CHAPTER 11: THE ROMANTIC ERA
Dr. N. Boumpani
INTRODUCTION TO THE ROMANTIC ERA
As we learned in chapter one, Beethoven singlehandedly changed the direction of music. He lived during a time where the educated class considered logic and reason the keys to truth, even when creating music. The music of the Classical Era was defined by balance, form, and simplicity Romanticism was a period in the arts and literature that emphasized passion and intuition over reason and logic. The Romantic Period (about 1820-1910) was a time of rebellion against structure, traditional expectations, and rationalism. Just as Beethoven had rebelled against the conventions of his day, others in art and literature were rebelling against it as well.
The composers of the Romantic Era will be much different from Mozart and Haydn, and even Beethoven in more than a few ways. The three above-named composers wrote in every genre. They wrote vocal music, piano music, symphonies, string quartets, operas, masses, concerti, etc. During the Romantic Era composers tended to specialize in one or two main areas. Romantic composers were also very individualistic in their music. It is true that they rebelled against the restraints of the Classical Era, but they did not entirely abandon all of the elements of classical. Symphonies, concerti, sonatas, operas, string quartets, etc., continued to be written. Some of the forms of the previous age will be employed by the Romantic composers. By and larger, however, reason and logic were abandoned in favor of passion.
The Romantic era began with Beethoven and also included great composers like Chopin, Wagner, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Verdi, Mahler, Strauss, Liszt, Berlioz, Mussorgsky, and Tchaikovsky, among others. We know many exceptional composers from this period because much of what was produced survives and is commonly performed today.
RELEVANT HISTORICAL EVENTS
After the Renaissance and Reformation, Western Europe began to experience social, political and economic revolution. The Catholic Church that had dominated previous centuries no longer ruled society, as its influence had diminished from the sixteenth century onward. Protestants believed more in performing good works as signs of mortality, which created a Protestant work ethic and emphasis on humanism. For the first time, people focused on the moral worth or value of individuals during their earthly lives. People began to think about having “good” character and enjoying a high quality of life. This change contrasted the “afterlife” emphasis of previous centuries.
People worked to learn and develop themselves, and medical and scientific innovation blossomed. An unprecedented sudden population boom occurred in Europe that doubled the population to four hundred million. This population boom was mostly the result of increased knowledge of anatomy, disease prevention, and basic health care.
In America, the early 1800s were years of expansion and migration west. In 1803, the United States purchased a piece of land from France known as the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States. Lewis and Clark traveled west in 1804 to discover and document the countryside all the way to the Pacific Ocean, through what we now know as Idaho and Washington. The California Gold Rush began in 1848. The first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, making it possible for people to travel America freely to pursue their ambitions and take command of their own destinies. The first national park, Yellowstone, was established in 1872; in 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner declared that there was no longer an “American Frontier.”
Significant inventions and developments took place during the nineteenth century that modernized Western civilization. The Second Industrial Revolution began in 1871, while twenty-six million people in India and thirteen million people in China died from famine. There was a significant disparity between the West and the rest of the world. During these years, wealth and prosperity in the United States expanded to create the “Gilded Age” (circa 1870-96). Westerners “discovered” and explored large land masses worldwide and developed many new modes of transportation. Automobiles with steam and electric engines were created during this century, leading to early gas-powered cars at the end of the 1800s.
The world political climate in the early 1800s affected the arts and human expression significantly. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), the French philosopher, taught theories of social reform and opposed political tyranny. The American Revolutionary War (1775-83) shifted the focus from a ruling monarchy to empowered civilians. The French Revolution (1789-99) began a period of political upheaval throughout much of Europe that lasted for many years. Features of this revolution included the pursuit of empowerment of the common individual, struggles over territory and power, and the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte; Napoleon worked his way up French military ranks to eventually crown himself as Emperor of the French in 1804. In many countries, the idea that common people had a “voice” and could challenge governments took hold, resulting in turbulence between tradition, idealism, and revolution. Political developments in America and France introduced new governmental ideas based on constitutions and democracy.
While the masses were empowered by political changes, industrial development began to change the way people interacted, where they lived, and how they worked. The Industrial Revolution, which began in Great Britain, swept through cities and towns, bringing manufacturing industries with smokestacks and large machinery. Industrialized society included a focus on the individual rather than the group, as well as the espousing of intellectually-determined “rights” by people or groups rather than dominance by divinely- appointed authorities. A large percentage of agricultural workers moved from farms into cities. Machines were used to increase productivity beyond what had been obtained through manual and animal-assisted work.
