The Romantic Period

The Romantic Period
1820 - 1910
What is the deal with the
Romantic Period?
Romantic music is about feelings. Up until that point music
was mostly written for the purpose of the audience (i.e.
church service, entertainment, coronation or public event).
Then Beethoven got the brilliant idea to write music for the
sake of art, for himself, to express himself and his
surroundings. The romantic period has the longest list of
famous composers out of any of the classical music periods.
Click on the links below to listen to some examples.
Paganini, Berlioz, Liszt, Brahms, Wagner, Mussorgsky,
Grieg, Sousa, Sibelius
Kids Music Corner
Write down the titles and leave space for
filling in details.
Performing Medium
On a separate paper, write down the terminology you do not
know or are unsure of the definition. These will be defined
Performing Medium
Chamber music ensembles (small
ensemble, such as a string
quartet), large symphony
orchestras, opera companies, and
piano were the predominant
performing mediums during this
Orchestras incorporated more
types of instruments and had
larger numbers of players.
People had pianos in their homes
and advances in printing made it
so sheet music was more easily
Rhythmic complexity and
changing tempos were
frequently used during the
Romantic period. Some
music featured strong beats,
meter and rhythm, and other
compositions employed fluid
rhythm and meter that
obscured the use of the bar
line. During this era, the
increased technical facility of
virtuoso performers led to
faster tempos than prior
During this period, melodies
became subjective, emotional
and often were virtuosic (with
long runs, arpeggios and
ornamentation). Greater
technical proficiency by
performers led to an
expansion in the range of
melodies, and changes in
dynamics and wide leaps
between notes were frequently
used to heighten the
expressive qualities of the
melodies. Many composers
also used folk songs or
programmatic ideas as the
basis for their melodies.
Although a considerable
amount of music from
this period used
traditional harmonies
based on major and
minor scales, new and
complex harmonies were
introduced, and harmonic
variations such as the use
of modulations and
chromatic tones were
As in the Classical period,
during the Romantic era,
homophonic texture was
primarily used (melody
with accompaniment),
and development sections
sometimes used
polyphonic texture.
Genres used included large
forms from prior eras such as
concertos, sonatas,
symphonies (often with
programmatic titles), and
operas. New forms emerged
such as character pieces for
piano or strings such as the
nocturne, waltz, and etude.
Other new forms included
programmatic works such as
symphonic poems and
programmatic pieces.
Let’s analyze a piece!
On a blank space write down what you hear in the
following example. Make sure to include key
terminology and to listen for all musical elements (key,
time sig., melody, texture, instrumentation, etc.)
Georges Bizet (France) – Seguidilla from the opera,
Full Scene
This opera tells the story of
the downfall of Don José, a
naïve soldier who is seduced
by the wiles of the fiery Gypsy,
Carmen. José abandons his
childhood sweetheart and
deserts from his military
duties, yet loses Carmen's love
to the glamorous toreador
Escamillo, after which José
kills her in a jealous rage. The
depictions of proletarian life,
immorality and lawlessness,
and the tragic death of the
main character on stage, broke
new ground in French opera
and were highly controversial.
Carmen is a fantastic example of
exoticism and opera comique.
Don’t be confused. Opera
comique is a style of French opera
that contains spoken dialogue
and musical numbers. It is not
always comical. In fact, Carmen is
a tragedy.
of the Romantic Period
Romantic Traits
Romantic Era Traits
a new preoccupation with and
surrender to Nature
a focus on the nocturnal, the
ghostly, the frightful, and
a fascination with the past,
particularly the Middle Ages and
legends of medieval chivalry
fantastic seeing and spiritual
a turn towards the mystic and
supernatural, both religious and
merely spooky
a new attention given to national
a longing for the infinite
mysterious connotations of
remoteness, the unusual and
fabulous, the strange and
emphasis on extreme subjectivism
interest in the autobiographical
discontent with musical formulas
and conventions
Fascination with music from
other lands.
Spain, the Middle East, and
the Orient were often cultures
of inspiration for European
Carmen – Bizet (French)
Scheherazade – Rimsky –
Korsakov (Russian)
Meditation on Thais –
Massenet (French)
Madame Butterfly – Puccini
Preoccupation with a
composer’s own national
Composers paid tribute to
their country of origin
through the use of folk
melodies, dances, or
instruments, or through the
musical depiction of some
locale in the homeland.
Each country establishes a
national sound.
Examples of Nationalism by
France – Debussy, Saint-Saens, Faure, Ravel
Germany – Wagner, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann
England – Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Parry, Holst
United States - Sousa
Russia – “The Mighty Five” – Balakriev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Cui – Tchaikovsky,
Czech Republic – Smetana, Dvorak
Poland - Chopin
Hungary – Liszt
Italy – Rossini, Verdi, Puccini
Norway – Grieg
Finland - Sibelius
Austria – von Suppe, Strauss, Bruckner, Mahler
Programme Music
Music that is intended to
evoke images or convey the
impression of events.
Not invented in the
romantic period, however it
became increasingly popular.
Themes became darker and
more mysterious, often
evoking images of violence
and horror.
March to the Scaffold
March to the Scaffold
from Symphonie
Fantastique by Berlioz
The fourth movement
from a five movement
symphony. The main
character, under the
influence of opium,
imagines his own
Tone Poem
Also called a Symphonic
Poem, is a one movement
piece that describes a
story, using tone painting
to create imagery and
Here is an example from
another French composer,
Paul Dukas’ The
Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
German for song.
Typically arranged for
vocalist and piano.
Gretchen am Spinnrade –
Lyrics translation
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