During the Romantic period, composers had shown their romantic side. The expressive part in all artists was being shown. The passion in art, the variety of bold colors, the freedom of expression, and how one feels through the sound of a piano or violin, it was all being shown. Much of what the classical period was still remained during the romantic period, but to most, the romantic period was so much more. The music was more emotional and expressive, and had even influenced artists that weren’t musicians to be romantic as well.
All artists were becoming the romantics of the time, and what a time it was for the arts. The romantic period will always be remembered as a time in history when passion was important, expression was used, and emotion was seen and heard. There are many characteristics involved in the romantic period. The individuality of style was an important characteristic. Each composer had his own style that showed his innermost feelings through and expressed emotional piece of work. Expressive aims and subjects were also important during this period.
The romantics explored a universe of feelings that included intimacy and flamboyance, melancholy and unpredictability, longing and rapture Romanticism (1820-1900) in music was brought to the world during the early nineteenth century. This music stressed emotion, imagination, and individualism. The Romantic period was about freedom of expression and breaking away from time-honored conventions. This period in time had influenced many, or even all of the arts. Painters used bolder and more brilliant colors in their works. Also, they had preferred dynamic motion to gracefully balanced poses.
Poetry was also changed during the romantic period. Emotional subjectivity was a basic quality in every type of art during this time. Many artists had become “romantics” and had become drawn to the realm of fantasy: the unconscious, the irrational, and the world of dreams. Romantics were fascinated with the middle age, the time of chivalry and romance. What neoclassicists had thought of to be the “dark ages”, the romantics had cherished. The spirit of revolution was “a dedication to the principles of equality, reason, and a representative government. ” (Bishop 323) With the overthrow of
Kings in America and France it did not stop the injustices or establish a utopia of reason. With the middle class growing a society developed and a new sensibility arose called romanticism, which glorified the individual and prized feelings over reason and intellect. “This period of revolutionary change and romantic reaction (1775-1850) laid down the principles, and discovered the demons of the first modern society. ” (Bishop 323) Elements of romantic art and literature came about to respond to different social and historical circumstances. Poets of this time argued against the social injustices of early society.
A woman named Mary Wollstonecraft wanted equal rights for woman, and a Spanish painter Goya bitterly depicted the cruelty of war. Authors in England and North America such as Wordsworth and Emerson saw nature as a mirror of the human imagination. Painters developed now techniques of color and light to render the natural landscape’s sublime beauty. Other people sought escape in the past, and had a taste for picturesque medieval architecture. As the industrial life became dull and mechanical, the lure of exotic lands spurred the imaginations of architects such as Nash and painters such as Delacroix and Ingres.
The people of the romantic age were fascinated with evil, the demonic, and the grotesque and the dark side of things that were reflected in the novel, with its medieval setting and tortured characters. The most famous Gothic novel was Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, which was a summation of the romantic motifs: “the genius, the noble savage, the protest against injustice, and the fascination with evil. ” At one point in the study of the Romantic period of music, we come upon the first of several apparently opposing conditions that plague all attempts to grasp the meaning of Romantic as applied to the music of the 19th century.
This opposition involved the relation between music and words. If instrumental music is the perfect Romantic art, why is it acknowledged that the great masters of the symphony, the highest form of instrumental music, were not Romantic composers, but were the Classical composers, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven? Moreover, one of the most characteristic 19th century genres was the Lied, a vocal piece in which Shubert, Schumann, Brahams, and Wolf attained a new union between music and poetry.
Furthermore, a large number of leading composers in the 19th century were extremely interested and articulate in literary expression, and leading Romantic novelists and poets wrote about music with deep love and insight. The conflict between the ideal of pure instrumental music (absolute music) as the ultimate Romantic mode of expression, and the strong literary orientation of the 19th century, was resolved in the conception of program music. Program music, as Liszt and others in the 19th century used the term, is music associated with poetic, descriptive, and even narrative subject matter.
This is done not by means of musical figures imitating natural sounds and movements, but by imaginative suggestion. Program music aimed to absorb and transmit the imagined subject matter in such a way that the resulting work, although “programmed”, does not sound forced, and transcends the subject matter it seeks to represent. Instrumental music thus became a vehicle for the utterance of thoughts which, although first hinted in words, may ultimately be beyond the power of words to fully express. Practically every composer of the era was, to some degree, writing program music, weather or not this was publicly acknowledged.
One reason it was so easy for listeners to connect a scene or a story or a poem with a piece of Romantic music is that often the composer himself, perhaps unconsciously, was working from some such ideas. Writers on music projected their own conceptions of the expressive functions of music into the past, and read Romantic programs into the instrumental works not only of Beethoven, but also the likes of Mozart, Haydn, and Bach! The diffused scenic effects in the music of such composers as Mendelssohn and Schumann seem pale when compared to the feverish, and detailed drama that constitutes the story of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (1830).
Because his imagination always seemed to run in parallel literary and musical channels, Berlioz once subtitled his work “Episode in the life of an artist”, and provided a program for it which was in effect a piece of Romantic autobiography. In later years, he conceded that if necessary, when the symphony was performed by itself in concert, the program would need not be given out for the music would “of itself, and irrespective of any dramatic aim, offer an interest in the musical sense alone. ” The principle formal departure in the symphony is the recurrence of the opening theme of the first Allegro, the idee fixe.
This, according to the program, is the obsessive image of the hero’s beloved, that recurs in the other movements. To mention another example: in the coda of the Adagio there is a passage for solo English horn and four Tympani intended to suggest “distant thunder”. The foremost composer of program music after Beriloz was Franz Liszt, twelve of whose symphonic poems were written between 1848 and 1858. The name symphonic poem is significant: these pieces are symphonic, but Liszt did not call them symphonies, presumably because or their short length, and the fact that they are not divided up into movements.
Instead, each is a continuos form with various sections, more or less varied in tempo and character, and a few themes that are varied, developed, or repeated within the design of the work. Les Preludes, the only one that is still played much today, is well designed, melodious, and efficiently scored. However, its idiom causes it to be rhetorical in a sense. It forces today’s listeners to here lavishly excessive emotion on ideas that do not seem sufficiently important for such a display of feeling.
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