Hector Berlioz
Louis Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande Messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his “Treatise on Instrumentation”. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a conductor, he performed several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. He also composed around 50 songs for voice and piano.
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies (including the famous “Unfinished Symphony”), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. He is particularly noted for his original melodic and harmonic writing.
Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. Mendelssohn’s work includes symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano and chamber music. He also had an important role in the revival of interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt was a world famous Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist and teacher.
Liszt became renowned throughout Europe for his great skill as a performer during the 19th century. He is said to have been the most technically advanced and perhaps greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the “Neudeutsche Schule” (“New German School”).
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is one of the most famous Romantic composers of the 19th century.
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms, a German composer and pianist, was one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he gave the first performance of many of his own works; he also worked with the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many works and left some unpublished.
Anton Bruckner
Anton Bruckner (4 September 1824 – 11 October 1896) was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets. His symphonies are often considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism because of their rich harmonic language, complex polyphony, and considerable length. Bruckner’s compositions helped to define contemporary musical radicalism, owing to their dissonances, unprepared modulations, and roving harmonies.
Frederic Chopin
Frederic Francois Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. Chopin’s compositions were written primarily for the piano as solo instrument. Though they are technically demanding, the emphasis in his style is on nuance and expressive depth. Chopin invented musical forms such as the instrumental ballade and was responsible for major innovations in the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, etude, impromptu and prelude.
John Field
Field is best remembered for his eighteen nocturnes which are single movement impromptu compositions for piano that maintain a single mood throughout. He is also the founder of the piano nocturne. The first three of these date from 1812. These pieces are further notable for their influence on Frederic Chopin, who went on to write 21 nocturnes himself.
Antonin Dvorak
Antonin Leopold Dvořak was a Czech composer of Romantic music, who employed the idioms and melodies of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. His works include operas, symphonic, choral and chamber music. His best-known works include his New World Symphony, the Slavonic Dances, “American” String Quartet, and Cello Concerto in B minor.
Peter Tchaikowsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. He wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the current classical repertoire, including the ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, seven symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin.
Gioacchino Rossini
Gioachino Antonio Rossini was a popular Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music and chamber music. His best known works include Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), La Cenerentola, La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) and Guillaume Tell (William Tell). A tendency for inspired, songlike melodies is evident throughout his scores, which led to the nickname “The Italian Mozart”. Until his retirement in 1829, Rossini had been the most popular opera composer in history.
Gaetano Donizetti
Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti was an Italian composer from Bergamo, Lombardy. Donizetti’s most famous work is Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), and arguably his most immediately recognizable piece of music is the aria “Una furtiva lagrima” from L’elisir d’amore (1832). Along with Vincenzo Bellini and Gioacchino Rossini, he was a leading composer of bel canto opera.
Vincenzo Bellini
Vincenzo Bellini was an Italian opera composer. His most famous works are La Sonnambula and Norma (both 1831). Known for his flowing melodic lines for which he was named “the Swan of Catania”, Bellini was the quintessential composer of Bel canto opera.
Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. His works are frequently performed in opera houses throughout the world and, transcending the boundaries of the genre, some of his themes have long since taken root in popular culture – such as “La donna e mobile” from Rigoletto, “Va, pensiero” (The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) from Nabucco, and “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” (The Drinking Song) from La traviata. Although his work was sometimes criticized for using a generally diatonic rather than a chromatic musical idiom and having a tendency toward melodrama, Verdi’s masterworks dominate the standard repertoire a century and a half after their composition.
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school. Weber’s works, especially his operas Der Freischutz, Euryanthe and Oberon greatly influenced the development of the Romantic opera in Germany. He was also an innovative composer of instrumental music.
Heinrich Marschner
Marschner was widely regarded as one of the most important composers in Europe from about 1830 until the end of the 19th century. He was a rival of Weber and friend of Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Even today, he is generally acknowledged as the leading composer of German opera between Weber’s death and Wagner, producing many fairy or magic operas with thematic material based on folksong, a genre that had been introduced with Weber’s Der Freischutz (1821).
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or “music dramas”, as they were later called). He transformed musical thought through his idea of Gesamtkunstwerk (“total artwork”), the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, epitomized by his monumental four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876). To try to stage these works as he imagined them, Wagner built his own opera house, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German-born opera composer, and the first great exponent of Grand Opera. At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer and producer of opera in Europe, yet is virtually unknown today.
Charles Gounod
Charles-Francois Gounod was a French composer, best known for his Ave Maria as well as his operas Faust and Romeo et Juliette.
Cesar Franck
Cesar Franck exerted a significant influence on music. He helped to renew and reinvigorate chamber music and developed the use of cyclic form. Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel remembered and employed the cyclic form, although their concepts of music were no longer the same as Franck’s. Franck was said to be “a man of utmost humility, simplicity, reverence and industry.”
Georges Bizet
Georges Bizet was a French composer and pianist of the Romantic era. He is best known for the opera Carmen.
Idee fixe
The related idea of the idee fixe was coined by Hector Berlioz in reference to his Symphonie fantastique. This purely instrumental, programmatic work (subtitled ‘Episode in the Life of an Artist’) features a recurring melody representing the object of the artist’s obsessive affection and depicting her presence in various real and imagined situations.
The Requiem Mass is notable for the large number of musical compositions that it has inspired, including the requiems of Mozart, Verdi and Faure. Originally, such compositions were meant to be performed in liturgical service, with monophonic chant. Eventually the dramatic character of the text began to appeal to composers to an extent that they made the requiem a genre of its own, and the requiems of composers such as Verdi are essentially concert pieces rather than liturgical works.
