Romantic Era
Dr. Battersby
Historical Background
• The Industrial Revolution (just one of the
19thC revolutionary movements) entirely
changed the face of society
• Country people left their rural environment to
work in the growing cities.
• The middle class standard of living rose as
technology and machines replaced
handwork—and production greatly increased;
but the lower classes suffered from the
exploitation in the factories, mills, and
sweatshops created by the Industrial
Dr. Battersby
Historical Background
• It was a cultural movement that stressed emotion,
imagination and individuality.
• It was partly a rebellion against the neoclassicism of
the 18th Century and the age of reason—and their
dissatisfaction with the real world.
• The movement was very diverse and complex
because its aim was to broaden horizons and
encompass the totality of human experience.
• It was international and influenced all of the arts.
• Romantic writers broke away from convention…and
emphasized freedom of expression. The term was
actually adopted from literature—and the literary
romantics themselves
• Beethoven is credited for elevating the awareness
level of the people with regard to music as a major art
form—because now music was treated with a new
respect in certain cultivated circles and was taken
more seriously than it had been in the past.
Dr. Battersby
• Nationalism became an important movement in the
latter part of the 19thC, as European countries
sought to establish their political and stylistic
• Nationalistic writers, painters, and musicians turned
to the colorful folk tales, legends, and sounds of their
own countries.
• The term romantic comes from romance, actually
the word for a medieval story or poem of a heroic
nature in one of the Latin-derived, or romance,
• Term implies appreciation of the distant, the mythical,
the ideal, the heroic, and the supernatural.
• The future as well as the past, intrigued the romantic
imagination, and science fiction became an important
genre during this period.
• Distant places were also considered fascinating and
exoticism was one characteristic of Romantic art.
Dr. Battersby
Music Overview
• Composers of this period continued to
use the forms of the preceding classical
• There are many differences between
the two—namely that the composers, or
genuine artists were expected to have a
personal style, yet they were united by
common interests with regard to the
Dr. Battersby
Composer Overview
• Composers worked to break down the
barriers of harmony and form
• They experimented with chords, chord
progressions (that had previously been
forbidden by the textbooks).
• Music had special prestige and status
because people felt that music could express
inner experience more deeply than the other
arts because the musician’s imagination is
not tied down to the meaning of the words (as
in the poet’s) or to the representation of
things (like the painter’s)
• It had depth, freedom of emotional
expression and that “continuous” infinite
Dr. Battersby
General Characteristics
Romantic works:
Have greater range of tone color, dynamics and pitch.
Broader harmonic vocabulary
Emphasis on colorful, unstable chords
Music is linked more closely to the other arts, esp. literature
New forms developed;
Greater tension, less emphasis on balance and resolution
• Individuality of style;
• Emphasis on self-expression
• Their sound reflects their personalities
• Wrote for the middle class.
• Expressive aims and subjects;
• Composers explored a universe of feeling (flamboyance,
intimacy, unpredictability, melancholy, rapture & longing).
• Countless works glorify romantic love
Dr. Battersby
Nationalism & Exoticism
• Important political movement that
influences 19th century music.
• Composers deliberately created music
with a specific national identity (using
folk songs, dances, legends and history
of their homelands.)
• Drew on colorful materials from foreign
lands. [Frenchman, Bizet—”Carmen”
set in Spain; Italian Puccini—evoked
Japan in “Madam Butterfly”; Russian
Rimsky-Korsakov—Arabian atmosphere
in “Scheherazade”.]
Dr. Battersby
• Larger (both symphony and opera were more
varied in tone color than classical orchestra)
up to 100 musicians (20-60 in classical)
• Brass, woodwind and percussion sections
took on a more active role.
• New sounds for all of the instruments, new
instruments (English horn, contrabassoon
and bass clarinet became regulars)
• The piano was the favorite instrument of the
romantic age and it became improved during
Dr. Battersby
Tone Color:
• Rich and sensuous sound.
