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(#14) The Romantic Era
Transcript of (#14) The Romantic Era
Back to Beethoven
We've discussed earlier years of Beethoven....let's discuss his late years... Remember that Beethoven bridged both the Classical and Romantic eras, and in fact, died only a year before Schubert, in 1827.
Concert Life in the 19th Century
As the 19th century progressed, the concert hall, together with the opera house, came to dominate the presentation of music. Concert halls built to accommodate symphony orchestras were a matter of civic pride, as they are today.
Music and the Supernatural
Beethoven's late music tends to lose much of the heroism that was in his middle works (like Symphonies 3 and 5).
The exception is his last symphony, the Ninth.
Symphony No. 9
Completed in 1824, this is one of the best known works in Western literature. It is the first symphony to use voices. The voices (four soloists and a chorus) appear in the last movement, and sing words taken from "Ode to Joy," a poem written in 1785 by Friedrich Schiller.
Franz Schubert is, for most musicians, the earliest and greatest master of the German lied.
Lied (pl. lieder) is the German word for "song" and is also a special genre of Romantic art song with piano accompaniment. Usually the words come from a previously written Romantic poem.
This work, written by Hector Berlioz in 1830, is an important early romantic work. It is an example of a programmatic symphony, or a symphony that tells a story. It tells the story of a young artist who, having fallen into the "depths of despair" because of "hopeless love," poisons himself with opium. Instead of dying, however, he falls asleep and has very strange dreams.....
Symphony Fantastique has five movements, instead of the conventional 4.
1. Daydreams - Passions
2. A ball
3. Scene in the Country
4. March to the Scaffold
5. Dream of a Witches' Sabbath
In this symphony, Berlioz depicts the woman of the artist's dream with an "
," or "fixed idea. A motif that represents this perfect woman follows the artist all throughout the symphony. He sees her in first in a daydream, then in a ball, then he dreams about her in the fields. Convinced his love is unrequited, he overdoses on opium and dreams he has killed her. For that he must be executed, and so he is marched to the scaffold and is executed. (A series of pizzicato notes represent his head rolling into a basket.) Then he sees himself in a witches' sabbath (in Hell?).
Berlioz Symphony Fantastique
Mvt. 1 (Daydreams- Passions)
Mvt. 4 (March to the Scaffold)
Mvt 5 (A Witches' Sabbath)
Here we hear the Dies Irae chant again
(at 4:00 for example)
What is the Romantic Movement?
"Romanticism" was initially a literary movement before it moved to music. The Romantic movement is unique because the term was coined by the Romantics themselves. (As opposed to the Baroque or Classical Eras, which were identified after their occurrence by music historians.)
English Romantic authors at the time included Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, and Byron. German Romantics include Tieck, Kleist, and E.T.A. Hoffman. For France, we had Victor Hugo.
Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) by Caspar David Friedrich
At the heart of the Romantic movement was the
intention to strive for a higher, ideal state of being.
Everyday life seemed dull and meaningless; it could
be transcended only through the exercise of free
will and individual passion. Romantics, or
"Bohemians," as they were disparagingly called,
proclaimed romantic love, led irregular lives, and
wore odd clothes. For them, artistic expression was important above all else, unconstrained by
convention, religion, social taboo....or other
There is a strong element of escapism in the Romantic era. (Beethoven and Berlioz both wrote pieces with pastoral inspiration, escape from reality)
It was at this time that the Industrial Revolution hit full swing in Europe, and with it came slag heaps, inhumane working conditions, and sickness from factories.
With the Industrial Revolution came actual revolution.
First the American Revolution.
Then the French Revolution in 1789.
Then a whole set of upheavals in France,
Germany, and Italy in 1848.
The supernatural was a large inspiration for Romantic literature.
Nightmare by Henry Fuseli
This was the time when Mary Shelley wrote
Frankenstein (1818) and Goethe wrote Faust.
Franz Schubert wrote "The Erlking" about a demon who claims a terrified child (1816).
