The Romantic Era

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By Ashley UnderleeThe Romantic EraRomanticism“An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century and characterized by a heightened…
By Ashley UnderleeThe Romantic EraRomanticism
  • “An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century and characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.”
  • In a nutshell, “revolution, innovation, and increased awareness of individuality”.
  • Music came late to the stage of Romanticism, as most other arts had made the transition by the late 1700’s
  • Romanticism
  • Historical Background
  • The French Revolution + Napoleon = Political Passion
  • Congress of Vienna created to bring territorial balance of power to Europe (HA!)
  • Through the restoration of the French government, individuals were able to be driven emotionally, rather than intellectually as in the Enlightenment.
  • Industrial Revolution= $$$
  • Emergence of Middle class enables a consumer-driven economy for musicians and allows them to write whatever they wanted. Financial support came from consumer now, not court or church
  • Focus is now on individual expression with emphasis on Nature and God
  • Romantic Musical Focus
  • Amateur musicians, especially in the form of large choral societies (England)
  • Longer and more technically demanding compositions
  • Crucial source of inspiration came from literature (Schumann)
  • Motif of Nationalism spurred both by political upheaval and revolution and by the dominance of Austrian/German instrumental music
  • Created with local folk tunes, traditional paintings or poems, or the emergence of nationalist operas
  • Franz Schubert
  • Lied: art song for solo voice with piano accompaniment.
  • Art songs: Romantic poetry set to music. He often let the form of the poem shape the form of his composition.
  • Strophic: Same theme over and over
  • Modified Strophic: Same tune but with significant alterations according to text
  • Through-composed: Recognizable themes, but with no discernable form
  • Niccolo Paganini and Franz Liszt
  • Revolutionized world of solo performance, Paganini with violin, Liszt with piano.
  • Liszt’s programmatic compositions were single movement orchestral pieces called symphonic poems or tone poems
  • Developed “thematic transformation” in which a composition would contain a single theme that would be developed throughout the piece.
  • Frederic Francois Chopin
  • “Poet of the Piano”
  • He revolutionized many techniques including the use of the sustaining pedal to extend harmonic ideas, and the push to challenge the physical limits to extend a pianist’s repertoire
  • Pioneer in the use of tempo rubato: subtle fluctuations in tempo to heighten emotional content
  • Richard Wagner
  • “Revolutionized the world of music in general, and opera in particular.”
  • Leitmotiv: Leading Motive. Describes the systematic use of recurring thematic material
  • Wagner combined “idee fixe” (fixed idea) with thematic transformation to identify characters, places and things in his operas and to create a running commentary
  • Music Drama: Wagner’s concept of a single work of art that incorporated all elements of the artistic world. (18 hour long Der Ring des nibelungen)
  • Other Musical Terms and Famous Composers
  • Character pieces
  • Single-movement pieces, though not new, became a central focus in the Romantic Period, especially for solo piano. Followed simple ABA format and could range in length from 30 seconds to 15 minutes and evoked only one or two emotions. These include tone poems and concert overtures.
  • Romantic Opera
  • This period marked the evolution and the spread of popularity of the Opera, especially in nations such as France, Austria and Germany, Italy, and Russia.
  • Tchaikovsky
  • Most famous Russian composer. In-the-closet, depressed homosexual who married a woman and later poisoned himself to “avoid being exposed in a homosexual scandal that would have involved the composer and a wealthy aristocrat.”
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