Romanticism in the Lives & Works of Romantic Composers

Romanticism in the Lives and
Works of Romantic
Sam K.
Horace Greeley HS
Essential Question:
How were the ideals of
Romanticism evident in
the lives and works of
composers of the
Romantic Era?
Ideals Being Expressed
Fascination with exotic lands
A growing sense of nationalism
The idea of an individual having
unlimited power
Increase in emotion and drama in art
The emergence of an artist as a true
Obsession with the French Revolution
and other political uprisings
Exoticism in Music
Félicien David
Origin and Travels Abroad
Born in Cadenet on April 13th, 1810
Interested in music at a very young
– Very religious, first compositions were
church music
Joined a French socialist group named
the Saint-Simonians in 1831
– The group was outlawed in 1832
– David went with some members to Egypt
to preach Saint-Simonian gospel in 1833
• Wrote piano music while abroad
• Returned in June of 1835 with a fascination
about the Middle East
Influential Works
Le désert (1844)
– Three movements describing a desert
storm, a prayer to Allah, and a traveling
– A long repeated pedal note is used to
represent the vast wastes of the desert
La perle du Brésil (1851)
– Opera about a storm off the coast of
Lalla-Roukh (1862)
– Opera set in India
Giuseppe Verdi
Origin and Involvement in
Italian Unification
Born in Roncole on October 10th, 1813
– Always spoke of his humble “peasant”
beginnings in Roncole
Became a member of the Chamber of
Deputies (the newly formed Italian
parliament) in 1862
– His fellow revolutionary, Count Camilo
Benso di Cavour, dies in June of 1861
• The pain of his friend’s death is too much to
bear and he resigns from office in 1865
• Cavour’s death makes Verdi turn back to
music and change his focus away from Italy
Influential Works
Nabucodonsor (1841)
– First example of Verdi having non-Italian
– Fascinated by the chorus of the Hebrew exiles
Aida (1871)
– Written for the first season of Khedvial
Opera House in Cairo
• NOT for the opening of the Suez canal as
commonly thought
– Makes aspects of old Egyptian images into
major spectacles
• Uses the pyramids, temple of Isis, gate of
Thebes, and the Nile river as settings
– Adapts Egyptian characters to an old
Italian love story
Georges Bizet
Origin and Involvement in
the Franco-Prussian War
Born in Paris on October 25th, 1838
Won the Prix de Rome in 1857
– France’s highest honor in music
– Winner gets to study in Rome for 3 years
Enlisted as a national guard during the
Franco-Prussian War in 1870
– Ended up deserting the army
– Happy that France was losing the war
• Marks the beginning of Bizet’s search for
inspiration outside of France
Influential Works
Chants de Pyrénées
– About the Pyrenees mountains
– First sign of interest in Spanish culture
Carmen (1875)
– Opera about a gypsy named Carmen that
seduces a soldier
– Bizet refused to visit Spain
• Uses the harmonic, rhythmic, and
instrumental procedures of flamenco music
as well as old Spanish folk songs for musical
inspiration as a substitution to visiting
– Exotic aspects of the score were put in
only for dramatic effect
Conclusions on Exoticism
in Romantic Music
Imperialistic desires to westernize
foreign lands
– Félicien David’s trip to Egypt to spread SaintSimonian gospel
Fascination with the newly colonized and
explored regions
– Verdi’s interest in the Middle East and desire
to distance himself from his simple past
Looking towards other places for
– Bizet and Verdi’s desire to look away from
their own respective countries
Adapted these foreign stimuli to their
own classic European operatic style
Nationalism in Music
Frédéric Chopin
Origin and Personality
Born in Zelazowa Wola on March 1st, 1880
Considered the greatest Polish
nationalist composer but was half French
Didn’t want to be showy and only
performed for small audiences
Lived in constant misery due to a lifelong
chronic lung condition
– Contemporary composer Hector Berlioz said
that Chopin was, “dying all his life” (213).
