can be defined as music
in which expression of feelings is given more importance than formal balance and internal order. The use of the phrase in this sense is generally limited to the context of European classical music
Although there are moments of pieces through history where this can be said to be the case, it became the dominant musical trend in classical music during the 19th century, and the period roughly from 1800 to 1900 is often called the "romantic period". Many composers after 1900, however, have continued to write music in a style typical of the romantic period.
Although the word "romantic" now most usually means "something related to love", "romantic music" as spoken about by musicologists and academics is not necessarily about this and does not always sound like what would nowadays be thought of as "romantic" in the general sense. It is instead related to the wider concept of romanticism which flourished in the arts around this time.
The musical language employed by the romantic composers was a good deal more extensive and flexible than that of the classical composers, allowing for the greater range of expression these composers sought.
Composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, often regarded as the first romantic composer, and later Richard Wagner expanded their harmonic language to include chords previously unused, or to treat existing chords in different ways. Wagner's Tristan chord[?], found in Tristan and Isolde, has had much written about it attempting to explain exactly what harmonic function it serves.
Composers modulated to increasingly remote keys. Modulations were not always as extensively prepared as they were in the classical era, and sometimes instead of a pivot chord, a pivot note was used. Franz Liszt and others sometimes enharmonically "spelled" this note in a different way (for example, changing a C sharp into a D flat) to modulate into even more distant keys. The properties of the dimished seventh chord, which enables modulation to almost any key, were also extensively exploited.
The forms[?] which had been dominant in the classical era, such as sonata form, began to be stretched and sometimes rejected. The relatively genteel minuet, which had been the usual third movement in a symphony, sonata, or similar work, was replaced by the scherzo, which allowed for more intense expression.
Influence from non-musical sources
Whereas instrumental music of earlier times was almost always absolute, that is concerned with nothing apart from music itself, much romantic music is programme music[?] - it is based on some other source.
Several composers wrote music based on books, poems or paintings or created their own stories. Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, for example, has a programme written by Berlioz himself. Some composers took an interest in describing nature in their music, a well known example being Beethoven Symphony No. 6[?], the Pastoral. Yet others were interested in the supernatural, with Carl Maria von Weber's operas Der Freischutz and Oberon[?] both having supernatural themes.
On a smaller scale, many composers wrote "character pieces", short works, often with evocative titles, usually for solo piano, which express a particular mood or idea and which are not in a fixed form. The first such works were John Field's nocturnes, which greatly influenced Frederic Chopin and a number of other composers. Felix Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words", Edvard Grieg's "Lyric Pieces" and various works by Robert Schumann are in a similar mould.
The romantic period also saw the establishment of song as an important part of classical music. Songs with keyboard accompaniment had been written before, but Franz Schubert is often held to be the first significant writer of them. Robert Schumann and, later, Hugo Wolf were also significant song writers.
In opera, there was a tendency for the forms usual in classical and baroque opera to be loosened, broken, and merged into each other. This reached its climax in Wagner, where arias, choruses, recitatives[?] and ensemble pieces cannot easily be distinguished from each other. Instead there is a continuous flow of music.
Other changes occurred as well. The decline of castrati led to tenors being given the heroic lead in operas as a rule, and the chorus took on a more important role.
A number of romantic composers wrote nationalist music, music which had a particular connection to a particular country. This manifested itself in a number of ways. The subjects of Mikhail Glinka's operas, for example, are specifically Russian, while Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak both used rhythms and themes from Czech folk dances and songs. Late in the 19th century, Jean Sibelius wrote music based on the Finnish epic, the Kalevala.
Instrumentation and scale
As in other periods, instrumental technique was developed in the romantic era. This was a trend that was begun by Ludwig van Beethoven's Third Symphony[?], the Eroica, and continued through the period. Composers such as Hector Berlioz orchestrated their works in a way hitherto unheard, given a new prominence to wind instruments. Instruments previously rare, such as the piccolo and cor anglais, came to be parts of the standard symphony orchestra, and the orchestra as a whole grew. Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 is known as the Symphony of a Thousand because of the large number of people required to perform it.
