About the Romantic era in general
The Romantic ideal focused on the struggle of the heroic individual against the tempests of the world. Romanticism was all about nature, history and the emotions of the individual. In music, an exploration for new forms of expression pushed the boundaries outward. Orchestras became larger, harmonies expanded beyond the neat confines of the Classical era, and new instruments were developed to produce new tonal colour. The cult of the virtuoso soloist emerged. Composers began to be increasingly precise about how their works should be performed, and this brought a new dynamic to the roles of composer, conductor and musician. Towards the end of this era, recording technology began to influence how music was written.
The people who are absent are the ideal; those who are present seem to be quite commonplace. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Composers in the old days used to keep strictly to the base of the theme, as their real subject. Beethoven varies the melody, harmony and rhythms so beautifully! –Johannes Brahms
Music in the Romantique era
New means for expressing individual emotions were sought. Extremities were explored, and the envelope pushed ever further out. Orchestras became larger, and works became longer. The harmonic palette was expanded. New instruments were developed to produce new tonal colour. Recording technology brought a new dimension to musical performances and had the effect of composers being increasingly precise in their notation about how their music should be performed. Musical training improved and became more widespread, allowing more demanding music to be written. The age of the virtuoso soloist began. People also began to develop an interest in music written in earlier eras, not just the music of here and now. Concerts no longer featured only new music but might also include things written much earlier.
Rhythm in the Romantic era
Towards complexity and extremities of speed.
Melody in the Romantic era
Melodic richness and virtuosos.
Harmony in the Romantic era
From cornucopia to the dissolution of tonality.
Form in the Romantic era
Bigger is better.
Tonal colour in the Romantic era
The palette of the orchestra grows.
Dynamics in the Romantic era
Dynamic extremes sought with large orchestras.
Instruments of the Romantic era
In the Romantic era, existing instruments were improved with updated valves, keys and hammers. The new instruments developed were mainly additions to existing instrument families.
Composers of the Romantic era
Improved musical training, more widespread printing, recording technology and quicker distribution of information had profound impacts on the work of composers.
Early Romantic composers
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1847)
Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
Beloved symphonic composers
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
Anton Bruckner (1824–1896)
Petr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
Richard Strauss (1864–1949)
Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)
Richard Wagner (1813–1883)
Edward Elgar (1857–1939)
Jean Sibelius (1865–1957)
Edvard Grieg (1843–1907)
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901)
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
Georges Bizet (1838–1875)