Had a long, turbulent relationship with
author Aurore Duderant née Dupin
– Ended in pain and made his work more intense
Revolutionary Étude (1831)
The November Uprising in Warsaw in
1830 broke out three weeks after
Chopin left Warsaw
– The November Uprising was in response
to Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich
ignoring Polish Constitution by agreeing to
help put down revolts in France
– Polish government took over the region
and declared war on Russia in 1831
– The war ended in disaster with the
deaths of thousands of Poles and no
improvement in the situation with Russia
Revolutionary Étude (1831)
Chopin wanted to go back and protect
his family and his country
– Couldn’t because of his lung condition
Instead, he used music to support the
efforts in Warsaw
The piece caused many in Poland to join
the cause
– Contemporary composer and music critic
Robert Schumann said that:
“Beneath the flowers in Chopin’s work,
there are hidden cannons” (217).
• Refers to the nationalistic passion this piece
evoked in its listeners
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Origin and Personality
Born in Votkinsk on May 7th, 1840
Studied at the St. Petersburg
conservatory for 3 years
Had trouble interacting with people and
got upset easily
– Tchaikovsky was quoted saying:
“Every new acquaintance, every fresh
meeting with someone unknown, has always
been for me a source of suffering” (354).
Was a very shy person
– Couldn’t conduct his own works
– Let his music speak for him
Closet homosexual
Tchaikovsky’s Homosexuality
Source of Tchaikovsky’s insecurity
– Was afraid anyone would find out
Married Antonia Ivanova Miliukova in
1877 to try to hide his homosexuality
– Angst from trying to hide his
homosexuality led to a failed suicide
Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality comes out
in his music
– His ballets are very aesthetically pleasing
and delicate
Slavonic March (1876)
Tchaikovsky was asked to write a piece
in memoriam of Christian slavs that
had recently been murdered by
Turkish soldiers
Only took five days to write
Tchaikovsky uses Serbian folk songs as
inspiration for different movements
The Slavonic March unified a nation
over a tragedy
– This sense of nationalism is foretelling of
the Russo-Turkish war of the following
1812 Overture (1880)
Based on Russia’s defeat of Napoleon’s
army at the Battle of Borodino
– Battle occurred on September 7th, 1812
– Napoleon’s army had lost its supply lines
and was unable to defeat Russia troops
The piece follows a story, starting
with the battle and ending with the
return of the troops
Tchaikovsky scored parts of the piece
for a cannon to simulate the feeling of
being on the battlefield
Conclusions on Nationalism
in Romantic Music
Tragic events inspired composers to
write pieces honoring the victims and
rallying their country of origin to stop
any injustice present
– Chopin’s Revolutionary Étude and
Tchaikovsky’s Slavonic March
Painful personal lives made their music
have even more passion
– Chopin’s lung condition and Tchaikovsky’s
insecurity about his homosexuality
Let their music express their opinions
Individual Power and
Revolutionary Fervor
in Music
Ludwig van Beethoven
Origin and Personal Life
Born in Bonn, baptized on December
17th, 1770
Went to Vienna in 1787 to pursue his
music career
– Left immediately to tend to his ailing
Had trouble with women and never
Began going deaf in 1802
– Wrote a will-like manuscript thinking that
he was going to die
– Along with his naturally belligerent
personality, going deaf made him focus
more on his music
Sketchbook Method
Beethoven was very meticulous when
writing his music
– Wrote all his music in sketchbooks where he
would constantly cross out work, making him
work into the wee hours of the night and
lengthening the composition process by a
significant amount
Beethoven vs. Aristocracy
Beethoven relied heavily on noble
– These patrons were horrible people
– Resented the nobles because he felt that
he was more talented and more deserving
of their wealth
• Knew he would never reach their status
Would do many things to disrespect
his benefactors
– Made them beg him to play
– Dressed and acted inappropriately
Beethoven vs. Aristocracy
Frau von Bernhard, one of Beethoven’s
piano students, had this to say about
an encounter between Beethoven and
one of his patrons:
“I myself saw the mother of Princess
Lichnowsky, countess Thun [one of
Beethoven’s patrons] go down on her
knees to him as he lolled on the sofa,
begging him to play something. But
Beethoven did not…”(78)
Beethoven and Napoleon
Beethoven admired many aspects of
Napoleon’s traits and accomplishments
– His endorsement of the merit system
– His talent, determination, and strength
– His belief in equality and democracy
Beethoven felt hurt and betrayed when
Napoleon crowned himself emperor of
France in 1804
– This act dissolved all of Napoleon’s positive
qualities that Beethoven admired
Beethoven’s work output dramatically
decreased with the exile and eventual
death of Napoleon
Beethoven and Napoleon
When asked in 1802 to write a sonata
about the events and ideas of the
French Revolution, Beethoven said:
“…you suggest I should compose such a
sonata? …Well, perhaps at the time of the
revolutionary fever… [but] now that
Bonaparte has concluded his Concordat with
the Pope…to write sonata of this kind? …you
won’t get anything from me” (184).
