5.5- Music of the Romantic Era

Romantic Era Music

The Free Composer

  • Beethoven led the way
  • Music Publishing on the rise
  • Music for the public, rather than music for the aristocracy

Technological Improvements in Instruments

Creating a more expressive range for the Romantic sensibility

Program Music

  • Telling a story
  • Born out of word painting
  • Imitation of sounds outside of music, like birds

The Long and Short of it


Grand Opera


  • Still had great appeal, and now a broader audience
  • Took on Nationalistic tendencies



  • A Romantic tendency
  • Identifiable folk idiom expressed in “art’ music
  • Program music based on geography, history and legends

Romantic Composers

Hector Berlioz 1803-69

  • French
  • Symphonie Fantastique shocked Parisian audiences
  • Innovative orchestration
  • Autobiographical theme
  • Musical recreation of a witches’ Sabbath
  • Movements:
    • Reveries, Passion
    • A Ball
    • Scenes in the Country
    • March to the Scaffold
    • Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath
  • Used a motif through the entire symphony
  • Idée fixe or “fixed idea’

Important work — Symphonie Fantastique

Franz Schubert 1797-1828

  • Wrote over 600 songs
  • At times utilized Goethe’s poetry as lyrics
  • Also wrote chamber works and symphonies
  • Popular Work — Elkonig (translation)

Johannes Brahms 1833-97

  • Wrote instrumental works
  • Chamber works, concertos and symphonies
  • Followed musical structures similar to Beethoven’s
  • Popular work — Brahms Lullaby

Clara and Robert Schumann 1819-96 & 1810-56

  • Married couple
  • Collaborated together and wrote individually
  • Friends with Brahms
  • Wrote vocal and instrumental works, including piano works

Clara’s Popular work – Die Lorelei

Robert’s Popular work — Carnaval

Frederic Chopin 1810-49
Polish born, lived in France
Wrote exclusively for the piano (with one exception)
Incorporated dance music from his home land of Poland
Extremely expressive works
Popular work — Etude Op. 10, No. 3

Giuseppe Verdi 1813-1901

  • Italian
  • Drama, passion and power!
  • Wrote 2 operas based on Shakespeare’s works
  • Rigoletto, LaTraviatta, Falstaff and Othello… plus others.

Popular Work — Aria — La Donna e mobile from Rigoletto

Richard Wagner 1813-83

  • Intense study of Beethoven
  • Operas focused on the irrational forces and passion that drive human behavior
  • Grand operas with amazing stage setting and costumes
  • Utilized short motifs attached to characters – Leitmotif
  • Was supported in the later part of his career by Ludwig II of Bavaria

Popular work — Ride of the Valkyries

Modest Mussorgsky 1839-81

  • A government clerk that wrote only a few works, but they were important
  • Created a Russian sound

Popular work — Night on Bald Mountain

Peter Tchaikovsky 1840-93

  • Brought a very European sound
  • Had a wealthy patron, who he never met in person, but wrote over 300 letters
  • Symphonies, ballets and orchestra works
  • Had a gift to creating a variety of tonal colors in his music
  • His music was highly melodic

Popular Work – Nutcracker Ballet

Franz Liszt 1811-1866
Hungarian born — career in Paris

  • An exceptional piano performer — A musical celebrity, women swooned
  • Invented the symphonic poem
  • Led the way to “impressionistic music

Popular work – Totentanz

Claude Debussy 1862-1918

  • Hugely influential in creating the direction of music in the 20th Century
  • Rejected the dramatic dynamics utilized by other Romantic composers
  • Created a huge variety of tonal colors
  • Influenced by music of Java and Southeast Asia
  • An Impressionistic composer — if you will

Popular work — Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun


[5.6 Continue on to learn more about Romantic Theater]

2 Responses to “5.5- Music of the Romantic Era”

  1. Student Trumpet writes:

    I really like how this page is organized. I learned so much in a short period of time. Being able to watch the videos and listen to the music while reading about the composer was a wonderful experience.

    My only disappointment was not being able to completely finish the entire experience due to the Claude Debussy video being removed.

    Thank you… you did a wonderful job!

  2. ofertas viajes writes:

    I personally take pleasure in, bring about I discovered exactly what I used to be looking regarding. You’ve broken my 5 day long search for! The almighty Many thanks gentleman. Have a very awesome evening. L8rs