• Used tone color to obtain variety of mood and
• Never before had it been so important.
• For the first time, the sheer sensuous quality
of sound assumed major artistic importance
on a level with rhythm, melody, and musical
• New combinations of instruments.
(Composers are mixing instrumental colors
with freedom.)
Dr. Battersby
• Is more emotional, effusive and
• Melodic lines cover a wider range than the
restrained melodies of the Classical era.
• Build to more sustained climaxes
• More irregular in rhythm and phraseology—
rendered them sounding more spontaneous.
• Shades of feelings: dreamy, passionate,
ecstatic, passionate, etc.
• Melodies inseparable from harmonies.
Dr. Battersby
• Made the greatest technical advances
• Explored with new chords
• Use of chromatic harmony (uses chords
containing tones not found in the prevailing
major and minor scales.) Chromaticism—is a
term for a style that employs all twelve tones
of the chromatic scale.
• Wide variety of keys
• Rapid modulations
• Feeling of tonal gravity less strong
Dr. Battersby
• Expanded range of dynamics
• Sharp contrast from whispers to
sonorities of unprecedented power
• Dynamic extremes fff-ppp
• Used frequent crescendos and
decrescendos and sudden dynamic
Dr. Battersby
• Expanded range.
• Composers reached for extremely high and
low sounds
• Increased brilliance and depth of sound
• Exploited instruments like the piccolo and
• Underlined by accelerando and ritardandos.
• Fluctuations in tempo.
• Use of rubato (a slight holding back or
pressing forward of the tempo)
Dr. Battersby
FORMS-Miniature & Monumental
• Piano pieces by Chopin and art songs
by Schubert, last a few minutes
• Short forms were meant to be heard in
intimate settings (salon or home)
• Growing number of people owned
• Composers created a tense mood
through a melody, a few chords or
unusual tone
Dr. Battersby
• Gigantic works by Berlioz and Wagner.
• Call for a huge number of performers.
• Compositions more extended and lasted for
several hours.
• Designed for large opera houses or concert
• Symphonies, sonatas, string quartets,
concertos, operas and choral works—
individual movements were longer (19th
century symphony were 45 minutes; 18th
century were 25 minutes)
Dr. Battersby
New Techniques
• New techniques used to unify long works (same
theme or themes might occur in several different
movements of symphony).
• Short themes are freely varied at relatively wide and
unpredictable intervals of time.
• Use of thematic transformation occurs in Berlioz’s
Symphonie Fantastique (*1830) where a lyrical
melody from the opening movement becomes a
grotesque dance tune in the finale
Dr. Battersby
Role of Composers
Role in society changed radically:
• They became freelance or free artists.
• They often composed to fulfill an inner
need rather than a commission.
• They were interested in pleasing their
contemporaries and being judged
favorably by posterity.
• They wrote primarily for Middle class
Dr. Battersby
Composers and New Forms
Franz Schubert: (1797-1828) Vienna:
• Earliest master of the lied or art song
• Never held an official music position, or a regular job.
• Not a conductor, nor virtuoso.
• His income came from his compositions, teaching
and publications—and also contributions from a circle
of friends (who called themselves the
Schubertians)—they saw him as a genius and
promoted his songs and helped pay his bills
• Composed an extraordinary amount of masterpieces
while in his teens
• Composed close to 700 songs; symphonies, string
quartets, chamber music, sonatas and short pieces
for piano; operas.
• He died in a typhoid fever epidemic at age 31, and
never heard a performance of his late symphonies.
We learned about most of his music after his death.
Dr. Battersby
• Art Song: A composition for solo voice and
• The Lied is a particular type of German song
that evolved in the late 18th century and
flourished in the 19th, and one of the most
important miniature genres of Romanticism.
• The melodies of lieder share three
• (1) Accompaniment: The lied is always
accompanied by a piano and the
accompaniment is an integral part of the
composer’s conception. The pianist serves as
a partner, rather than an accompanist.