Shows his frustration and
disappointment with his once beloved
Symphony No. 3: Sinfonia
Eroica (1806)
Originally dedicated to Napoleon
– Beethoven tore up the dedication when
Napoleon crowned himself emperor
Subtitle of the symphony was,
“composed to celebrate the memory of
a great man”
– Written as a funeral march
– Supposed to symbolize the death of the
egalitarian Napoleon
• Beethoven wanted it to seem like Napoleon
sealed his own fate by crowning himself
Richard Wagner
Origin and Personal Beliefs
Born in Leipzig on May 22nd, 1813
Had strong anti-Semitic opinions
– Said to be rooted in his relationship with
composer and benefactor Giacomo
Meyerbeer, who was Jewish
• Meyerbeer’s career flourished while Wagner
suffered in political refuge in Zϋrich
– Wrote a pamphlet entitled Des
Judenthum in der Musik (Judaism in
• Wrote it under a pseudonym
• Talks about the excessive control Jews had
over the music scene during that time
Hitler and Wagner’s Music
Hitler would play some of Wagner’s music during
his speeches to his Nazi followers
Involvement in Revolution:
Student Revolt in Leipzig
Wagner was obsessed with the French
Revolution from reading history books
This student uprising in Leipzig was
inspired by the July Revolution that
was occurring in Paris at the same time
– Jumped at the chance to participate in
his own revolt and joined the Leipzig
students on a march to the city hall
– In his autobiography, Wagner said that,
“the world of history came alive for me
from that day on; and naturally I became
a fervent partisan of the revolution” (39).
• Shows his obsession with revolutions
Involvement in Revolution:
Uprisings of 1849 in Dresden
An abandonment of a constitutional
monarchy under Fredrich Wilhelm IV
caused riots all over Prussia
Almost got arrested and had to flee to
Zϋrich for ten years
Wagner was even more involved this
time around
– Would lead people into the town square
screaming, “To the barricades!” (393)
– Put up anti-government propaganda
posters all around Dresden
– Ran through gun fire to be able to watch
battles from atop a tower
Wagner and Nietzsche
Nietzsche admired Wagner, believing he
embodied his “superman theory” (society
reaching perfection under a gifted
– Believed this because of Wagner’s ability to
evoke emotion amongst those around him
– Eventually lost respect for Wagner, realizing
that his dramatic personality was superficial,
later saying that:
“[when] viewed from close proximity and
without bias, Wagner’s life appears in many
ways as a …grotesque comedy” (878).
Wagner’s anti-Semitism as well as his
connection to Nietzsche’s “superman
theory” would later be used by Hitler and
the Nazis
Lohengrin (1850)
Opera based on an old medieval story of a
knight of the holy grail named Lohengrin and
his conquests
– Famous for its Bridal Chorus (“Here comes the
The knight is supposed to symbolize the rise
to power of one man
– Some compared the knight and his conquests to
Bismark and his efforts towards German
• Another example of Nietzsche’s “superman
• Possible explanation for the 2nd Reich’s
superiority complex
Conclusions on Individualism
in Romantic Music
Obsession with revolutions affected
the way in which composers operated
– Beethoven’s belief in Napoleon’s merit
system when dealing with aristocracy and
Wagner’s confidence from participation in
Contradictory idea of individual power
mixed with an assimilation with a mob
– Wagner’s integration with the process of
German unification
Personal opinion more present
– Beethoven’s Sinfonia Eroica and Wagner’s
Judenthum in der Musik (Judaism in Music)
The End