Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

Classical music history VII c: The Late Romantic Period

As the Nineteenth Century continued the Romantic movement in music became continually more nationalistic, emotional, dramatic, and chromatic in its nature.  There were various streams of musical approaches: for example, Wagner and Bruckner found followers in Mahler and Strauss, while Schumann and Brahms saw their legacy continued in Dvorak and Sibelius; an increasingly colorful approach to drama, storytelling, picture painting, brilliant orchestral coloration, is found in the excitement of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.  And gradually the intensity of harmony was becoming complex in a way that would soon lead into modernism.

This era from about 1870 to 1910 includes a large number of greatly beloved works that are often performed today because of their deeply engaging characteristics.  Here is a long list of a few of the most notable works, notable either because of true greatness or because of long-standing crowd appeal.

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Classical music history VII b: The middle Romantic period

After Beethoven the shift in compositional style rapidly trended away from the orderly expectations of the Classical period, and more toward the Romantic ideals of emotion, spontaneity, nature consciousness, mystical spirituality, narrative, self-expression, and individualism.

Robert Schumann made a special point, even as a teen, of letting random musical ideas drop into his mind, and he would immediately cast the notes onto the piano; he called these ‘Papillons (Butterflies)’ because of their ephemeral and sudden nature. (He, incidentally, is credited also with establishing music criticism as a literary form, and he published a magazine to get the discussions out to the public.)

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Classical music VII a: The early Romantic period

Pretty soon after the West’s acceptance of the Enlightenment ideals, a new wave of philosophy came sweeping onto the scene, destined to overwhelm the rationality of Classicism and to last much longer in its expression in the arts: Romanticism.

Haydn and Mozart really began to weave the emotional and spiritual sense of Romanticism into the orderly beauty of the Classical period --- they certainly brought a new yearning and pathos and ‘Sturm und Drang’ (storm and stress) into some of their music.

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Classical music VI: The Classical Period

Speaking as a lifelong aficionado of Classical music --- but not as a scholar per se --- I offer the following simplistic ideas about the so-called Classical period of Classical music.

I like to think that Bach and Handel brought the Baroque concepts and structures into the modern era (following the strong previous moves forward of the Italians such as Vivaldi) by expanding and lyricizing melody beyond anything before, and by developing harmonies and counterpoint about as far as one could imagine. The complexities, especially in Bach, were overwhelmingly powerful and magnificent.

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Classical music V b: Handel and Bach!

I don’t think it can get better than this.

The apex of the Baroque period expressed itself in two German composers who are rightly wildly popular to this day, George Frederick Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach.

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Classical music V a: Early Baroque and the Italians

As the Renaissance progressed, there was a trend in music to make it less 'absolute' --- structured less on a basis of carefully defined forms and developments regardless of a text's message, and more on a basis of bringing out that message through the music.  Music was becoming more experiential: the player and listener could directly feel what was meant as it was being sung or played about.

This opened the door for experimentation with more expressive forms; the Italians such as Monteverdi were the most influential in this historic shift, and according to some scholars all 'serious' music since that time has been an outgrowth of the Italians' ideas of that period.

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Classical music IV b: The Elizabethan period

The Elizabethan era, named for one of the most notable Tudor monarchs in England, has enough distinctives for us to consider it separately from the Renaissance on the Continent.

The lute and viol (often in ensembles called ‘consorts’) were prominent instruments; and a particular style of madrigal was developed. John Dowland wrote a large number of lute solo masterpieces; one of the most famous is included below.

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