For the composer, the patronage system that supported Haydn was, for the most part, over. The Napoleonic Wars devastated Europe and many of the wealth families lost quite a bit of their wealth in these wars. The cost of hiring servants to work on the estates and perform in an orchestra, and the cost of hiring one’s own composer became too much for even the wealthiest families. Also, Beethoven demonstrated that a composer can create great music and make a living from it without being in the employ of a patron.
Artistic professions emerged in the nineteenth century out of necessity, because music and other arts were no longer solely supported by the patronage system. As composers created more challenging works, extremely skilled professional performers were needed. Artists began to depict scenes of loneliness, isolation, and discontent, as well as extreme emotions like fear and insanity later in the century. The chaos and terror of war was illustrated by visual artists like Francisco Goya of Spain (see figure 5.5). In war-related art, dismal grey colors portrayed the mood of battle, and brighter colors depicted characteristics such as lost innocence, death, and strife.
Artistic expression reflected the conditions of the times. In the latter half of the Romantic period, Carnegie Hall (1891) was built in New York. Modern transportation allowed musicians and audiences to travel, bringing magnificent performers to remote areas.
Literature developed, including Gothic novels, such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818); fiction, like the Grimm brothers’ Fairy Tales; and the poetry of Goethe, Keats, Whitman, Wordsworth, and Edgar Allan Poe. Automation of the printing press between 1812 and 1818, due to the new steampowered press of Friedrich Koenig, led to rapid printing on both sides of a page simultaneously (Bolza).
Printing technology continued to progress, as the rotary press of 1843 increased speed and efficiency. New presses produced printed pages ten times faster than hand presses, which advanced the creation of mass-produced newspapers and books. Widely available printed materials increased literacy throughout the century.
Composers in this time were heavily influenced by literature, and many included themes and stories in their works. Examples of this connection include Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet (1870), based on Shakespeare’s play, and “Der Erlkönig” (1813) by Franz Schubert, based on a poem by Goethe. “Der Erlkönig” is a frantic piece about a father rushing his ill child to help while speeding along on a horse, which ends in the child’s death by supernatural means. This piece exemplified the extreme emotions of terror, insanity, and hysteria popular in the Romantic Era.
MUSIC IN THE ROMANTIC ERA
Music during the Romantic period became wildly expressive and emotional. Composers experimented with new chords, unusual chord progressions, dissonance (notes that are close together and seem to create tension), and smaller motifs for thematic development. Music began to include creative and innovative harmonies. Symphonies and operas were still the mainstay of performance music, but smaller works that used to be confined to private performances also began taking the stage—such as sonatas, lieder (German songs), and other works. Instrumental program music (music that tells a story without words) mimicked opera by portraying scenes and stories through non-vocal music.
Composers of the Classical period produced music that often sounded similar, like Mozart and Haydn, but composers in the Romantic period distinguished themselves by developing unique personal styles, practices, and modes of expression. For the first time, rather than characterizing an era by a set of practices and trends, this period began to present composers as individuals. Common themes during this period included intense emotions, nationalism, extreme perceptions of nature, exoticism (focus on faraway places such as Asia), and the supernatural or macabre. Symphonie Fantastique (1830), by Berlioz, is an example of many common Romantic themes. The symphony lasts forty-five minutes and portrays the story of a young artist who envisions unrequited love, jubilant dancing at a ball, a pastoral nature scene, anger and murder, an execution, a burial, and a “Witches’ Sabbath.” We will examine this work later in the chapter.
Your listening objectives during this unit will be to:
Identify any Romantic period traits in the music.
Listen for instrumentation and timbres, including voices or instruments that are performing.
Observe small motifs in music and listen for their repetition, manipulation, change, and overall presentation throughout a piece, including the return of familiar musical sounds and/or melodies that could signal a repeated section in the larger form of the work.
Listen for dynamic and tempo changes, including sudden loud or soft passages, and sudden faster or slower sections.
Practice describing these observed concepts using the music terms instrumentation, timbre, texture, tempo, dynamics, and form.
CHARACTERISTICS OF ROMANTIC MUSIC
During the Romantic period, the piano continued to become a prominent instrument. The Romantic Age became known as the “Golden Age of the Piano” because of the great piano works created during this time. Other instruments became standardized, such as the saxophone (which was patented in 1846), the Boehm flute, and the Moritz tuba. Instruments were expected to produce sound in their extreme upper and lower ranges as needed. Specific instruments were used to communicate ideas to represent story characters or returning themes in program pieces like Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. The orchestras got larger to accommodate the composer’s ideas.
