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'ROMANTICISM' is a concept that can be easily recognized but is probably just as difficult to define. Like all other movements, Romanticism also emerged as a reaction to general idea, practices, social norms and political problems of the time. The general concept of romanticism sees music as an expression of intimate and sublime emotions. The period that can be categorized as romantic varies but generally covers the decades from early 18th century to early nineteenth centuries. Romantic influence on music was recognized as early as 1773 when Wyzewa and Saint-Foix thought they had seen 'grande crise romantique' in Mozart's symphonies. Abert felt he had also noticed 'ein romantischer Zug' in quartets K. 136-8. Romantic influences were also evident in Haydn's minor-key symphonies of the 1770s and in Bach's compositions. Romanticism was present in almost all of Beethoven's compositions but it is generally believed that the period 1830-90 was the golden era of Romantic music. This was the most productive Romantic period as Goethe once complained to Eckermann that 'everybody talks now about Classicism and Romanticism -- which no one thought of fifty years ago'. This was quite true since at that time, Berlioz was busy composing his Symphonie fantastique, Schumann was working on his Op. 1, and Chopin was creating his E minor Concerto. It was primarily because it was during this time that great composers like Berlioz, Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Wagner, and Verdi -- all attained maturity in their music. These composers along with the likes of Beethoven and Brahms developed new concepts in form and harmony in Romantic music and turned it into a genre of its own.
Romanticism in music reflected the general characteristics of Romantic Movement. The composers believed in depth of emotion and romantic music reflected this in abundance. It was primarily a reflection of massive changes that were taking place in all spheres of life during that time. Consequently, the events of that era had had profound impact on the Romantic music.
The Industrial Revolution and the damage it wrought, was one of most important influence of the time, which had a profound effect on the production and price of musical instruments and resulted in creation of different forms in music. Some new instruments such as tuba were invented. Orchestras also gained size, magnitude and popularity as they moved from palace and church to the public concert hall. It is was interesting that see that music was composed primarily with the instrument in mind and writing for instruments became an art in itself. There was an increased and deep desire on the part of composers to create music that could focus more on expressiveness of emotions. And new directions were seen in the music that was created during this period such as dolce (sweetly), cantabile (songful), dolente (weeping), mesto (sad), maestoso (majestic), gioioso (joyous), and con amore (with love, tenderly). These were meant to highlight the emotional and imaginative expressiveness and intensity of the composers.
French Revolution also triggered a spirit of nationalism that had an equally profound impact on the Romantic Music. Composers shifted their attention to the field of folksongs and dances meant to praise their homelands.
Romanticism in music found its best expression in the works of German musicians. Beethoven, Weber, and Schubert lie at the beginning of the Romantic spectrum closely followed by the likes of Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, and Wagner. The end of this period was marked by the great compositions of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvoak, and Grieg, Elgar, Puccini, Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Sibelius.
One of the important characteristics of Romantic Music was independence from Classicism and a sudden but definite break from the music created during classical period. Classicism was different since it had an established rather rigid view of the music where discipline in form was desired. However by 1800s, Classicism was gradually but aggressively replaced by Romanticism with the emergence of Ludwig van Beethoven on the music scene.
Beethoven was born in 1770, much before the real Romantic period began but he is still considered one of the first to indicate emergence of Romanticism in his compositions. He received his musical education from his father Johann, a singer and instrumentalist. However, his real education in music started in 1792 with Haydn and then with Schenk, Albrechtsberger and Salieri. It is precisely because of this reason that his early compositions till 1820 show a marked influence of classical style of Haydn and Mozart. During this period, he mainly focused on Piano compositions. "As a pianist, it was reported, he had fire, brilliance and fantasy as well as depth of feeling" (The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, reference 1). Two of most innovative and emotional piano sonatas are the "Pathetique" (1799) and Moonlight (1801) with a very acute aesthetic appeal.
It was during this period that Beethoven created his first two symphonies and a set of six string quartets op.l8. These symphonies indicated his entry into Romanticism as the left behind the classical influence and took on a new form and harmony. This entry into the beautiful, imaginative and rather surreal world of Romanticism was widely appreciated since unlike symphonies in the Classical era which were confined to a structured and rational form; these compositions presented an innovative form.
Beethoven was not interested in rigidity and conventions of classicism once he proved his mettle. His symphonies showed a delicate and beautiful form which resulted in some memorable compositions which were quite large but just as profound in impact. The emotional content and depth of these symphonies are what help Beethoven stand out among his contemporaries and makes him the greatest musician of all time. Beethoven's Second Symphony has been described as "full of summer air and summer flowers." The third Symphony and probably his favorite were initially dedicated to Napoleon; the French ruler for Beethoven was of the opinion that Napoleon could free Europe from the monarchy.
In 1804, Beethoven created his one and only opera, Fidelio "The Fifth Symphony, with its "da-da-da-daaa" beginning, is one of the world's most famous pieces of music. Beethoven took these simple tones and rhythms and built the whole first movement around them. It has been suggested that these four notes represent the sound of Fate knocking at the door." (Life and works of Beethoven)
These compositions paved way for the Pastoral Symphony no.6 which depicted his love for the countryside), Symphony no. 7 and Symphony no.8, Piano Concerntos.no.4 and 5. After these came the Violin Concerto along with chamber works and piano sonatas (such as the Waldstein and the Appassionata). Kinderman (1997) discusses the special characteristics of Beethoven's music in these words:
'Beethoven increasingly transformed the rhetorical models and conventional formal gestures of the music of his day. He was prepared thereby to strain the expectations of the aristocratic patrons who nourished his career but towards whom he showed a fierce independence. More than any previous composer Beethoven contributed to a reversal of the perceived relation between artist and society: instead of supplying commodities for use, like a skilled tradesman, the successful artist could now be regarded as an original genius in the Kantian sense, revealing an unsuspected higher order in nature, and giving voice thereby to the unconditioned, or even paradoxically to the infinite or the inexpressible." (p.3)
Beethoven's last period of music composition includes seven piano Sonatas and Symphony no. 9 which contains a great deal of poetry, vocal soloists and choir. The desire to create something fantasy-filled was key to the success of his later compositions. His claims of freedom, innovation and fantasy, were so deeply embedded in his work that he said proudly declared about the last string quartets in 1826 that 'You will find a new manner of voice treatment, and thank God there is less lack of fantasy than ever before'. (Thayer-Forbes, p. 982) His highly expressive compositions, his independence and movement away from the ideals of Classicalism made him the model for future generation of Romantic composers.
Franz Schubert is the link between early Romantic composers like Beethoven and the later-era musicians like Brahms. He occupies an important place in the history of Romantic music for his work embodied both the characteristics of late classical-early romantic period as well as those of later period. While traditions, education and musical training joined him with the older breed of Romantic musicians, his instinct and a desire for freedom urged him to explore newer paths. His work covering thousands of pages is known for their alignment with future trends instead of the past traditions.
Born in Vienna, January 31, 1797, Schubert's music education and training started very early under his father's supervision. He began playing the viola parts in the family string quartet when he was still in his teens. This informal quartet was part of an orchestra, known as the Orchestral Society of Amateurs. This society played an important role in Schubert's career as he got acquainted with the works of Krommer, Romberg, Cherubini, Spontini, Catel, Mehul, Boieldieu, Weigl, Winter, as…[continue]
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