Characteristics of the Romantic Music Period Essay

2477 Words Jan 18th, 2012 10 Pages
It is arguable that some Romantic music made greater demands upon its listeners than did music of previous historical periods. What were those demands? Why did these changes come about? And what strategies can you formulate for listening to this music today?

In consideration of the musical changes present in the Romantic era, this essay will contend that these changes are very much related to the wider social and technological changes in society around that time. Thus, it is important to identify the broad time period encompassed by this era. The definition of Romanticism in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is:

“A movement or, more commonly, period of cultural history. When understood as a period,
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The improved piano was critical to his displays of technical prowess. Without it he would not have been able to play pieces as demanding on the instrument. The “hitherto unimagined difficulty” [x] of his Vingt-quatres grandes études pour le piano[xi], was considered too much by the composer, he revised the Études and later published his Études d'exécution transcendante[xii], – the latter still ferociously difficult but surpassed in that respect by the former. Given that a key feature of Liszt’s playing style and compositions was technical skill, one could argue Liszt could not have been the performer, or composer, he was, in the preceding century.

Nicolò Paganini was another virtuoso of the highest calibre – a violinist[xiii]. He, too, gave fantastic performances to rapturous crowds in numerous countries. William Ayrton, editor of The Harmonicon, remarked that:

“[H]is powers of execution are little less than marvelous, and such as we could only have believed on the evidence of our own senses; they imply a strong natural propensity for music, with an industry, a perseverance, a devotedness and also a skill in inventing means, without any parallel in the history of his instrument.” [xiv]

Paganini, similar to Liszt, composed works for his instrument, which were considered some of the hardest in its repertoire[xv] - pushing the boundaries of the Romantic violin to previously unseen
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