Dr. Battersby
• (2) Poetry: The text of a lied is usually a
Romantic poem of some merit (The art of the
lied depends upon the sensitivity of the
composer’s response to the poetic imagery
and feeling.)
• (3) Mood: The intimacy of expression that is
captured by these pieces. The singer &
pianist appear to be sharing an emotional
insight with you—not with the entire audience.
• Composers intended lieder to be sung and
enjoyed in a salon or at home—not in the
concert hall.
Dr. Battersby
• The Erlking: the poem is by Johann Wilhelm
Goethe, the greatest literary figure of the day.
Though the poem consists of 8 parallel
stanzas, they are not set to the same music.
So it is called through-composed---different
music for different stanzas. Strophic is a
song that uses the same music for each
stanza of the poem.
• Song cycle: A group of songs with a
common poetic theme or actual story
connecting all the poems.
Art Song-(P. 225)
Dr. Battersby
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) Germany
• Embodied musical romanticism.
• His works are intensely biographical, have descriptive
titles, texts or programs
• Original piano pieces and songs
• Writer and critic: At age 23 he founded a music
magazine (he inherited from his father a great flair for
literature) to campaign for a higher level of music Die
Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik (The New Music Journal)—
and it is still being published!
• Worked as a teacher and conductor
• Married Clara a famous pianist at 15 when they met
(daughter of his piano teacher) had to wait until she
was 23. He wrote around 150 love songs for Clara
the year in which they were married 1840—prior to
that his early compositions had been almost entirely
for the piano.
Dr. Battersby
• He suffered mood swings and
• In 1845 he was tormented by voices
and hallucinations and loss of memory
and tried to drown himself in the River
Rhine—was committed to an asylum.
He died two years later.
#2: Carnaval Estrella, N0. 13;
Reconnaissance, No. 14 (Page 229)
Carnaval is a cycle of 21 brief pieces
with descriptive titles evoking a festive
masked ball.
Dr. Battersby
Clara Wieck Schumann, Germany (1819-1896)
• Acclaimed child prodigy—Virtuoso and leading
19th C pianist who composed her own works to
play at her own concerts
• Premiered many of her husband’s works, she was a
better pianist
• Renowned as a teacher, edited his collected works
• Stopped composing at age 35.
• She relied on performing and teaching because she
had to support 8 children after her husband died
when she was 37.
• Works: songs, piano pieces, piano concerto, trio for
piano violin and cello; and Three Romances for Violin
and Piano
#3-Schumann, C - Liebst du um Schönheit (If you
love for beauty) joint song cycle. (P. 232)
Dr. Battersby
Frederic Chopin: (1810-1849) Polish/French
• He had a personal and original style.
• Made his living as a highly fashionable piano teacher and by
selling his music to publishers.
• Mostly wrote exquisite miniatures, among them are over 50
Mazurkas and Polonaises which are stylized Polish dances
• They evoke a variety of moods
• Always elegant, graceful and melodic
• Made the piano sound beautiful (as no one else did)
• He was a frail and fastidious personality, and the major event of
his personal life was a 10-year romance with Madame Aurore
Dudevant (an early feminists and a famous novelist under the
pen name George Sand). They were introduced by Franz Liszt.
They had a rocky relationship and when the affair ended in 1847,
his health declined with his spirits
• In 1848 he toured England and Scotland and died the next year
at age 39 of tuberculosis, a major killer of the 19th century.
#4: CHOPIN: Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 (P. 234)
#5: CHOPIN: Etude in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12 (P. 236)
Dr. Battersby
Franz Liszt: Hungary (1811-1886)
• Virtuoso, superhuman feats at the piano, and irresistible to
• Abandoned his career as a traveling virtuoso (age 36) to
become a court conductor and to compose.
• Conducted works by his contemporaries Berlioz, Schumann,
Wagner—(a strong advocate of the music of Wagner and the
two men learned from each other)
• Taught hundreds of gifted pianists free of charge.
