Discuss in detail the characteristics of Romantic music, and tell how it differed from previous musical styles

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aaronwalter eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Love talking about music.

In brief,

The Romantic period of music is roughly early 19th Century (when Beethoven wrote "Erotic Symphony" in 1803 to late 19th century with the rise of a nationalist styles e.g. Tchaikovsky) to 1900.

The characteristics of this period were an increased focus on themes and melodies; melodies finding expression in the use of the cyclic form (multiple sections or movements) as a unifying device e.g. Brahms Symphony No. 3.

The period of Romantic music differed from previous musical styles, in particular, the classical era in several ways.

1. Pieces become longer during this period.

2. The use of symphony orchestras increased.

3. The range and power of the piano helped achieve for composers harmonic fluidity and expression, including influence from literary inspirations.

4. A melding of art and music symbolized this period, where inspirations attempted to increase emotional expression, while continuing the formal structures of the classical period.

5. Possibly most important difference is influence and impact of nationalism.

During the classical period composers wrote for patrons. During the Romanic period, composers incorporated native elements: dances, folk songs, histories. Moreover, musical language was diversified in rhythm, melody, and respective national characteristics.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most pressing characteristics of Romantic music was the presence of emotion and intensity on the part of the composer.  Unlike prior movements, Romanticism demanded that the composer be personally involved with the music and inject their own passions and zeal into the composition and production of a piece.  Literally, it was believed that the Romantic musical composition must be an extension of the composer.  When one listens to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, there is an undeniable presence that the composer himself is in the piece, and this radiates from each note.  Another characteristic of Romantic music is the idea that it could seek to address social concerns and political realities, which is seen again in Beethoven's Ninth.  When concluding with Schiller's "Ode to Joy," Beethoven seeks to create a music which transcends music and actually serves to make a statement on who we are as people and the things in which we believe as individuals and communities.  This is a highly Romanticist tendency, a movement that believed that art can bring people together from isolating circumstances.