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The Romantic Era

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Michael Lupo

on 11 November 2016

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Transcript of The Romantic Era

The Romantic Era (1820-1900)
The Wanderer (1818), Caspar David Friedrich
From Enlightenment rationality to fascination with imagination, individual emotion, and longing

"Romanticism" derives from a literary genre--the "romance"--which is the forerunner of today's novel (largely free from structural or narrative conventions)

Ideas beyond the realm of reason (dreams); a new way of thinking about art

Composers develop their own distinctive voice (free of convention)

Expansion of the orchestra

Juxtaposition of the simple and the complex, easy/difficult

Importance of Program Music

Darker side of human nature

Instrumental exalted because of its ineffibility
E.T.A. Hoffmann: "Beethoven's music sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain" and "awakens that infinite yearning which is the essence of Romanticism"

Composers: from artisans or craftsmen (techne) to "geniuses" (poesis); rising status; they are now channels into the sublime and as such are valuable

Growth of home music; the piano (common fixture of an etiquette concerned with middle class that wanted to emulate aristocracy

Industrial Revolution; mass producing instruments

Fulfill the goals of the French Revolution throughout Europe; representative government, class equality, freedom to assemble

Nationalism (1848 Revolutions; US Civil War, Risorgimento)

Revolution in transportation (the railroad); music distribution

Population increase, telegraph, telephone, steamships
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Born in Bonn, but travels to Vienna to study with Haydn (also to get away from an abusive father)

Compositional output is small compared to Mozart and Haydn; composed with great deliberation and struggle, as witnessed in his sketchbooks

Output: 9 symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, 1 opera (Fidelio)

Enjoyed support by wealthy Viennese patrons and was acknowledged as the best composer of his time
Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1808)
Simple rhythmic/melodic motive from which the work expands

Critics at the time (and after) interpreted the symphony as a progression from struggle (mov. 1) to triumph (finale), from darkness of C minor to the brightness of C major

Opening motive: "Thus fate pounds at the door"
Not programmatic (like the "Eroica" (Symphony #3) or the "Pastoral" (Symphony #6))

Rhythm: Everything arises from a germinal rhythmic motive

Unprecedented dynamic contrast and expansion of the orchestra

Cyclic form: Individual movements of a work are linked in some tangible and distinctive way (usually through a common musical idea

Anomaly: Mov. 1: A battle between strings and winds; oboe solo in recapitulation
In general: Expands the development section; insertion of Scherzo
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Prolific Austrian composer: 9 symphonies, dozens of piano sonatas, dozens of pieces for chamber ensemble. By the age of 18, he had already composed 144 songs (Lieder)

Died early (at 31)

Attained a "cult" following (the Schubertiads), but was not generally popular

Franz Liszt, Robert Schuman, Johannes Brahams, and Felix Mendelssohn, among others, discovered and championed his works in the 19th century

Attempted to create a strong German musical tradition
"Der Erlkonig" ("The Elf King")
Art song: setting of a poetic text, usually for voice and piano; one of the most important miniature genres of Romanticism; also referred to as Lied (German art song)

Composed in 1815 for tenor and piano

Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Modified Strophic: Each strophe (or stanza) is varied (or modified) to fit the text in a particular way
Strophic: A song in several stanzas (or strophes), with the same music sung for each stanza
Through-composed: A song with new music for each stanza of the poem
Usually performed with a pianist and one singer who portrays the Narrator and three different characters in the song (the Son, Father, and Elf King)

Note how Schubert decides to get across the meaning of the poem in musical terms (i.e., dynamics, rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, etc.)

German (originally Danish) folk lore; death

A Ballad: a poem (or piece of music) that tells a story
Composers shape the elements of the music to bring the story of the ballad to life
"Gretchen am Spinnrade" (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel)
Composed with Schubert was 17

Taken from Goethe's "Faust"

Highest voice (right hand in piano) imitates the spinning wheel (rising/falling figuration)

Left hand (middle voice) imitates the action of the threadle (pedal)

Unceasing motion; Gretchen's agitation when thinking of her beloved

Modified strophic

First stanza is a refrain (it recurs) in such a way as to suggest a rondo form; it reminds us of Gretchen's yearning

p to f; minor to major; climax on diminished 7th chord
Hector Berlioz (1803-1867)
French Composer, music journalist, conductor

Was supposed to be a doctor, but chooses composition instead

Not a performer (only instrument: the guitar)

Paris Conservatory; win Prixe de Rome after 4 attempts

In love with Shakespearean soprano Harriet Smithson (idee fixe: recurring melody)
Symphonie Fantastique: Episodes in the Life of an Artist
Program: A young musician of unhealthy sensibility and passionate
imagination poisons himself with opium in a fit of lovesick despair.
Too weak to kill him, the dose of the drug plunges him into a heavy
sleep attended by the strangest visions, during which his sensations,
emotions, and memories are transformed in his diseased mind into
musical thoughts and images. Even the woman he loves becomes a
melody to him, an idee fixe [an obsession], as it were, that he finds
hears everywhere.

I. Reveries et passions (Dreams and passions)
II. Un bal (a ball; masque)
III. Scene au champs (Scene in the country)
IV. March au supplice (March to the scaffold)

"He [the artist] dreams he has killed his beloved, and that he is condemned to death and led to the scaffold. The procession moves forward to the sounds of a march that is at times gloomy and ferocious, at times solemn and brilliant. Noisy outbursts are followed without pause by the heavy sound of measured footsteps. At the end, the idee fixe appears for a moment, like a last thought of love broken off by the fatal blow [of the guillotine's blade]."