• He went to Rome for religious studies, took minor holy orders
(1861) and became an Abbé—and stunned his contemporaries
because he was known as a notorious Don Juan and diabolical
virtuoso—and now he is a churchman composing oratorios and
• He found new ways to exploit the piano (his melodies are
sometimes surrounded by arpeggios that create the impression
of three hands playing.)
• Liszt wrote transcriptions so that people could play operas and
symphonies at their pianos.
• He created the Symphonic Poem, or tone poem. (A one
movement orchestral composition based on to some extent on
literary or pictorial ideas.)
Dr. Battersby
Felix Mendelssohn: Germany (1809-1847)
• He may be the only great composer who has ever come from an
upper class family of converted Jews who made their fortune in
• Was a romantic whose music was rooted in the classical.
• Brilliant pianist by the age of 9.
• At age 15 he was conducting the family orchestra (home
performances in their mansion) in his own music.
• He was a successful composer, pianist, organist, conductor,
educator, musicologist—and he found the Leipzig
Conservatory of Music
• His older sister Fanny was also a great composer (all kinds
of music including oratorios). Unfortunately, her
compositions never left the mansion because the cultivated
upper –middle-class family that encouraged Felix, adhered
to the middle class social values which would not allow the
“women-folk” to lower herself by becoming a professional
• Her sudden death at age 42 devastated her brother so much so
that it hastened his own death, less than six months later.
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E Minor (P. 242)
Dr. Battersby
• Instrumental music associated with a
story, poem, idea or scene.
• Depict emotions, characters and events of the
sounds of nature—these nonmusical ideas
are usually specified by the title or by the
composer’s explanatory comments (the
• The story is the program.
• It wasn’t new, but gained new importance
and prestige during this time.
• The aim is expression more than description
Dr. Battersby
New Forms
• A Program symphony is a composition in
several movements. (a symphony with a
program). Entire symphonies with programs
spelled out movement by movement. Each
movement has a descriptive title (See Berlioz,
Fantastic Symphony)
• A Symphonic Poem, or Tone Poem is in one
movement. Takes many traditional forms:
sonata form, rondo theme and variation—as
well as irregular forms
• Absolute Music: Non program music.
Dr. Battersby
Hector Berlioz: France (1803-1869)
• The first great composer to play no standard instrument at all.
He did play the guitar.
• He was also one of the first great conductors and toured
extensively as a conductor of his own music, where he was
welcomed with open arms in Germany.
• Daring creator of new orchestral sounds. He thought the
“unthinkable”. His ‘grandiose’ program symphonies had no
precedent and were not matched in ambition until Mahler. He
had an incredible imagination when it came to tone color.
• He was inspired by literary models, especially Shakespeare.
• His unconventional music irritated the opera and concert
• He had to arrange concerts at his own expense—just to get
people to listen to them
• Had a faithful following, but not enough to support him, so he
turned to music journalism—becoming a brilliant music critic.
• He received constant ridicule from the musical establishment
and he ultimately managed to get most of his enormous
compositions performed and to attain favorable recognition in
Paris, which was musically conservative.
Dr. Battersby
• Music is unique in its abrupt contrast,
fluctuating dynamics and many changes in
• Imaginative orchestrator (assembled more
players than the average size to achieve new
• Created the idée fixe (fixed idea) use of a
single melody to represent the beloved.
#6: Symphonie Fantastique: Fourth
Movement - March to the Scaffold
(P. 248)
Dr. Battersby
Bedrich Smetana: Czech (1824-1884)
• Founder of Czech Nationalism. Bohemia was trying
to gain their independence from Austria.
• He returned from Sweden where he was working and
dived into a self-appointed task of establishing a
Czech brand of Opera. That meant the libretto had to
be in Czech (the language issue was central in
Bohemian politics)—and Smetana had to teach
himself Czech because he had grown up speaking
• Works are steeped in folk music and legends of
• Active composer, pianist, conductor and teacher.
