national flavors

Musical styles found in Romantic Music:

  • Individuality of style
  • Romantic composers put emphasis on self-expression and individuality of style. Tried to depict their inner-most self and create unique sounds and reflect their personalities.
  • Expressiveness and subjectivity
  • Romantic composers explored a world of feelings that included flamboyance and intimacy, unpredictability and melancholy, rapture and longer.
  • Romantic love was often depicted as a theme in music.
  • Fascination with fantasy, dreams and the exotic were also themes.
  • Nature was a common theme.
  • Middle Ages as a theme as well as Mythology
  • Nationalism was a common theme with the revolutions for freedom that went on. Composers used folk songs, dances, legends and history of their homelands as themes in their music.  So, national flavors could be heard in their music such as Polish, Russian, Czech, or German rather than a universal sound of the classical period.
  • Expressive Tone colors:
  • Romantic composers reveled in rich and sensuous sounds, using tone color to obtain variety of mood and atmosphere.
  • The orchestra became larger and more varied in tone color. For example there were only about 20-60 players in the classical orchestra but in the romantic period the orchestra would have 100 musicians. In the classical period, strings were the prominent instruments, in the Romantic period the woodwind, and brass and percussions sections became larger and more active.
  • Orchestras became more brilliant and appealing through the use of others instruments such as cymbals, triangles, the harp, piano, and tuba.
  • Instrumentalists were asked to employ unusual techniques when they played. For example, strike the strings with the wood of their bow rather than the strings.
  • Composers found new ways to combine tone colors to achieve poignant and intense sounds.
  • The piano was improved becoming louder, more singing, and had more keys.
  • Colorful harmonies
  • Romantic composers explored new chords and new ways to use familiar chords to gain a greater emotional intensity.
  • Composers emphasized rich, colorful and complex harmonies.
  • Chromatic harmony because more prominent. (using tones not heard in the major, minor scale) Chromatic chords add color and motion to romantic music.
  • Dissonant and unstable chords were used (harsh sounding chords) more often than in the classical period
  • Used many keys and rapid modulations leaving a sense of tonal instability and tonal gravity less strong than in the classical.
  • Expanded range of dynamics
  • Romantic music called for a wider range of dynamics. The music moved from incredibly soft to extremely loud in a matter of seconds to gain more expressiveness.
  • Crescendos and decrescendos were used more frequently as well as sudden dynamic changes.
  • The range of pitch was expanded, composers asked instrumentalists to play very high for brilliance and very low for depth.
  • The piccolo and contrabassoon became important and the expanded piano.
  • Changes in mood in romantic music are created through the use of accelerando, ritardandos and subtle variations on pace. Fluctuations of tempo are known as rubato (slightly holding back and pressing forward of the tempo).
  • Forms: Miniature and Monumental
  • The romantic period was the age of contradictions. Some pieces were very short and intimate meant for home use and the next minutes they were gigantic works for orchestra with 100 that lasted several hours.
  • Classical symphonies lasted about 24 minutes, romantic symphony are lasting 45 minutes or longer.
  • Programmatic music became extremely popular during the Romantic Period.
  • Instrumental music that told a story, poem, idea or scene without using words, only using instruments. Beethoven led the way in this with his Pastoral Symphony.  Another example is Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and orchestral piece that depicts the story including a feud between rival families, a lover theme, a funeral march.

Cyclical works became important.  Cyclical music is when a composer would use the same theme in all movements.  And then, use a technique as Thematic