The Romantic Period (1810s-1890s)

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    Fanny Mendelssohn

    Her brother Felix Mendelssohn, whose Violin Concerto in E minor and The Hebrides regularly make appearances in 21st century concert programming, believed that as a woman, Fanny shouldn’t be publishing music. He decided that many of her works, including her rather wonderful song ‘Italien’, should be published under his name.
  • Melody

    The range of the melodies was larger than in earlier periods. Composers would use extreme ranges of instruments to make their music more expressive. Melodies were generally diatonic but chromatic passages became much more frequent than in earlier periods.Melodies were lyrical and had longer phrases over more advanced harmonies than in the Classical period The rise of the virtuoso encouraged fast and exciting melodies.
  • Rhythm

    Rhythms became more complex, and extremities of speed were explored. Slow became really slow, fast became really fast. Improved musical training and the emergence of virtuoso soloists led to composers writing faster and rhythmically more complex music.
  • Harmony

    Harmony and form was not particularly strict as it was constantly changing and had sections where some sections were not balanced and structured strictly. Structure was unrestricted, as melody and harmony was considered the vital aspect of a Romantic composition.
  • Texture

    Almost entirely homophonic.
  • Form

    Orchestral works became larger and more complex. Symphonic works could be many times longer and written for an orchestra far larger than in the Classical era. Through-composed works began to appear alongside standardized forms, and new genres included the tone poem, Lied and miniature forms such as bagatelle, elegy, nocturne and impromptu.
  • Dymanics

    Dynamic markings such as pppp or ffff were common, and extensive use of crescendo and decrescendo added to the expressive resources available to composers.
  • Instruments

    In the Romantic era there were larger string sections, woodwind instruments included flutes and piccolo, oboes and clarinets, bassoon and double bassoons, brass included trumpets, trombones and French horns (tuba added later in the period), and percussion sections were full sets.
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    Frédéric Chopin

    Frédéric Chopin was a virtuoso pianist, who wrote almost exclusively for the instrument. Of his repertoire, the Polish Romantic’s own favourites were the Preludes, along with which his Nocturnes, Waltzes, Etudes, Mazurkas, Sonatas and Concertos are still among the most beloved repertoire of pianists today.
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    Franz Liszt

    The Hungarian composer, among whose repertoire you’ll recognize the mind-bogglingly fiendish La Campanella, was a showman who revolutionized the art of performance. At his piano recitals, Liszt’s fans would tear off their clothes and scream out his name, a phenomenon the German poet Heinrich Heine styled ‘Lisztomania’.
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    Giuseppe Verdi

    Verdi’s operas, mostly written around the time of the unification of Italy, became an essential part of Italy’s national identity, and his choruses were adopted as anthems of Italian freedom-fighters.
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    Richard Wagner

    I’m Wagner was a musical visionary known primarily for his operas. His most enduring works include The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde and of course, his monumental Ring Cycle, a work of four operas that takes 15 hours to perform.
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    Johannes Brahms

    Brahms is one of the Romantic era’s most revered and popular composers, his symphonies, piano and violin concertos, joyous Academic Festival Overture and deeply affecting German Requiem, which he wrote after the death of his mother, among his most played works.
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    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    He was a prolific composer of symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets and chamber music, whose Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleepy Beauty are guaranteed sell-outs for ballet companies around the world, and whose symphonies and concertos are mainstays of today’s international concert stage.
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    Giacomo Puccini

    This great Italian composer wrote La bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Turandot – all among today’s most performed operas, all with absolutely heartrending music at their centre.
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    Gustav Mahler

    Mahler represents the culmination of the extraordinary changes Western Classical Music went through in the space of a century.
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    Sergei Rachmaninov

    Rachmaninov is known for swelling melodies and virtuosic pianism, whose masterpiece was surely the Second Piano Concerto from 1901. Its subsequent use in the film Brief Encounter has made it a constant favourite.