• Bartered Bride, his most famous opera. Tells the
story of peasant life in Bohemia.
#7: The Moldau (P. 254)
Dr. Battersby
Antonin Dvořák: Czech (1841-1904)
• Followed Smetana as the leading composer of Czech national
• He infused his symphonies with the spirit of Bohemian folk song
and dance.
• Was a little known composer until Brahms recommended
Dvorak to his own publisher—and then his fame spread.
• Came to New York in 1892, encouraged American composers to
write nationalistic music.
• He was head of the New York National Conservatory of Music
(ancestor of Juilliard).
• The music of African Americans got a powerful boost from this
first major European composer to spend time in America. He
announced his special admiration for spirituals, and advised his
American colleagues to make use of them in concert music—as
he did himself.
• He incorporated the essence of spirituals so skillfully in his everpopular New World Symphony—that one of his tunes was
actually adapted to made-up “folk song” words, --“Goin’ Home.”
#8: Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (P. 257)
Dr. Battersby
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Russian (1840-1893)
• Most famous Russian Composer. He attended the new St.
Petersburg Conservatory. Once he got started he composed
prolifically. (6 symphonies, 11 operas, symphonic poems,
chamber music, songs and some of the most famous ballet
scores: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.
• He fused national and international elements to produce
intensely subjective and passionate music, and his pieces may
sound Russian, but he was not considered a devoted nationalist
• His famous Piano Concerto No. 1 was premiered in Boston in
1875, and then he toured America in 1891.
• He was a depressive personality who attempted suicide several
• He was subsidized by a remarkable woman (Madame von
Meck), a wealthy widow. They never met but exchanged letters
for 13 years She eventually terminated the relationship with no
• He died after drinking unboiled water during a cholera epidemic.
• His music was widely admired and his Romeo & Juliet (concert
overture) is one of the best loved orchestral works.
Dr. Battersby
Johannes Brahms: Germany (1833-1897)
• A Romantic who breathed new life into classical forms.
Considered to be the most Romantic of composers.
• He devoted a great effort to traditional genres such as string
quartets, and other chamber works, symphonies and concertos.
The typical romantic genre he cultivated was the miniature—the
lied and the characteristic piano piece.
• Created masterpieces in all of the traditional forms except opera.
• He declared his ‘ideal’ music to be folk songs, and he composed
sensitive arrangements of folk songs.
• He wrote rhythmically exciting, contrasting patterns and
syncopations (2 against 3, one of his trademarks-one instrument
plays two even notes to a beat, while another instrument plays 3)
• The German Requiem established Brahms (at age 34), as a
leading composer of his day.
#9: Brahms: Symphony #3 in F Major,
Third Movement (P. 264)
Dr. Battersby
Giuseppe Verdi: (1813-1901) Italy
• Considered the greatest of Italian opera composers
and most popular of all opera composers.
• He was the dominant figure in the 19th century opera
• He had a staunch commitment to the human voice
and the bel canto principals (a style of singing that
brings out the sensuous beauty of the voice). He
never allowed the voice to be overshadowed by the
orchestra—even though the orchestra plays a much
richer role than in those of his predecessors.
• His name actually became a patriotic acronym for the
popular choice for King—Vittorio Emmanuele, re
d’Italia [long live Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy)—
and after independence was achieved the was made
an honorary deputy in the 1st Italian parliament.
Dr. Battersby
• Composed for a mass public whose main
entertainment was opera.
• Expressive vocal melody is the soul of a Verdi opera.
• His last three opera are his greatest: Aida, Otello,
and Falstaff. (Falstaff considered the greatest and a
comic masterpiece). The last two on Shakespearian
subjects were written when he was in his 70’s
• He died a national institution at age 88, and mourned
throughout Italy.
• His operas remain the most popular of all in the
international repertory.
