European Composers of the 19th Century
Join Active Minds as we delve into the emotional world of the Romantic composers. We’ll cover works from Berlioz, Brahms, Chopin, Dvorak, Rachmaninov and more as we visit the musical world of 19th century Europe and the sorrow and joy that accompanied it. We’ll discuss the lovelorn lives of the various Romantic composers and listen to snippets of their most passionate compositions. No music experience required, just bring your curiosity and a tissue for your tears.
Key Lecture Points:
• The Romantic Movement in music lasted roughly from 1815 to 1915 and included dozens of great masters beginning with Beethoven in his latter years. Romanticism was a direct response to the firmly held and mathematical structures of the Classical Era.
• Instead of writing music within the rules of Classical composition, Romantic composers sought revolutionize the medium, to expose the deeper truths that lie within the human heart and to do so by writing their own rules. They wrote music that told great stories of fantasy as well as self-conscious explorations of a personal nature.
• As more average citizens with more disposable incomes began flocking to concert halls throughout Europe, composers wrote music that connected with basic human emotions. Music began to reflect society and celebrate the triumphs as well as foibles of the “common man.”
• Romantic compositions include short piano pieces and art songs, as well as huge, broadly scoped works, ballet, opera, and “tone poems.” Long, graceful melodic lines with complex and rich harmonies replaced clever turns of a phrase and logical outcomes.
• Great virtuosos such as Liszt, Chopin and Paganini greatly pushed the limits of their instruments’ capabilities and became the first musical heart-throbs for scores of fanatic admirers. Romantic musicians were at last considered artists; not merely artisans.
• The large and small of it: Orchestras became large and could handle the complexities of music in grand style, while “romantic” sheet music graced family pianos in parlors around the world.
• Great love stories surrounded many of Romantic composers’ lives; but, for others, in their urgency to discover the rudiments of love, many of them suffered the throes of heartbreak and the miseries of unrequited love. Names like Schumann, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Wagner are synonymous with forbidden love in a puritanical age. While others like Dvorak, Grieg, and Sibelius each displayed their heart’s passion for their countries by creating a movement called “Nationalism.” While others yet, such as Berlioz, Wagner and Mahler painted musical portraits of life, death and love on an immense scale.
• How is Beethoven both a Classical and Romantic composer?
• What is the story underlying Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique?
• Did the Nationalism movement ever make it to America?
• Do you like opera? Why/Why not?
• Why do we use the term, “hopelessly romantic?”
More to Explore:
• Romantic Era: http://cnx.org
• List of Romantic Composers: http://en.wikipedia.org
• Chopin’s Love Affairs: http://classical-composers.suite101.com
Books For Further Reading:
• Plantinga , Leon. Romantic Music: A History of Musical Style in Nineteenth-Century Europe. W. W. Norton & Company, 1st edition (January 17, 1985). 544 Pages. In this volume of the Norton Introduction to Music History series, Leon Plantinga explores the origins of Romanticism, leading the reader through the maze of genres and geniuses that proliferated during the turbulent nineteenth century. Click here to order.
• Treitler, Leon. Strunk's Source Readings in Music History: The Nineteenth Century. W. W. Norton & Company. 2nd edition (September 17, 1997). 248 Pages. The definitive collection of great writings on music of the nineteenth century. Click here to order.