Nationalism and Exoticism
Composers used music as a tool for highlighting national
identity. * Instrumental composers such as Bedrich Smetana
made reference to folk music and national images (as in
The Moldau), while operatic composers such as Giuseppe
Verdi set stories with strong patriotic undercurrents.
Composers took an interest in the music of various ethnic
groups and incorporated it into their own music. Composers
also wrote works based on stories of exotic lands and
Increased Interest in Nature and the Supernatural
Romantic artists saw nature in a less idealized way than
the artists of the Classical period had. * The natural
world was considered less a model of perfection and more
a source of mysterious powers. * Romantic composers gravitated
toward supernatural texts and stories. Schubert's Erlking
and Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique are two good examples.
The Rise of Program Music
Music began to be used to tell stories, or to imply meaning
beyond the purely musical. * Composers found ways to make
their musical ideas represent people, things, and dramatic
situations as well as emotional states and even philosophical
Changing Status of Musicians
A composer was no longer dependent for income on the steady
employment by nobility but relied instead on the support
of the public and the patronage of individuals. Music
was seen less as an occupation and more as a calling.
Specialized training institutions (conservatories) replaced
the apprentice system of the church and the court. Women
found more opportunities for musical expression, especially
as performers, but social and cultural barriers still
limited their participation as composers.
The nineteenth century saw the development of many different
musical styles, so it is difficult to describe the Romantic
style. But as in all the periods you are studying, certain
elements stand out: Dynamic range is wider, and there
is a larger range of sound. There is a greater variety
of instruments, including improved or newly-invented wind
instruments. Melodies are longer, more dramatic and emotional.
Tempos are more extreme, and tempo rubato is often called
for. Harmonies are fuller, often more dissonant. Formal
structures are expanded. These are often determined by
the programmatic content of the piece.