Classical music is never widely popular beyond affluent
or educated urban elites. Beyond these intensive culture-centers, most
people listen only to pop or folk music.
However, if any classical music
verges on becoming widely popular, it is Romantic
classical music from the 1800s.
At Christmas, for instance, many suburbanites flock to performances
of The Nutcracker Ballet (1892) by the Russian Romantic Composer
Peter Tchaikovsky, whose other ballets include Swan Lake
The Sleeping Beauty (1890). Another popular Romantic ballet is Peer Gynt,
based on Henrik Ibsen's play with incidental music (1876) by Norwegian composer
Many people who know little about Classical music recognize
the name of Beethoven and
the opening four chords of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, or the melody (or
cannon-fire accompaniments) to
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
Romantic classical music dominates the repertoire for
classical symphony orchestras in the United States, Europe, Israel, and the Far
East (esp. Japan, Taiwan, and Korea). If you attend a regular or "pops" concert
by the Houston Symphony or one of
the nation's other major orchestras, most musical numbers will be from the Romantic era—though major orchestras usually squeeze in a few
20th-century Modernist pieces to the
extent their clientele will support.
In terms of periods, Romantic classical music follows the
Enlightenment or "Classical" period of classical music featuring Haydn, Mozart,
and C.P.E. Bach. People often want to regard Mozart as a Romantic composer, but
this is largely on account of the romanticized film Amadeus (1984) and
because the most popular works of Mozart today show him
experimenting with Romantic lushness or simplicity of expression.
Leading Romantic Composers
More Major Romantic composers
Women Romantic composers
As with the rise of urban women writers during the Romantic
era, women performers and composers began to appear.
(Causes: higher living
standards, improved women's education, early birth control and delayed
sister to Felix Mendelssohn, descended from distinguished German Jewish
family of intellectuals and musicians
numerous songs and piano works, some published under brother's name
(concerns about "published" or "public" identities for women remained a
concern in music as in literature).
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, 1842
portraiti by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
Clara Wieck Schumann
later wife of Romantic composer Robt Schumann
long & distinguished performing career
Before middle age, Clara Schumann composed a number of songs, piano
pieces, a piano concerto, choral pieces, and "Romances" for violin and
Since feminist movement of 1970s, Clara Schumann's
compositions increasingly appear in major concert performances
Clara Wieck, age 15
After marriage, performed (piano) once a year for charity; husband
encouraged devotion to composition
Following husband's death (1910), toured Europe as pianist
many compositions include an opera, sacred and secular choral works,
concertos, sonatas, and songs.
Qualities or Characteristics of Romantic Music
From the Baroque through
the Classical to the Romantic eras, the
symphony orchestra continues to grow and add new instruments.
Improvements in machine-tooling create better instruments with
The piano emerges as a solo instrument capable of
performing loudly and dramatically in large spaces.
Romantic classical music emerges during a period of
increasing urbanization or growth of cities, creating larger audiences who pay
admissions, in contrast to earlier periods when music was performed in
churches or courts.
Growth of paying audiences leads composers
to create music with wide popular appeal rather than writing to suit the tastes
of aristocratic or ecclesiastical patrons.
Changes in style:
Compared to the formal rigor and restraint of Classical
classical music, Romantic music indulged more freedom of form and design and more personal expression
by the musicians.
Romantic music appeals to and enhances listeners' emotions. Repetitive motifs evoke longing,
triumph, tranquility, storminess, wonder.
Melodies become more lyrical and song-like; chords become
more colorful or vibrant with feeling.
Larger orchestras and more powerful instruments enable loud-and-soft
aural dynamics, bold dramatic contrasts between passages or movements that
are alternately tender and boisterous.
Though Romantic music appeals to the emotions, with some
exceptions its subject matter remains secular like most of the Classical
era, in contrast to the religious contents or events associated with much
Musical selections from the Romantic period of classical music with
Nocturne (1830) (picture of actor Adrien Brody in The Pianist,
award-winning 2002 film on a Polish-Jewish pianist during Nazi Holocaust)
Beethoven, first violin concerto
Schubert, Ave Maria (note the Romantic visual images of nature to accompany
a spiritual song of devotion to Mary)
Sonata, 1st Movement (note title association with Romantic nature)
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker (played on glass
(love-death) from Wagner's Tristan & Isolde
(love-death aria begins at app. 8 minutes)
Beethoven, Symphony #5,
Tchaikovsky, 1812 Overture
How are not only the styles of music but the settings or appearances of the
performers more Romantic than
How to describe the emotional dynamics or ranges of Romanticism and Romantic
music, especially the sublime?
Why is Romantic music more popular than
Can Romantic music be gothic?
color-code: light-dark with lurid
(red-yellow) colors for drama