Chs. 14-18: Music in the Romantic Era (1800-1900)

Ch. 14-Beethoven-Transition from Classical to Romantic styles (about 1800)
Ch. 15- Music after Beethoven-Introduction to Romanticism
Ch. 16-The Early Romantics
Ch. 17-Romantic 0pera
Ch. 18-The Late Romantics

Ch. 14-Beethoven-Transition from Classical to Romantic style (about 1800)

The main person who changed musical style around 1800 AD was Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany into a musical family.

Beethoven went to Vienna, Austria  in 1792 to study composition with Haydn and spent the rest of his life there as a freelance musician; he never worked for a boss

At age 29 he noticed the first symptoms of deafness, by his later career he composed in total deafness

When did Beethoven live?

Beethoven lived at the time of the French Revolution (began 1789) which ended in chaos; out of this chaos arose a French military leader and dictator by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon conquered most of Europe; the nobility of Europe hated him because he was not of noble birth, instead he became powerful due to his own talents and ambitions

Napoleon was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo (1815)

What was Beethoven and his music like?

Beethoven had a very stormy, emotional personality, and his music reflects this.

At first Beethoven wrote music in the traditional Classical style he inherited from Mozart and his teacher, Haydn, but he quickly began to break away and let his personality show by writing music that was more emotional and less “laid-back” than Haydn.

Beethoven’s music is considered to be the beginnings of a new style called “Romantic,” an artistic style that emphasizes emotion, imagination, individualism

Beethoven wrote the same genres and forms as Mozart and Haydn: symphonies, concertos, piano sonatas, string quartets, sonata form, theme and variation form, ABA form, rondo form, etc.; Beethoven, however, often broke with tradition to suit his dramatic purposes

Beethoven wrote 9 symphonies, 16 string quartets, several concertos, piano trios, over 30 piano sonatas, an opera, two masses, any many other works.

Unlike Mozart, who wrote music very quickly, Beethoven worked on his music very slowly and methodically, revising it over and over again until he was satisfied

Beethoven’s pieces tend to be longer, more dramatic and emotional, and more complex than his predecessors.

How does Beethoven make his music more emotional?

Uses a greater range of dynamics and pitch

Uses more compelling, energetic rhythms, including syncopations, and uses a greater range of tempos

Freer use of dissonance and modulations to more distantly related keys

Uses a larger orchestra; adds trombones, more French horns, piccolo, and contrabassoon to some of his symphonies; the 9th Symphony even adds a chorus and four vocal soloists

Makes his development (fantasia) sections and codas (endings) longer and more dramatic sounding

Makes his final movements more climatic and triumphant sounding, instead of the light, relaxed endings that Mozart and Haydn would have written

Beethoven used something called a scherzo for his third movements rather than the minuet; like minuets, scherzos are in ABA form and are in a meter of 3, but they are faster and more aggressive sounding

What will we hear as an example?

Beethoven: Symphony #5 in C minor, Opus 67, first movement.  This is probably Beethoven’s most famous composition.  Like a traditional symphony, the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th is fast and in sonata form, but Beethoven breaks tradition in several ways, including using a short motive rather than a long, recognizable melody for a first theme.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op.  92, 3rd movement.  An example of a Beethoven scherzo.

Ch. 15: Music after Beethoven-Introduction to Romanticism

The early 19th century saw a new style in the arts develop called “Romanticism” which stressed emotion, imagination, and individualism

Romanticism was partially a rebellion against Classicism which stressed logic, reason, order, refinement, and elegance

The beginnings of Romanticism can be found in the music of Beethoven (1770-1827)

Things that inspired Romantic artists included the realm of fantasy: the irrational, the supernatural, and the world of dreams; some of the famous horror stories familiar today, such as those of Edgar Allen Poe or Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) come from this time

Other inspirations include nature scenes, Medieval and Renaissance literature, and unfulfilled love and longing

Romantic composers

There were hundreds of famous Romantic composers, but we will only have time to study ten of the most famous

Much of the music played at orchestra concerts and that is familiar to people today (used on TV commercials or cartoons) comes from this time

Romantic composers made a living in a variety of ways, and very few supported themselves only through writing music

How did Romantic composers make a living?

They no longer worked as court composers or church musicians for the most part

They made a living in a variety of ways: giving lessons, touring as virtuoso performers, writing articles for music magazines, some taught at the newly forming music conservatories (music schools), conducting orchestras; some were fortunate enough to have wealthy patrons; some even did non-musical work and just wrote music as a sideline.

Romantic composers wrote primarily for middle class audiences who would purchase tickets to hear their music, rather than writing music for the nobility at courts

Romantic composers would write music because they were inspired to do so, rather than writing music “on demand”

“On demand” meant you were required to write music for a performance at church or a royal court like Bach, Mozart, and Haydn

What genres (types) of music did Romantic composers write?