The titles of some of the popular operas of the time speak for themselves: "Robert the Devil," "The Vampire," "The Magic Bullet"...
Schubert wrote almost 700 songs in his lifetime. In his 18th year, he averaged better than a song every two days.
"The Erlking" is listed as Schubert's opus 1,
and remains one of his most popular works.
The poetry for "The Erlking" is by Wolfgang
von Goethe. Goethe was a poet, novelist, playwright,
naturalist, and philosopher. Many composers used his poems as inspiration for their lieder.
Although Goethe's poem has parallel stanzas, the music Schubert wrote is not parallel.
It changes with each verse, making it "through-composed." (A song that repeats the same music over and over is said to be "strophic."
The song tells of a father riding furiously through the night with a child who is presumably running a high fever, because he claims that he sees and hears a demon.
The Erlking first beckons the child, then cajoles him, then threatens and assaults him.
By the time the father and son reach home, the son is dead.
Symbolism includes a triplet motif in the right hand of the piano, and the piece requires
the singer to sing in different voices representing each character.
Schubert's Symphony No. 8,
Schubert was the son of a lower middle class Viennese schoolmaster. He is known for being
shy and unspectacular (not that he didn't make great contributions to music- he just didn't have the sort of artistic personality that someone like Beethoven had).
Schubert never married (it is believed that he was gay) and never held a regular job. He was
sustained by teaching fees, publications, and contributions from a young circle of friends who
called themselves the Schubertians.
He lived in the same city as Beethoven and at the same time, but he never introduced himself
to Beethoven. It is assumed that he was too shy, or perhaps that he instinctively felt he needed to keep his distance from the overpowering older Beethoven.
Schubert, however, wrote powerful works, even under Beethoven's shadow, including his "Great" Symphony 9 in C major. His most famous symphony is probably his "Unfinished" Symphony No. 8. He also wrote a very famous string quintet, which is known as the "Trout" Quintet.
Schubert died in a typhoid epidemic at the incredibly young age of 31. He never heard his late
symphonies performed, and much of his music only came to light after his death.
Beethoven's life is typically divided into three periods: Early, Heroic/Middle, Late/Third.
The full symphony is 75 minutes long, and the fourth movement itself can run nearly a half hour.
The Romantics were inevitably the rebels against established order in these political situations. Many musicians, poets, and artists associated themselves with libertarian politics,
starting with Beethoven, who wrote a symphony entitled "Bonaparte." (He later renamed it "Eroica," Heroic, it was his famous 3rd symphony)
Modern Depictions of the Romantic Era
written by Victor Hugo in 1862. Depicting the French revolts in 1832 during the early romantic period. Turned into a musical in 1980. This clip of "Cafe Song" is from the 2012 movie of Les Mis.
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Film set in turn-of-the century Montmartre in Paris,
depicting Bohemian ideals of truth, beauty, freedom, and above all things, love. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.
Symphonies with choral stuff. What?
As you can tell, the Romantic era is characterized by an increased blending of the arts. Poetry became more musical, paintings and musical works were given poetic titles, and the different genres of music, poetry, and visual art began to share with each other more than they had in the past.
A little later, we will see Richard Wagner epitomize this blending of works in the late Romantic period. Wagner merged drama, music, and stagecraft into "total artwork," or
"Gesamtkunstwerk." Within individual art forms, blurred effects were cultivated: half-obscure verbal meanings, ambiguous shapes and color blends, musical sounds that are imprecise but evocative.
While the Enlightenment artists valued simplicity and the natural order of things, Romantics valued the mystery and majesty of life: qualities we call "the sublime."
By the end of the 19th century, we would see intimate, domestic musical genres (like string quartets and lieder) performed in concert hall settings.
During the 19th century, we saw the foundation of many symphony orchestras that continue to exist today. (Ie. The New York Philharmonic, founded in 1842.)
Improved transportation, meanwhile, brought musicians on tour to remote areas, such as the
American West. Italian Romantic opera spread
far and wide, to New York, Philadelphia, and San
explanation of Berlioz's Symphony fantastique