Music Ch 9: Early Romantic Music

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Last updated: December 7, 2019

Key trends in 19th century
Development of modern industryGrowth of democratic governments and national prideIncreased emphasis on individual thoughts and feelings in the creative arts

Key themes of romantic music
NatureThe “exotic” and foreignNational themesExtremes of emotion and scaleIndividual feeling

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Fundamentals of early romantic music
Size of musical works ranges from miniature to enormousTempos are fluid and variableMelodies are longer, more flowing, and seemingly more spontaneousForms are less structured and their outlines deliberately disguisedHarmony pushes at the outer limits of tonalityNew instruments were invented, and older instruments were redesigned to make them louder and fasterBrilliant individual performers on instruments such as the piano and violin ruled the concert stages

Nationalism
a 19th century movement that stressed national identity. In music, this led to the creation of works in native languages, using national myths and legends, and incorporating local rhythms, themes, and melodies

Changes to dynamics
expanded to extremes (triple piano to triple forte)

Changes to tempo
greater extremes of tempo, also more changeable within a movement

Changes to expression
often indicated

Changes to melody
Longer, more variety, more emotional, more chromatic, rubato

Changes to harmony
emotional; also serves to express the deepest feelings in the music

Changes to size
50-60 players, even 100+

Changes to form
flexible, fluid, less predictable

Modulation
the process of moving from one key to another

Chromatic
moving by half step

Program music
instrumental music that tells a story or describes a picture or scene

Absolute music
music that is complete in itself with no reference to an outside concept such as a narrative, a painting, or a state of nature

Idea fixe
recurring theme in a work

Opera
a staged musical work involving a narrative, singing characters, and instruments

Symphony
orchestral work, usually in four movements, the first being moderate in tempo, the second slow, the third a minuet or a scherzo, and the fourth fast

Requiem mass
Mass for the dead

Concerto
Instrumental work, usually in three movements, highlighting contrast.

Classic and Romantic concertos tended to be solo concertos, retaining the fast-slow-fast pattern, and combining ritornello form with Classic forms, such as sonata form or aria form

Popular types of chamber music
popular in 19th century, particularly string quartet, piano quintet (piano and string quartet), quintets, sextets, octets

Solo piano works
very popular. Some composers continued to write piano sonatas in the usual three or four movements, but many composed more programmatic pieces, like piano miniatures, or longer works with a series of short movements that tell a story or depict a series of scenes.

Symphonic poem
a link between program music and literature; a relatively short orchestral work in one continuous movement, though it may fall into contrasting sections

Song Cycles
a group of songs linked together; may present a series of songs that are woven together to make a narrative, or it may link several songs by presenting them as different facets of single idea

Romantic Songs
Either strophic songs or through-composed songs

Strophic songs
use the same music for each stanza of the poetry

Through composed songs
music is different for each stanzaSometimes combinations or modifications of these forms may appear

Mazurka
Polish dances, invested by Chopin with spirit of Polish nationalism. Triple meter with a stress on the second or third beat of the bar

Polonaise
Polish dance, invested by Chopin with spirit of Polish nationalism. Stately and proud

Dances
Mazurka and Polonaise

Free forms without dance rhythms
Prelude, etudes, nocturnes, and impromptus: formal structure of these pieces is fundamentally simple, relying upon the ABA pattern common to aria or song form. However, Chopin usually varied the return of the opening section

Prelude
follow the pattern established by Bach in his Well-Tempered Clavier: there is one in each of the major and minor keys

Etude
literally means “study piece”; concentrates on one facet of musicianship or piano technique

Nocturne
moody, introspective pieces

Impromptu
literally means “off the cuff”; captures the essence of improvisation

Rubato
Special expressive device literally means “robbed” in Italy; The player keeps the tempo going in the accompaniment while the melody slows down slightly before catching up a moment later. Rubato can suggest the kind of expressive freedom that must have characterized the playing of Chopin himself.

Character piece
small programmatic movements; grouped together into cycles

Franz schubert
Austrian. Born and lived most of his life in Vienna. Master at turning poems into songs.

Also composed great variety of music for solo piano and chamber music. Wrote two song cycles The Pretty Miller-Maid(1824) and Winter’s Journey(1827). Best symphonies are Great C-major Symphony (1828) and the “Unfinished” Symphony (1822; Schubert completed only two movements)

Hector Berlioz
French. His music was not welcomed in France but rest of Europe appreciated his compositions and frequently invited him to conduct abroad. Some of his pieces call for large performing groups.

“Fantasy Symphony” is best known work of him, and it was one of the earliest examples of Romantic program music

Felix Mendelssohn
German. One of two composers who illustrate the uncomfortable position occupied by Jews in nineteenth century europe. Classic tradition in his works, while adopting some of the more moderate ideas of Romanticism. Main work include five symphonies and several overtures. Best known are “Scottish” Symphony (Symphony No.3), the “Italian” Symphony (Symphony No.4) and the “Hebrides” Overture. Also wrote several concertos, mostly for piano but also for violin.

Fanny Mendelssohn
German. Was discouraged by her father and even his brother while wanting to pursue musical career. Wrote many songs, some cantatas and oratorios, chamber music, and piano works. Composed about 400 works, but most of them have never been published.

Fryderyk Chopin
Polish. Started piano lesson at seven, published first song in the same year.

Gave first public concert at eight, and played before Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Poetry for the piano. Most of his pieces are fairly short, and fall into several categories (explanations above)Dances: polonaises, mazurkas, and waltzesFree forms: Prelude, etude, nocturne, impromptus Chopin wrote highly individual pieces, each one with a nostalgic or singing quality. Sound of instrument was softer, and more repetition of notes and sustained sound were present. Chopin used expressive device called rubato (explanations above)

Robert Schuman
German. Permanently damaged his hand as a child, while over-practicing.

Solo piano range from short works range from character pieces(explanation above) to large sonatas. Wrote songs in 1840, symphonies in 1841, and chamber music in 1842. He composed over 140 pieces, and his love story with Clara Schuman is still a famous story among musicians.

Clara Schuman
German. Very gifted pianist, even better than her husband. Despite having 8 children, she continued to perform and compose during her married life. She published 20~30 compositions by the death of Robert Schuman. After his death, she performed and taught, but never wrote again.

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