Romantic composers wrote many of the same genres as Classical composers: symphonies, concertos, chamber music, operas, but they also added some new ones

They also used some of the same forms as Classical composers, such as sonata form, but it was greatly expanded in length

Other characteristics of Romantic music

Romantic composers were influenced by Beethoven to expand their music in terms of length, tone colors (using a larger orchestra with a greater variety of instruments), dynamics, pitch range, harmonies (more use of chromatic harmonies), rhythms and tempos to give the music more emotional impact

Ex. 1  Two chord progressions (series of chords) in the key of C Major.  The key of C Major has no sharps or flats.  The first progression uses no chromatic chords.  The second uses several chromatic chords (chords not in the key of C Major)

Click on music to play






Individualism was highly valued by Romantic musicians and artists, each composer had to have their  own unique style of writing melodies, harmonies, and rhythms

What were the new genres (types) of Romantic orchestral music?

Program symphonies-a multi movement work for orchestra that tries to tell a story or describe an event, scene, or some idea

Symphonic poems (sometimes called “tone poems”)-a single movement work for orchestra that tries to tell a story or describe an event, scene, or some idea

Concert overtures-also a single movement work for orchestra that tries to tell a story or describe an event, scene, or some idea (instead of introduce an opera)

Program music versus absolute music

Program symphonies, symphonic poems, and concert overtures all fall under the category of “program music” which is instrumental music that tries to tell a story, or describe an event, scene, or some idea

The opposite of program music is “absolute music” which is just music for music’s sake and does not try to tell any story

Symphonies, concertos, and string quartets are all examples of absolute music

"Miniature" compositions

Two other new genres (types) of the Romantic Era included art songs and piano miniatures (also sometimes called “character pieces”)

Art songs were short poems set to music and sung by a vocal soloist with piano accompaniment; the Germans called them “lied” (plural “lieder”) which simply meant “song”

Piano miniatures were short pieces for solo piano, the most famous composer of piano miniatures was Chopin

Ch. 16-The Early Romantics

Franz Schubert (1797-1828, Austrian)

Schubert was an early Romantic composer who lived in Vienna, Austria about the same time as Beethoven.  He wrote symphonies, chamber music, short solo piano pieces (they are called “piano miniatures” or “character pieces”) and songs for solo voice and piano (called “art songs”-in German they are called “lied”-the plural is “lieder”). Your book talks about one of his most famous pieces, the song (lied) “Erlkönig” (“The King of Elves”), which is a tale of the supernatural (remember the Romantic fascination with the supernatural). Original video taken from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8noeFpdfWcQ

Frederik Chopin (1810-1849, Polish-French)

Chopin was an early Romantic composer and pianist who is unusual in that he wrote almost all short piano pieces (called “piano miniatures” or “character pieces”).  His father was French but his mother was Polish.  He grew up in Poland but lived his adult life in Paris, France.  His music was influenced by the Polish dances he heard growing up as child, and he also had his own unique style of writing music, which is true of all the Romantic composers (having one’s own unique style was highly valued by Romantic artists).  Chopin,  Fantasie Impromptu, Op. 66

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847, German)

Mendelssohn was another early German Romantic composer who wrote symphonies, concertos, oratorios, art songs, piano miniatures, and chamber music.  His Violin Concerto is very popular, and he wrote some background music (called “incidental music”) to accompany Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is familiar to most people because it is used when a newly married couple leaves the church after the ceremony.  Mendelssohn also wrote the famous Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” We will hear an excerpt from the first movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor as an example.

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869, French)

Berlioz was a French composer who wrote operas and music for orchestra.  He is famous for expanding  the orchestra to its modern size of about a hundred players.  His most famous piece is Symphony Fantastique (The Fantastic Symphony).  It is an example of a program symphony, which is a multi-movement work for orchestra that tries to tells a story (remember that program music is instrumental music that tries to tell a story, something which becomes popular with Romantic composers).  Though it was a successful piece, audiences in Paris who first heard it in 1830 thought Berlioz was a little crazy for several reasons.  First of all, Berlioz required an orchestra of about a hundred players, which was unheard of in those days.  Secondly, it contains some sections in the music that sounded “crazy” because Berlioz was trying to create strange sound effects that would tell the story rather than writing beautiful melodies.  Thirdly, the story was about Berlioz himself.  Berlioz was an opium addict who was in love with a actress named Harriet Simpson.  The Symphony Fantastique is supposed to represent this story.  Berlioz has a main theme which he called the idée fixe (fixed idea) that is supposed to represent this woman.  The theme is beautiful in the beginning, but by the end of the last movement it is transformed into an ugly witch’s dance because things don’t go so well in the story.  The story goes something like this:  An artist (Berlioz, of course) is in love with this woman, but she doesn’t return his love, so he takes an overdose of opium.  He then has a series of dreams about her.  Each movement represents a different dream.  In the second movement he imagines himself with her at a dance, and in the third movement with her on a picnic in the country (remember the Romantic love of the great outdoors).  In the fourth movement he imagines his execution because he has killed her for being unfaithful. In the fifth (and last) movement called “Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath,” Berlioz finds himself at a meeting of witches and demons (remember the Romantic fascination with the supernatural).  The woman comes back as a witch to haunt him, and her beautiful theme (the idée fixe) is now transformed into an ugly witch’s dance.