TIMBRE, OR TONE QUALITY
Romantic composers often explored varying timbres to create specific moods and emotions—such as the terror communicated by shrill, high-pitched, dissonant tones. Timbre at times seemed edgy, rough, or shrill. At other times, timbres were warm and very lush as in Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Romantic composers would use unique combinations of instruments that the Classical composers would have never used.
Homophonic texture was still the accepted texture in this era. Although composers would sometimes use polyphonic texture within their works, they did not write complete works in that texture.
The Romantic composers would strive to make their melodies expressive while still retaining the balance and phrase structures introduced in the Classical Era.
RANGE, LENGTH AND SIZE
The Romantic composers experimented in composing for instruments in their extreme ranges. Their reasons were based on expressiveness and not on simply doing something different. The size of the orchestras grew (as stated earlier). The length of works included works that were performed in less than a minute to works of extreme length. Wagner wrote and opera that takes four separate night to present and lasts over 15 hours.
As the composers of this era experimented with extremes of range and length, they explored the extremes of tempo fluctuation, often changing tempos throughout a piece to communicate emotion.
Dynamics were another tool exploited by Romantic period composers to create expression and emotional communication. Sudden dynamic extremes were commonly used.
In the Romantic period, forms became both larger and smaller than those of previous periods. The multi- movement symphony continued to develop, along with variations on existing ideas—such as the creation of an overture without any connection to an opera—and symphonic poems that expressed ideas without lyrics or an underlying story line. Forms were much more flexible during this period, with the expression or story sometimes more important than following a specific form.
THE ART SONG OF THE ROMANTIC ERA
The art song has its roots in medieval times; however, it found new life when the Art Song was created by Franz Schubert, who was among the greatest composers of these songs. Art songs were generally composed in groups called song cycles. Today when artists write a number of new songs, they combine them to be presented on an album or CD. Think of the song cycles in the same way, except the song cycles were often tied together based on similar ideas.
The art song was a form that featured a singer and a pianist. The piano was more than just an accompaniment to the song, it was an integral part of the song. In the art song, the piano and voice were equally as important. The art song often told a story, or was poetry put to music. Shubert composer over 600 such songs. We will examine one of the most famous art songs written by Franz Schubert, “Der Erlkӧnig.”
The Erlkӧnig was a legendary character who was the “king of the elves” and who had the job of luring children into the state of death. In Schubert’s musical setting of Der Erlkönig, a father is racing home in his horse drawn carriage with his deathly‐ill son. As he drives along, the son claims to see the legendary Erlkӧnig who is beckoning the child to go with him, meaning to die and not fight trying to stay alive. In the poem, the father tells the child the image is just in his imagination and to ignore it. The child continues to see the Erlkӧnig, who eventually gets tired of enticing the son and basically tells the child he will take him away by force. Each time the child calls out to his father, the pitches sung are a little higher to demonstrate the child’s growing fear. When the father finally arrives home, the child is dead.
This work is one of the great masterpieces of the art song genre in many ways. The piano accompaniment creates the feeling of a carriage that is racing at times, and then changes mood to accommodate the story, but never loses the initial drive. Also, the solo singer has to sing the parts of four different individuals in the song: the narrator, the father, the son, and the Erlkӧnig. Schubert was able to masterfully write this piece to almost convince the listener that more than one person is singing. Before you listen, please read the translation in the listening guide to get a better understanding of the music.
