, including Oberlin (1865), New England (1867) and Cincinnati (1867). Many music societies were also established, including Handel and Haydn Society, the oldest, established in Boston in 1815. Singing societies usually consisted of amateur singers led by a conductor and were especially popular in Germany, England, and the United States. The need for choral music caused the composing of many secular works by composers such as Brahms and Schumann. However, the church music remained not neglected. Major sacred pieces for chorus were composed by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Verdi, Dvorak, and Brahms.

Before 1800, symphony orchestras were either small groups of musicians, usually employed by wealthy nobleman, or instruments joined together for a certain concert. However in the nineteenth century, orchestras were scheduled to give a number of concerts per year to subscribed audiences.

Many musical styles emerged from styles that came before the Classical Era. Pieces called “sonata,” “quartet,” “concerto,” and “symphony were associated with works of similar names by Mozart and Haydn. Yet the nature of these large forms changed greatly starting with Beethoven’s Third Symphony, “Eroica.” Thematic Contrast increased and movements became longer. The number of symphonies written by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Buckner, and Brahms combined were far less that the 104 written by Haydn. Often dominated by the powerful piano, chamber music also became a form of concert music. The string quartet also became a medium that demanded great skill and a large amount of rehearsal time. The art song became the true music of the period. Romantic composers saw the art song as a vessel for their emotions and usually conceived it for a singer and pianist. Franz Schubert’s art songs became miniature dramas and the cycle of the song became a dramatic tapestry. The orchestra gave composers the ability to paint scenes

Musical compositions today are still strongly reminiscent of the Romantic Era. They reflect the lovely works of the nineteenth century more than their own. Music composed during the Romantic Period showed great emotional appeal. Less complicated and reassuring to the ear. Yet at the end of the period, composer were moving in different directions and many tried to restore realism instead of yearning and dreaming about life.

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