Saturday, November 10, 2007

1830 – 1850 Romantics

1830 July Revolution, Charles X abdicated, France

1830-48 Louis Philippe, France

1837-1901 Queen Victoria, England

1848-49 Revolution

Romanticism in music followed two divergent paths: (1) toward the miniature forms of Lied and character piece for piano as established by Schubert and represented by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Chopin, and (2) toward the spectacular and grandiose in opera and symphony as established by Beethoven and represented by Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner.

Vocal Music

Grand Opera

Grand opera began with Daniel Auber's (1782-1871) Le Muette de Portici (1828) in which a dumb girl leaped into the erupting Vesuvius. Rossini's last opera, William Tell (1929), was an attempt to imitate this popular new style characterized by

(a) obligatory spectacular scenes,
(b) death, not happy endings, in librettos by Scribe,
(c) potpourri overture,
(d) extended ornate arias,
(e) chorus and ballet, and
(f) a new heavier type of dramatic tenor as the featured hero.

Other opera were Giacomo Meyerbeer's (1791-1864) Robert le Diable (1831), Les Huguenots (1836) and Le Prophète (1849), and Jacques Halévy's (1799-1862) La Juive (1835).

Italian Opera

This period is called bel canto.  Orchestral accompaniment used throughout the opera broke down the distinction between recitative and aria, resulting in long formally flexible sections in Vincenzo Bellini's (1801-35) Norma (1831), La Sonnambula (1831) and I Puritani (1835) and Gaetano Donizetti's (1797-1848) Lucia di Lammermore (1835).

German opera

Sentimental light operas were Hans Heiling (1833) by Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861), Zar und Zimmerman (1837) by Albert Lortzing (1801-51) and Martha (1847) by Friedrich von Flotow (1812-83). Richard Wagner's (1813-83) Rienzi (1840) was a grand opera, and Der fliegende Holländer (1842) was in the Weber tradition.

Russian Opera

Russian opera was established by Michael Glinka (1804-57) in A Life for the Tsar (1836) and Russlan and Lyudmilla (1842), the first realization of nationalism in music.


Influenced by Bach and Handel, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) composed the sentimental oratorios St. Paul (1836) and Elijah (1846). Also considered a secular oratorio is The Damnation of Faust (1846) by Hector Berlioz (1803-69).

Choral Music

Secular cantatas were Mendelssohn's Erste Walpurgisnacht (1832) and Robert Schumann's (1803-56) Paradise and the Peri (1843) and Scenes from Goethe's "Faust" (1844-53). Important liturgical music were Rossini's Stabat Mater (1832) and the huge Requiem (1837) of Berlioz.


Though Mendelssohn was also important, Schumann was the outstanding Lieder composer, especially in the song cycles Dichterliebe (1840) and Frauenliebe und Leben (1840).

French Song

The first French song cycle was Berlioz Les Nuits d'Été (1841). It became the first orchestral song cycle when he orchestrated it in 1856.

Instrumental Music


Sonata form almost disappeared and was replaced by collections of unrelated single movements in a completely idiomatic piano style. Though most of the titles are not authentic, Mendelssohn's Songs without Words (1829-45) contained 48 song-like pieces. Schumann added his own titles in Papillons (1830-31), Carnival (1835) and Kinderscenen (1838).

Frédéric Chopin (1810-49) also preferred short forms, as in Nocturnes (1830-46), Impromptu (1834-43) and 24 Preludes, Op. 28 (1839) in all the major and minor keys. He established romantic piano idiom through use of

(a) tempo rubato,
(b) chromaticism,
(c) free modulation,
(d) creative use of the damper pedal, and
(e) melodies from dance or song in
(f) a completely homophonic texture.
Preferred dances were waltz (19), polonaise (13) and mazurka (51). Longer single-movement forms were the ballade (4 examples) and scherzo (4 examples). He also composed sets of etudes: Op. 10 (1829-32) and Op. 25 (1832-36). Schumann also composed etudes, including Etudes symphoniques (1834).

Chamber Music

The string quartet was still preferred by Schumann with three and Mendelssohn with seven examples, but both men composed other important works for combinations of strings alone or with piano.


In the classical form with written out cadenzas, concertos showed the romantic piano idiom in Schumann's concerto (1845), Chopin's Op. 11 (1830) and Op. 21 (1829) and Mendelssohn's Op 25 (1831) and Op. 40 (1837). Mendelssohn also composed a Violin Concerto (1844).


The clearest change from the Viennese classic tradition came in the Symphonie fantastique (1830) of Berlioz, which showed all the features of romanticism:

(a) tempo rubato,
(b) frequent tempo changes,
(c) chromaticism,
(d) a new mastery of orchestral color,
(e) the idée fixe, a unifying motive used in all five movements,
(f) transformation as opposed to development of theme (melodies were of such distinctive character they resisted development, and
(g) the use of a complete descriptive program.
Formally, it was still a normal symphony with two scherzo movements, but with a new thematic unity. His Harold in Italy (1834) was a viola concerto while Romeo and Juliet (1840) used chorus and vocal soloists.

The symphonies of Schumann and Mendelssohn used descriptive titles, as in Schumann's No. 1 "Spring" (1841) and No. 3 "Rhenish" (1850) and Mendelssohn's No. 3 Scotch" (1842), No. 4 "Italian" (1833) and No. 5 "Reformation" (1832), but maintained the basic form of the classic symphony without either thematic or programmatic unity.


While Beethoven's overtures and Mendelssohn's Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826) were written to precede theatrical performances, Mendelssohn's Hebrides (1832) and Berlioz' Roman Carnival (1844) were character pieces in modified sonata-allegro form composed for concert use.

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