Thematic transformation
Thematic transformation (also known as thematic metamorphosis) is a technique of music composition invented by Franz Liszt. The technique is essentially one of variation. A basic theme is reprised throughout a musical work, but it undergoes constant transformations and disguises and is made to appear in several contrasting roles. The theme may appear in augmentation or diminution, in a different rhythm or even with different harmonies. However, the transformations of this theme will always serve the purpose of “unity within variety” that was the architectural role of sonata form in the classical symphony. The difference here is that thematic transformation can accommodate the dramatically charged phrases, highly colored melodies and atmospheric harmonies favored by the Romantic composers, whereas sonata form was geared more toward the more objective characteristics of absolute music.
Cyclic form
Cyclic form is a technique of musical construction, involving multiple sections or movements, in which a theme, melody, or thematic material occurs in more than one movement as a unifying device. Sometimes a theme may occur at the beginning and end (for example, in the Brahms Symphony No. 3); other times a theme occurs in a different guise in every part (Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique).
A cantata (literally ‘sung’, derived from the Italian word ‘cantare’) is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment and often containing more than one movement.
An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. The oratorio was somewhat modeled after the opera. Their similarities include the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is musical theatre, while oratorio is strictly a concert piece—though oratorios are sometimes staged as operas, and operas are sometimes presented in concert form. In an oratorio there is generally little or no interaction between the characters, and no props or elaborate costumes. A particularly important difference is in the typical subject matter of the text. Opera tends to deal with history and mythology, including age-old devices of romance, deception, and murder, whereas the plot of an oratorio often deals with sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church. Protestant composers took their stories from the Bible, while Catholic composers looked to the lives of saints.
Tone poem (symphonic poem)
A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music in a single continuous section (a movement) in which the content of a poem, a story or novel, a painting, a landscape or another (non-musical) source is illustrated or evoked. The term was first applied by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt to his 13 works in this vein. A symphonic poem is different from a concert overture in that it aims at an enlarged musical and emotional range and scope. As musicologist Hugh Macdonald wrote of Liszt’s works in this genre, the intent was “to display the traditional logic of symphonic thought; that is, to display a comparable complexity in the interplay of musical themes and tonal ‘landscape’ to those of the Romantic symphony. In its aesthetic objectives, the symphonic poem is in some ways related to opera; whilst it does not use a sung text, it seeks like opera a union of music and drama.”
Lied is a German word, meaning literally “song”; among English speakers, however, the word is used primarily as a term for European romantic music songs, also known as art songs. More accurately, the term perhaps is best used to describe specifically songs composed to a German poem of reasonably high literary aspirations, most notably during the nineteenth century, beginning with Carl Loewe and Franz Schubert and culminating with Hugo Wolf. The poetry forming the basis for Lieder often centers upon pastoral themes, or themes of romantic love. Typically, Lieder are arranged for a single singer and piano.
Song cycle
A song cycle is a group of songs designed to be performed in a sequence as a single entity. As a rule, all of the songs are by the same composer and often use words from the same poet or lyricist. Unification can be achieved by a narrative or a persona common to the songs, or even, as in Schumann’s second Liederkreis, by the atmospheric setting of the forest. The unity of the cycle is often underlined by musical means, famously in the return in the last song of the opening music in An die ferne Geliebte.
Grand opera
Grand Opera is a genre of 19th-century opera generally in four or five acts, characterised by large-scale casts and orchestras, and (in their original productions) lavish and spectacular design and stage-effects, normally with plots based on or around dramatic historic events. The term is particularly applied to certain productions of the Paris Opera from the late 1820s to around 1850, and has sometimes been used to designate the Paris Opera itself, but is also used in a broader application in respect of contemporary or later works of similar monumental proportions from France, Germany, Italy and other European countries.
Opera comique
Opera comique is a French genre of opera that contains spoken dialogue, and sometimes recitatives, in addition to arias. It emerged out of the popular opera comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent (and to a lesser extent the Comedie-Italienne), which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections. Associated with the same name Paris theatre, Opera-Comique, opera comique is, despite its name, not necessarily comic or light in nature—indeed, Carmen, likely the most famous opera comique, is a tragedy.
Opera lyrique
Originally located among other theatres at Boulevard du Temple (early named as Opera-National at Theatre-Historique, then Theatre Lyrique), in 1862 (during Second French Empire) it was moved to the Place du Chatelet on the bank of Seine and renamed as Theatre-Lyrique Imperial. Since its successful inauguration in 1851, it lasted for full 19 consecutive seasons (till 1870), subsequently being burnt down during recapturing of Paris at end of the Paris Commune in May 1871. Although after destruction it has been eventually rebuilt (in 1874), the building closely resembling original, its repertoire no longer includes operas.
Music drama
In Wagner’s extensive book “Opera and Drama” (completed in 1851) he described in detail his idea of the union of opera and drama (later called music drama despite Wagner’s disapproval of the term), in which the individual arts are subordinated to a common purpose.
Musical themes associated with particular characters, locales or plot elements.
Wagner used the term “gesamtkunstwerk” to refer to a performance that combines all the arts, including the performing arts (for example music, theater, and dance), literature (including poetry), and the visual arts (for example painting, sculpture, and architecture). The gesamtkunstwerk was to be the clearest and most profound expression of a folk tale, though abstracted from its nationalist particulars to a universal humanist fable.
A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative and set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later North America, Australia and North Africa. Many ballads were written and sold as single sheet broadsides. The form was often used by poets and composers from the 18th century onwards to produce lyrical ballads.