V. Song d'une nuit du Sabbat (Dream of a witches' Sabbath)


Based on an idee fixe: A melody used to represent a non-musical idea (person, place, event, time, etc.). In this case, the idee fixe represents the beloved (Smithson)
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Hungarian composer
One of the greatest performers (piano) of the 19th century
Father was part of the Esterhazy Court (Haydn)
At age 11, Liszt was brought to Vienna to be the next child star; met Beethoven and Schubert
In 1832, after seeing a performance given by Paganini (violin virtuoso), he supposedly sequestered himself for a year to practice
Between 1839 and 1847, he performed more than 1000 concerts throughout Europe, into Russia and Turkey
"Lisztomania"
Popularizes the recital
In 1847, he quits composing to become a conductor in Weimar (Germany)
1861, moves to Rome and takes Holy Orders (becomes an abbe); composes mostly sacred music at this time
Attended first performance of "Symphonie Fantastique"
Aligned himself with and championed a progressive school of 19-century composers like Berlioz and Wagner
Invents the tone poem: a piece of orchestral program music in one long movement
Music is full of constant and rapid changes in mood
Appropriates Hungarian folk music
Incredibly difficult piano music
Too bombastic?
Presages 20th-century attitudes
Totentanz (1865)
Refers to image of death as skeletons leading the living to their graves (remember "Danse Macabre")
Program concerto in one movement
Form: Modified Theme & Variations
6 variations (first 3 are more traditional, last 3 expanded form)
Main theme is the Dies Irae with cadenza
VI: Allegro, winds and piano duet
V2: Beings with low piano, glissandi
V3: Molto Vivace, slow build in pitch and volume
V4: Begins Lento, canon, somber, solo clarinet (changes to Presto into build-up to V5
V5: Vivace, fugue, contrasts, cadenza
V6: Sempre Allegro, ma non troppo
"Liszt at the Piano" by Joseph Danhauser (1840): L to R: Alexandre Dumas, Berlioz, George Sand, Paganini, Rossini, Liszt, Countess Marie d'Agoult, (Beethoven bust on the piano)
Opera in the Romantic Era
19th century is referred to as the "Golden Age of Opera"

Two-thirds of the current opera repertoire (the canon) was composed between 1820 and 1900)

Opera becomes nationalistic and different national styles emerge

Three of the dominant countries: Italy, France, and Germany

We'll concentrate on Germany and one figure in particular:
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
German philosopher, politician, propagandist, and advocate of his music
Controversial and cult-like (antisemitic writings, strong German Nationalist
Largely self-taught, moves to Paris in 1842, the center of opera at the time; fails miserably there
Envisioned opera as the most perfect union of all arts and he began to sketch his massive "Ring" cycle
Frequently in debt, he tended to borrow money from his admirers
Envisioned an "artwork of the future" where society is changed through its music
Bayreuth Festival: a month-long festival of his operas in the theater built for him by the mad King Ludwig of Bavaria (still controlled by the Wagner family today)
Operas became Music Dramas

Gesamtkunstwerk: A perfect union of all works: poetry, acting, dance, design, and architecture

No difference between recitative and Aria. One continuous flow of music called Unendliche Melodie (endless melody)
No tuneful melodies: avoids repetition, symmetry, and regular phrases
Wrote own librettos
Increased size and role of orchestra
Orchestra tells story
Leitmotif: a small bit of melody used to represent a person, place, event, time, etc. Much the same as Idée Fixe
Music is massive and loud. Long and demanding
Chromatic and dissonant
Heavy on the brass and percussion, shimmering strings
Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of Nibelung)
Four separate dramas:
I. Das Rheingold (1869)
II. Die Walkure (1870)
III. Siegfried (1876)
IV. Gotterdammerung (1876)

Composed over 26 years with large lapses in time

Based on Nordic mythology

Tells allegorical story about power, greed, corruption, and redemption through love

Contains gods, giants, humans, dwarfs, a dragon, nymphs, and a hero--all wanting to posses a ring that carries a terrible curse. The bulk of the story is told through the orchestra and the 100+ leitmotifs
The Triumph of Death (ca. 1355)--Francesco Traini
Who rides so late through the night and wind?
It is the father with his child.
He holds the youngster tight in his arm,
Grasps him securely, keeps him warm

"Son, what makes you afraid to look?"
"Don't you see, Father, the Erlking there?
The King of the forest with his crown and train?"
"Son, it's only a streak of mist."

"Darling child, come away with me!
I will play some lovely games with you;
Many bright flowers grow by the shore;
My mother has many golden robes."

"Father, Father, do you not hear
What the Erkling is softly promising me?"
"Calm yourself, be calm, my son:
The dry leaves are rustling in the wind."

"Well, you find boy, won't you come with me?
My daughters are ready to wait on you.
My daughters lead the nightly round,
They will rock you, dance for you, sing you to sleep!"

"Father, Father, do you not see
The Erkling's daughters there in the dark?"
"Son, my son, I see only too well:
It is the gray gleam in the old willow trees."

"I love you, your beauty allures me,
And if you're not willing, then I shall use force."
"Father, Father, he is seizing me now!
The Erlking has hurt me!"

Fear grips the father, he rides like the wind,
He holds in his arms the moaning child;
He reaches the house hard put, worn out;
In his arms the child was--dead!

My peace is gone,
my heart is heavy:
I'll never find peace,
never again.

Where I do not have him
is to me like a tomb,
The whole world
is bitter to me.

My poor head
is confused.
My poor mind
is torn apart.

For him alone do I look
out the window.
For him alone do I go
out of the house.

His loft bearing,
his noble figure,
the smile on his lips,
the strength of his gaze,

and his conversation's
magical flow,
the press of his hand,
and, ah, his kiss!

My heart pines
for him.
Ah, if I could seize him
and hold him

and kiss him
all I wanted,
in his kisses
I would be lost!
Full transcript