The period from about 1820 to 1900 is known as the“Romantic Period.” Much of the music of this period does indeed have a certain obsession with “love”or “romance,” or at least the pursuit of it. Strong outpouring of emotions and the feeling of striving or longing for the unattainable are “romantic”traits. It is during the Romantic period that composers are no longer thought of as craftsman, but rather as artists, individuals possessing talents that other “mere mortals” do not. It’s also the great age of “program music,” pieces of music that tell a story or depict non-musical events or scenes.
Hector Berlioz, despite being one of the greatest orchestrators of all time (in fact, he wrote the first great treatise on orchestration), he could barely play the piano, even well into his career. In his memoirs, Berlioz gives countless examples of the way in which listeners in the Romantic era might be affected by music, yet none can compare to his own experience.
Chopin made his living giving lessons to wealthy clients, played only occasionally at private musical evenings (“musicales”),and composed almost exclusively for the piano. He embodies the introspective side of “romanticism,” concentrating on piano miniatures that capture fleeting, poignant emotions.
While Brahms was highly regarded as a master composer by the end of his life, his younger years were spent earning money as a bar pianist. Brahms demonstrates another side of Romanticism, a new found reverence for the past; it is during this time that the study of music history as we know it today takes root.