In addition to using larger orchestral forces, works in the Romantic era tended to become longer. A typical symphony by Haydn or Mozart will last twenty to twenty-five minutes; Beethoven's Eroica, once again, will last at least forty-five minutes, a significant increase; some of Beethoven's later symphonies are even longer. The trend towards long, large scale works which require substantial orchestral forces probably again reached its peak in the later symphonies of Mahler.
The instrumental virtuoso also became more prominent. The violinist Niccolo Paganini was one of the musical stars of the early 19th century, his fame usually put down as much to his charisma as his technique. Franz Liszt was also a very popular virtuoso pianist. Typically in the 19th century, virtuosi such as these were more likely to attract an audience than some particular composer's music being on the programme.
Romanticism in music, in the end, represented a trend that made larger and larger demands on the orchestras playing it, on individual performers, and on the listeners. These trends tended to more sharply distinguish what we have come to call "classical music" from "popular music."
Romanticism in the 20th century
Romanticism survived into the 20th century, and a number of composers, among them Sergei Rachmaninov, Jean Sibelius and Richard Strauss, continued to write music in a romantic style. However, new tendencies such as neo-classicism[?] and serialism challenged the preeminence of the romantic style, and by the middle of the century, very few significant composers were writing in a style that would have been recognised by the romantics.
Later in the 20th century, a number of pieces and composers have been described as "neo-romantic", John Adams' Violin Concerto being one example.
Composers of the romantic era
- Adolphe-Charles Adam[?] (1803 - 1856), French composer best known for his ballet score Giselle[?]
- Isaac Albéniz (1860 - 1909), the first well known Spanish composer since the baroque, composed nationalist piano works such as Iberia
- Daniel François Esprit Auber (1782 - 1871), French opera composer, well known in his time, but rarely performed today
- Francis Edward Bache (1833 - 1858), English composer-pianist
- Michael William Balfe (1808 - 1870), English opera composer, best known for The Bohemian Girl[?]
- Amy Beach[?] (1867 - 1944), an American, the leading female composer of her time
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German regarded by many as the first romantic composer and one of the most significant composers in history
- Vincenzo Bellini (1801 - 1835), Italian opera composer, known for I Puritani, Norma and La Sonnambula[?] among others
- Hector Berlioz (1803 - 1869), French composer famous for his programmatic symphony, the Symphonie Fantastique
- Frans Berwald[?] (1796 - 1868), Swedish composer, little known in his lifetime, but his four symphonies are better known today
- Georges Bizet (1838 - 1875), French composer famous for his opera Carmen
- Arrigo Boito (1842-1918), Italian composer and librettist, known as a composer exclusively for his opera Mefistofele
- Alexander Borodin (1833 - 1887), Russian nationalist composer, one of The Mighty Handful, wrote the opera Prince Igor
- Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), German composer seen as following in the footsteps of Beethoven
- Max Bruch (1838 - 1920), German composer, today known almost exclusively for his Violin Concerto No. 1[?]
- Anton Bruckner (1824 - 1896), Austrian composer whose large-scale symphonies are often compared to Wagner
- Ferruccio Busoni (1866 - 1924), Italian composer-pianist, known for his operas Doktor Faust[?] and Turandot and his many transcriptions and arrangements of Johann Sebastian Bach
- Joseph Canteloube (1879 - 1857), French composer, best known for his Songs of the Auvergne[?]
- Whitefield Chadwick[?] (1854 - 1931), little known today, but one of the first significant American composers
- Gustave Charpentier[?] (1860 - 1956), French composer best know for his opera Louise[?]
- Ernest Chausson[?] (1855 - 1899), French composer influenced by Franck and Wagner, seen as a bridge from them to Claude Debussy
- Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849), Polish composer-pianist, his output includes a number of Polish dances such as mazurkas
- Carl Czerny (1791 - 1857), Austrian composer best known today for his studies and excercises for the piano
- Léo Delibes (1836 - 1891), one of the first significant ballet composers since the baroque, known for his Coppelia[?] and Sylvia[?]
