ROMANTIC MUSICAL PERIOD OVERVIEW (1820-1900)
- Romanticism and emotions in music.
The term Romanticism was originally used in the late nineteenth century by literary critics to describe literature with great emotion and imagination. The term came to also define art and music which evoked great emotion, expression and feeling. During the Romantic period, the balanced logic and restraint of the Classical style of music were replaced by the emotions, subjectivity and expressive sounds of Romanticism. In order to produce these new sounds, large orchestras became commonplace, and composers experimented with exoticism, expressive harmonies, new instrumental tone colors, and supernatural and mystical topics.
- Nationalism and music.
During this period, music became a symbol of national pride, and many composers sought to create a distinct style of music which captured the essence of their nation’s people and culture. Composers used different techniques to achieve this result, and a few of these approaches were: making arrangements of folk music; using folk melodies and dances as the basis for a serious composition; imbuing compositions with folk music characteristics; and using programmatic elements to evoke feelings, places and history associated with their country. Many composers used their compositional techniques to elevate folk music to the level of art music, and nationalistic composers could be found in countries throughout Europe.
- New opportunities for musicians.
The Romantic period was a time when musicians no longer had to rely on the patronage of the aristocracy or the Church in order to earn a living. Public concerts became a source of income for many composers, and other means of financial support included commissions, music publication sales, and individual patronage. Salon concerts also became another venue for musicians to perform their works. Salon concerts were regularly held in the homes of wealthy music supporters, and invited guests often included the cultural elite and prominent members of society. Notable salons included the Mendelssohn family’s Sunday morning “musicales” (music performed included the music of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, as well as works by other composers), and Pauline Viardot’s Parisian salon concerts which featured the compositions of many of her close musician friends such as Schumann, Saint-Säens, Fauré, Chopin, Gounod, and Massenet.
During this era, musicians had new opportunities to receive musical training. Music conservatories, often run by the state, were founded in major cities such Paris (1795), Prague (1811), Vienna (1817), London (1822), Brussels (1832), Leipzig (1843), and Saint Petersburg (1861). The purpose of most of these European conservatories was to help elevate and preserve the country’s musical heritage and culture, and the finest musical training was often offered at no cost to the talented students. Many of the Romantic period’s most notable musicians received training at these conservatories, and music conservatories continue to play a prominent role in training professional musicians today.
- Program music and nature.
Nature was a popular theme of Romanticism, and composers found ways to use music to evoke the sounds and feelings of nature. Program music or descriptive music are terms used to describe instrumental music which represent extra-musical concepts such as emotions, scenes, stories or events through music, and many composers wrote program music during this era.
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