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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.

But Haydn, Beethoven’s teacher, couldn’t accept the way the student was adapting his Classical training: Beethoven was a fierier, freer spirit who did startling and daring things with the genre. I think Mozart loved it, though, and Beethoven himself spoke highly of Mozart even many years after the earlier musician’s death.

I begin this period with two selections from Mozart’s Requiem, his final composition, which he had a premonition was for his own death. The new sense of pathos in these works is a powerful introduction to the expanded emotional sense of the new Romantic era.

Ludwig van Beethoven, besides being one of the greatest masters in all of music, is the quintessential Romantic, and even today is considered so. His love of nature and desire for country life in the ‘Pastoral’ Sixth Symphony, his loving pieces penned for specific women such as Elise, his striving aspirations toward Joy in the Ninth Symphony, his song of thanks to God for recovery from sickness in the Fifteenth String Quartet, his glorifying of heroism in the Third Symphony, his struggle with deafness expressed in new musical structures --- these and much more are expressions of his individuality and humanity as a fully Romantic man.

But many scholars classify him with the Classical era, because most of his compositions are still within the structural expectations and modes of that period. Well, yes, but he was indeed a Romantic as well and is credited with opening that era’s door fully. While Franz Schubert remained quite within Classicism too, Rossini and Mendelssohn developed dramatic lyricism that brought the world of music further from that sound.

The Beethoven selections linked below are many and long --- yet you must be assured that these are only a few of his truly great and sublime works. Like Bach, his life’s work forms a whole world of masterpieces that many lovers of Classical music spend their lives exploring and absorbing. (Many of my most favorite ones aren’t even listed here!)

Rossini wrote mostly operas; his overture for William Tell is by far his most famous work, known to all who watched The Lone Ranger, and Bugs Bunny cartoons!

Schubert truly reached into the sublime with his ‘Unfinished’ Symphony (and I recognized this even when I was a toddler!); his ‘Trout’ Quintet has one of the most notable examples of a Theme and Variations in its third movement. His ‘Ave Maria’ is the most known and loved of that religious text drawn from a poem.

Felix Mendelssohn was a Jewish Christian with one of the greatest gifts for lyricism and brilliance. (He is also known for introducing the baton to conductors’ use, and reviving interest in Bach’s great compositions.) I find his final three symphonies to be among the most inspiring of all --- speaking of his adventures in Scotland (3) and Italy (4) and of Martin Luther’s Reformation (5). His violin concerto is among the greatest few and is delightful from beginning to end. His ‘Italian’ Symphony is known as one of the most perfectly formed symphonies of all, along with Beethoven’s Fifth. His Wedding March is one of the most widely known of all Classics.

I must confess that I am the most enamored of the music from the late Baroque through Romantic --- along, of course, with most other lovers of Classical music! This is fine art that at many points should thrill your soul in varied and glorious ways. I hope it does.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: 'Requiem Aeternam';  'Lacrimosa' from Requiem, played and sung by Bach Collegium Stuttgart, directed by Helmuth Rilling

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony 5, played by the Cleveland Orchestra directed by George Szell: Movement I;  movement II;  movement IIImovement IV.

Beethoven: Symphony 6 'Pastoral', played by the Cleveland Orchestra directed by George Szell

Beethoven: Symphony 9 'Choral', played by the Cleveland Orchestra directed by George Szell and Robert Shaw: Movement IMovement IIMovement IIIMovements IV and V.

Beethoven: Symphony 7, 2nd movement, Allegretto, played by the Cleveland Orchestra directed by George Szell

Beethoven: 'Fur Elise' bagatelle, played by Valentina Lisitsa

Beethoven: Piano Sonata 14 'Moonlight', played by Rudolf Serkin: Movement IMovement IIMovement III.

Beethoven: Piano Sonatya 8 'Pathetique', played by Rudolf Serkin:  Movement I; Movement IIMovement III.

Beethoven: Sonata 5 for Piano and Violin 'Spring', played by Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich

Beethoven: Violin Concerto, played by Isaac Stern and the New York Philharmonic directed by Leonard Bernstein

Beethoven: Piano Concerto 5 'Emperor', played by Arthur Rubinstein and the Boston Symphony directed by Erich Leinsdorf

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868): Overture from William Tell, played by the New York Philharmonic directed by Leonard Bernstein

Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Symphony 8 (7) 'Unfinished', played by the Cleveland Orchestra directed by George Szell

Schubert: 'Trout' Quintet, played by Rudolf Serkin, Jaime Laredo, et al (And here's the famous theme and variations movement)

Schubert: Impromptu Opus 90, no. 3, played by Arthur Rubinstein

Schubert: 'Ave Maria', sung by Kathleen Battle, with Nancy Allen on harp

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847): Violin Concerto, played by Isaac Stern and the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy

Mendelssohn: Symphony 3 'Scottish', played by the New York Philharmonic directed by Leonard Bernstein

Mendelssohn: Symphony 4 'Italian'played by the Cleveland Orchestra directed by George Szell:  Movement IMovement IIMovement IIIMovement IV.

Mendelssohn: Symphony 5 'Reformation', played by the New York Philharmonic directed by Leonard Bernstein

Mendelssohn: Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream played by the Cleveland Orchestra directed by George Szell

Classical music VI: The Classical Period
Classical music history VII b: The middle Romantic...


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