Ch. 17: Romantic opera

Their were many famous composers of Romantic opera, the two most important were the Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and the German opera composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

In general, Italian opera tended to be simpler and more appealing to middle class audiences, while German opera tended to be more complicated

The story lines of Romantic opera tend to end tragically and deal with the topic of unfulfilled love and longing

Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901, Italian).

Verdi is the most famous composer of Italian opera of the 1800s.  Verdi and his music was very popular with Italians, and he essentially became like a national hero.  Some of his most famous operas include La Traviata (The Fallen Woman), Rigoletto, and Aida. La Traviata is based upon the play Camille by Alexander Dumas, and some of the music from La Traviata was featured in the hit movie Pretty Woman (they are all based upon the same story).  In general, Italian opera tended to be written to appeal to middle class audiences and featured simple, singable, memorable melodies, simple harmonies, rhythms, and textures (homophonic).  The famous aria “La donna é mobile” from Rigoletto is a good example of this.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883, German).

Wagner was the most famous composer of German opera of the 1800s.  German opera tended to be much more complex than Italian opera.  Wagner’s music contained very complex harmonies (he used chromatic harmonies-this means he used a lot of chords out of the key, making the music seem very complex, emotional, and unsettled-this was true of all Romantic composers, but especially Wagner).  He also used complicated textures (polyphonic).  Like Beethoven, Wagner’s music was extremely influential on later composers.  Wagner tended to use subject matter for his operas that glorified German culture, including German folk legends.  The piece of music that Wagner wrote that is most recognized by the general public today is the “Wedding March” from the opera Lohengrin, which has been used for many years in weddings.  Another recognizable piece is "Ride of the Valkeries" (opening of Act III) from the opera Die Walkure.

Ch 18-The Late Romantics

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893, Russian)

Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer who wrote ballets, symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber music, art songs (in Russian), and concert overtures (overtures that do not introduce an opera, but instead, try to tell a story).  Tchaikovsky’s music has long been very popular with people who go to symphony concerts and purchase “classical” recordings.  Some of his most famous pieces include the ballets The Nutcracker (as well as the Nutcracker Suite), Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake, his 4th, 5th and 6th Symphonies, and the concert overtures 1812 Overture and Romeo and Juliet Overture.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897, German)

Brahms was a German composer who wrote symphonies, concertos, chamber music, piano miniatures, art songs (lieder) and music for chorus.  Brahms is often associated with the idea of “absolute music” which is music that does not try to tell a story (it is just the opposite of program music).  Brahms is also noted for his traditionalism, that is, he wanted to stay within the traditions established by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, and write the same types of music (symphonies, concertos, chamber music) and in the same forms (sonata, theme and variations, etc.).  Like other Romantic composers, however, Brahms created his own unique style of writing melodies, harmonies, and rhythms.  His symphonies are considered to be the greatest after Beethoven’s.  His most recognized piece by the general public is a piano miniature called “Hungarian Dance #5," an orchestral arrangement of which has been used as background music for television.  Brahms also wrote an art song (lied) entitled "Wiegenlied" which means "cradle song" or "lullaby." It is still familiar to most people today because it was traditionally sung to put infants to sleep. Brahms, Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90, 1st movement.    

Romantic nationalists

Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904, Czech)

Dvorak was a Czech composer whose most famous pieces include the New World Symphony (Symphony #9 in E minor) and the Slavonic Dances.  Like other nationalist composers, Dvorak wanted to break away from German influences (Germans and Austrians had dominated music since the later 1700s) and write music that sounded Czech by using the types of rhythms and melodies found in Czech folk dances and Czech folk songs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World_Symphony

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881, Russian)

Mussorgsky was a Russian nationalist composer who wrote art songs (in Russian), an orchestral piece entitled Night on Bald Mountain, an opera entitled Boris Godunov, and a set of piano miniatures entitled Pictures at an Exhibition, which was later arranged for orchestra.  Like other nationalist composers, Mussorgsky wanted to break away from German influences and write music that sounded Russian by using the types of rhythms and melodies found in Russian folk dances and Russian folk songs. 

What is nationalism?

Nationalism meant taking pride in one’s own country, culture, and traditions, sometimes to the extreme

German speaking peoples (Austrians and Germans) had dominated music since the later 1700s, they also dominated Romanticism

Nationalist composers in places like Russia, Norway, and Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) wanted to write music that would break away from German influences and glorify their own music and cultures.

How did composers make their music sound “nationalistic?”

By writing the types of melodies and rhythms found in their native folk songs and folk dances

They would use these types of folksy sounding melodies and rhythms in their music for orchestra, piano, or voice

This made their music sound Russian, Czech, Norwegian, etc., instead of German