• He wrote 24 operas including Aida, La Traviata and
Rigoletto; a requiem mass, choral works and a string
Dr. Battersby
Giacomo Puccini: Italy (1858-1924)
• Worked under the shadow of Verdi. He was the only
composer of his time whose melodies could stand
comparison to Verdi’s.
• Created some of the best-loved operas.
• His Marvelous sense of theater and gift of the
theatrical has given his operas lasting appeal—they
impressed the international audiences in his day and
still today.
• He is especially moving in his depiction of afflicted
woman: (the abandoned woman, Cio-Cio san in
Madame Butterfly; the woman dying of consumption
(Mimi) in La Boheme; and the woman (Floria Tosca)
who fights off a lecherous police chief in Tosca. It
appears that their stories are know everywhere and
have resurfaced on Broadway (as Miss Saigon and
• Melodies have short, memorable phrases and are
intensely emotional.
Dr. Battersby
• He used the orchestra to reinforce the vocal
melody and to suggest mood
• Some of this operas, (Tosca), reflect a
verismo―realism, or the quality of being
“true to life.”
• Or they reflected exoticism: Madame Butterfly
(set in Japan), and Turandot (China). He
made a careful study of non-Western music
for use in these operas.
#10: Puccini: La Boheme, Act 1
(P. 271)
Dr. Battersby
Richard Wagner: Germany (1813-1883)
• Made a powerful impact on his time. After
Beethoven he was the most influential of
all the 19th century composers.
• He worked as an opera conductor as a young
man in Paris.
• He married his second wife Cosima (who was
the daughter of Franz Liszt).
• His early operas—The Flying Dutchman,
Tannhauser, and Lohengrin although in the
tradition of early Romantic opera, began to
hint at his revolutionary ideal he had for opera
Dr. Battersby
• He started this new music drama after being exiled
(for 13 years) from Germany because of the role he
played in the Revolution of 1848-49.
• He was supported by the ‘mad’ King Ludwig II of
Bavaria and was able to produce his music dramas—
and then promoted the building of a special opera
house in Bayreuth, Germany for these music
dramas—and to this day, the opera house performs
only Wagner.
• Called his works music dramas, rather than
operas. It was a new kind of opera in the 1850’s,
Music shares the honor with poetry, drama and
philosophy—all furnished by Wagner—as well as the
stage design and acting.
• He coined the word, Gesamtkunstwerk (meaning
total work of art) for his powerful concept, and made
that distinction between his works—which were
music dramas—and ordinary operas.
Dr. Battersby
• His operas and artistic philosophy influenced
musicians, poets, painters and playwrights.
• Wrote his own librettos (based on medieval Germanic
legends & myths)
• His strictly musical innovations, in harmony and
orchestration, revolutionized instrumental music as
well as opera. Tension of his music is heightened by
chromatic and dissonant harmonies.
• Uses brief recurrent musical themes called
leitmotifs (guiding or leading motives.)
• A leitmotif is a short musical idea associated with
a person, an object, or a thought in the drama.
• He created a storm of controversy in his lifetime,
which has not died down today. (He wrote endless
articles expounding all of his ideas and unfortunately
his anti-Semitic remarks (50 years after his death)
were taken up by the Nazis.
Dr. Battersby
• It is said that he was half con man, half
visionary, a bad poet and a very good
• He was a major figure in the intellectual life of
his time whose ideas were highly influential
not just in music but also in other arts—and in
this sense he was the most important of the
Romantic composers.
#11: Die Walküre (The Valkyrie) Act I (P. 280)
Is the second and most widely performed
of the four music dramas in Wagner’s
gigantic cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen
(The Ring of Nibelung)—Wagner’s view of
20th century society.
Dr. Battersby
In a nutshell:
Romantics had enthusiasm for fantasy,
nature and the Middle Ages—and
Romantic music puts unprecedented
emphasis on self-expression and
individuality of style…which reflects
their personalities.
Dr. Battersby