Classical Romantic Music


The 19th Century is the century of Romantic music and Nationalism.

An outsider to the French musical establishment, Berlioz (1803-1869), in his Symphonie fantastique of 1830, offers a new and personal form of programme music. Franz Liszt (1811-1886), a great piano virtuoso, writes music for the piano, rivalling in virtuosity the music written by the demon violinist Paganini (1782-1840) for his own instrument. Liszt later turns to a new form with a series of symphonic poems, seeking to translate works of art and literature into musical terms. The form is taken to its extreme by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) in the later years of the century. Classical forms are largely continued by the mercurial and precocious Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). Robert Schumann (1810-1856) writes piano music, much of it with literary connotations, and songs, following the tradition of Schubert; he also tackles orchestral forms.


Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849), based in Paris, continues new forms of piano music, including the Nocturne, following John Field (1782-1837), and transformed dances from his native Poland. Brahms (1833-1897), moving from Hamburg to Vienna, follows the tradition of Beethoven in orchestral compositions, adding further to the repertoire of German song and chamber music. He is taken as a champion of 'abstract' (i.e. non-referential) music. The German symphony is further expanded by Bruckner (1824-1896), and then by Mahler (1860-1911), the latter with much wider terms of reference. Richard Wagner (1813-1883), a controversial figure, finds the music of the future in a new form of German opera, through-composed and given unity by the use of leading motifs, themes associated with particular characters and ideas. His work culminates in the massive tetralogy The Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, based on Teutonic legend. Italian opera after Rossini finds champions in Bellini (1801-1835) and Donizetti (1797-1848), before the emergence in the 1840s of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Dramatic realism in opera is found in Puccini (1858-1924), a dominant figure after Verdi's death. In France the Goethe opera Faust by Gounod (1818-1893) prepares the way for Massenet (1842-1912) and then Debussy, while the opera Carmen by Bizet (1838-1875) brings a new realism to the form. The organist César Franck (1822-1890) wins disciples, developing cyclic form, a use of thematic connection between movements of large works. In Russia a new school of nationalism is formed, following Glinka (1804-1857), including Balakirev (1837-1910), Cui (1835-1918), Mussorgsky (1839-1881), Borodin (1833-1887) and Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), influencing the more cosmopolitan Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). Bohemia develops its own national traditions with Smetana (1824-1884) and Dvorák (1841-1904), Norway with Grieg (1843-1907) and Finland with Sibelius (1865-1957).


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Bizet: Carmen
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