Music in the Age of Romanticism

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Music in the Age of Romanticism

In the 19th century the world experienced many dramatic changes related to politics, economics and culture. Music would never be the same after this period. During these years musicians, influenced by the Romantic movement in literature, neglected the formalism and aims of Classicism (Bohle p1861), and developed Musical Romanticism as a way to express their feelings free of traditional musical structures.

The term "Romanticism represents the period of the apparent domination of the instinct over reason, of imagination over form, heart over head" (Sadie p141). The Romantic movement was foreshadowed by Bach, but Beethoven was the one who brought it into being in early 19th century (Bohle p 1862). Music in this period was characterized by personal and individual style with more subjectivity. (Miller p197).

During this period composers tried to express themselves freely. There were notable extremes and contrasts in their styles of composition. For instance, their preferred media were piano accompaniment, operas and symphony orchestra. In the same way, their music was composed for two kinds of audiences: one in the big concert halls, and an other in intimate salon; and the length of the compositions extended from short pieces to big symphonies. Also the dynamic of the music was very variable using loud and soft levels. In addition, musicians developed a nationalist style using folklore as subject for operas, sometimes borrowing folklore from other countries (Miller, 1973 p134-135). Among the major composers of this period are: Beethoven, Von Weber, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and others.

Even though Romanticism and Classicism are classified as opposites they are deeply related. Even in Classicism's excessive use of structures and formalisms, composers of this period also expressed their feelings through music. On the other hand, Romantic composers had to use some basic structures from Classicism needed to write music. However, the Romantic era was a period in music when musicians had more freedom to use different forms to compose music expressing their individualism and nationalism.
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