- Gaetano Donizetti (1797 - 1848), Italian opera composer, known for Lucia di Lammermoor and L'elisir d'amore[?] among others
- Paul Dukas (1865 - 1935), French composer, almost exclusively known today for his piece of programme music, The Sorceror's Apprentice
- Antonin Dvorák (1841 - 1904), Czech composer, famous for his late symphonies
- Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924), French composer, known for his chamber music and a requiem among other pieces
- César Franck[?] (1822 - 1890), Belgian-born composer, noted for his Symphony[?], also a significant composer for the organ
- Niels Wilhelm Gade[?] (1817 - 1890), probably the most significant 19th century Danish composer
- Edward German (1862 - 1936), English composer known for his comic opera and light music
- Alexander Glazunov (1865 - 1936), Russian, influenced by Wagner and Liszt
- Reinhold Gliere[?] (1875 - 1956), Russian who wrote pieces in a romantic style well into the 20th century
- Mikhail Glinka (1803 - 1857), Russian whose operas such as A Life for the Tsar[?] are based on specifically Russian themes
- Karl Goldmark[?] (1830 - 1915), Hungarian influenced by Wagner
- Louis Gottschalk[?] (1829 - 1869), American composer, incorporated Creole melodies into his work, a forerunner of ragtime
- Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893), French composer, best known for his opera Faust[?]
- Edvard Grieg (1843 - 1907), Norwegian composer who wrote a famous Piano Concerto and several books of "Lyric Pieces" for the piano
- Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1858 - 1919), Italian opera composer, known almost exclusively for I Pagliacci
- Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886), Hungarian composer-pianist, wrote a number of tone poems[?] and extended piano tehcnique
- Carl Loewe (1796 - 1869), German composer of lieder
- Gustav Mahler (1860 - 1911), Austrian composer of very large-scale and sometimes programmatic symphonies
- Fanny Mendelssohn (1805 - 1847), sister of Felix Mendelssohn who herself wrote piano music and songs
- Felix Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847), German composer, known for his symphonies, violin concerto and the overture Fingal's Cave among other works
- Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791 - 1864), German composer, whose spectacular operas such as Les Huguenots[?] were popular in his day, but are less often performed now
- Jacques Offenbach (1819 - 1880), French operetta composer, known for The Tales of Hoffmann[?]
- Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924), late romantic Italian verismo[?] opera composer (La Boheme, Tosca, Madame Butterfly)
- Max Reger[?] (1873 - 1916), prolific German composer, known for his Variations on a Theme of Mozart
- Ottorino Respighi[?] (1879 - 1936), Italian composer best known for symphonic poems The Fountains of Rome[?] and The Pines of Rome[?]
- Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 - 1908), Russian composer, member of The Mighty Handful, wrote operas, the Capriccio espagnol[?] and Scheherezade[?] but probably best known for "The Flight of the Bumblebee"
- Gioacchino Rossini (1792 - 1868), Italian opera composer, best known for The Barber of Seville and overture to various other operas
- Anton Rubinstein (1829 - 1894), Russian composer-pianist
- Camille Saint Saens (1835-1921), French composer perhaps best known for The Carnival of the Animals
- Pablo Sarasate[?] (1844-1908), Spanish virtuoso violinist and composer
- Franz Schmidt (1874-1939), Austrian composer, influenced by Mahler
- Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Austrian composer, regarded as the first significant leider writer, also known for his chamber music and piano works
- Clara Schumann (1819-1896), wife of Robert, and pianist who also wrote piano music
- Robert Schumann (1810-1856), German composer, a significant lieder writer, also wrote many short piano pieces
- Alexander Scriabin (1872 - 1915), Russian composer known for his harmonically adventurous piano sonata and theatrical orchestral works
- Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884), Czech nationalist composer, perhaps best known for his cycle of symphonic poems, Ma Vlast
- Johann Strauss, Sr. (1804-1849), Auatrian dance music composer
- Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825-1899), Austrian composer, known as "The Waltz King", composer of "The Blue Danube"
- Joseph Strauss[?] (1827 - 1870), Austrian dance music composer
- Arthur S. Sullivan (1842 - 1900), English operetta composer known for his collaborations with W. S. Gilbert
- Francisco Tarrega[?] (1852-1909), Spanish composer who wrote many works for guitar
- Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Russian composer known for his symphonies and other works
- Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901), Italian opera composer
- Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883), German opera composer, regarded as one of the most significant composers of the 19th century
- Charles-Marie Widor (1845 - 1937), French composer, noted for his works for the organ
- Hugo Wolf (1860 - 1903), Austrian song composer
- Eugene Ysaÿe[?] (1858 - 1931), Belgian virtuouso violinist and composer
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