EXAMPLE: “Der Erlkӧnig,” F. Schubert
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
FOCUS: How the music helps to tell the story of the Erlkӧnig
Meter: Quadruple Tempo: Allegro
|0:00||Piano introduction – sets the mood: a horse-drawn carriage racing with a father and son racing to get the sick child home.|
|Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?||Who rides so late through night and wind?|
|Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind||It is a father with his child.|
|Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm||He had the child safe in his arm.|
|Er fasst ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm||He holds him tightly to keep him warm.|
|Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?||My son, why hide your face in fear?|
|Siehst Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?||Don’t you see, father, the Erlkonig!|
|Den Erlenkönig mit Kron' und Schweif?||The Erlkonig with his crown and tail?|
|Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif||My son, it is just a little fog|
|"Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!||“You sweet child, come with me!|
|Gar schöne Spiele spiel' ich mit dir||I’ll play beautiful games with you|
|Manch bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand||There are many beautiful flowers on the shore|
|Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand."||My mother has many golden clothes.”|
|Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht||My father, my father, don’t you hear|
|Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht?||what the Erlkonig promises me softly?|
|Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind;||Stay quiet and calm, my son,|
|In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind||The wind is blowing through the leaves.|
|"Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehn?||“Won’t you go with me, fine lad?|
|Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;||My daughters will wait on you|
|Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn||My daughters will dance with you at night|
|Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein."(repeats)||And teach you to dance and sing.”|
|Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort||My father, my father, don’t you see|
|Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort?||the Erlkonig’s daughters?|
|Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh es genau||My son, I see clearly|
|Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau||The willows shine so gray.|
|"Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;||I love you; I find you pleasing|
|Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch' ich Gewalt."||And if you are not willing, I’ll force you!|
|Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt fasst er mich an!||My father, my father, he’s grabbing me!|
|Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!||The Erlkonig is hurting me!|
|Dem Vater grauset's, er reitet geschwind||The father, filled with horror, rides quickly|
|Er hält in den Armen das ächzende Kind||He holds the groaning child in his arms|
|Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not||He gets home, with great difficulty|
|In seinen Armen das Kind war tot||In his arms, the child is dead.|
Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) was an Austrian composer born to Franz Theodor Schubert, a schoolmaster. Schubert’s mother, Elisabeth Vietz, was a domestic servant before she married, then a homemaker. Franz demonstrated musical ability at a very young age, playing piano, violin and organ. In 1808 he attended Stadtkonvikt college, where he earned a place in the chapel choir of the Imperial Court. The organist, Antonio Salieri, was impressed with Schubert’s musical genius. In 1812, when his voice broke (he hit puberty) he had to leave the college; however, he continued to study with Salieri.
In 1814, under pressure from his parents, Schubert enrolled in teacher’s college and took a job at his father’s school. Although he worked at his father’s school, he continued to compose. It was during this time that Schubert invented the “Lied,” which is the art song, and wrote “Der Erlkönig.” In 1818 Schubert left teaching to compose full time. Schubert would go on to write symphonies and other large orchestral works, works for piano, string trios, quartets, quintets and other chamber works, and sacred and secular vocal works. Schubert is best known for the art song, and, in his short life, wrote over 600 such works.
Schubert often had financial difficulties and struggled with heath issues, yet, in spite of these problems, he continued to compose. His first, and last, public concert was on March 26, 1828. The concert was so successful that it allowed the composer to finally buy his own piano. Unfortunately, later that year, on November 19, Schubert died.
OPERA IN THE ROMANTIC ERA
Opera, in the 18th and 19th centuries, could be compared to movies in today’s world. People went to operas to see a story set to music. Remember that, at this time, being educated meant having a musical education which helped people appreciate the operatic works of the day. The operas were usually written in the language of the composer, so audiences had little trouble understanding the story line. Today, most operas are performed in the language in which they were written, which makes it more difficult for many people to enjoy. Translating the operas into English is not usually an option because the opera loses a lot in the translation. Sometimes opera houses will use projector screens that translate the words, but this also distracts the viewer from what is happening on stage. Still, if one has a good idea of what the opera is about, and knows the story line, one can have an enjoyable time even without understanding the language. This section of the chapter will give the students a peek into the world of opera.
The two main Italian composers of the Romantic Era who wrote some of the most memorable operas in history were Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. We will examine Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.
Rigoletto takes place in a Mantua, Italy, where the Duke of Mantua is known as a “ladies' man” who employs a hunchbacked man named Rigoletto as court jester. Rigoletto amuses the Duke by humiliating people. At one point, the Duke takes notice of the beautiful young lady Gilda, who is secretly Rigoletto’s daughter. It seems that Gilda already had her eyes on the Duke. When another father complains to the Duke about the man’s daughter, Rigoletto humiliates the man, who then puts a curse on Rigoletto and the Duke. It must be mentioned that the Italian people on the 19th century were extremely superstitious and took things like “curses” very seriously.
People find out that Rigoletto is living with Gilda, and believe she is his mistress. The secretly kidnap Gilda and bring her to the Duke, who easily seduces her. The next day Rigoletto vows revenge on the Duke, and hires a man to trap and kill the Duke. The hitman used his beautiful sister to lure the Duke away, but she falls in love with the Duke and pleads with her brother not to kill the Duke. The brother agrees and states that that the next person to walk through the door will die in place of the Duke. Gilda, finds out and, not wanting the Duke to die, sacrifices herself. When the hitman delivers a body rolled up in a rug to a happy Rigoletto, he opens it and finds his dying daughter. They sing a duet and then she dies. At that point Rigoletto acknowledges that the curse has come to fruition.
The piece we will examine from Rigoletto will be an aria sung by the Duke and entitled “la donna e mobile,” which translates to “the woman is fickle.” Please note the simple song form here, which is much like any popular tune. There are “verses” where the music is the same but the words change, and there is the “chorus” where the words and music stay the same.
EXAMPLE: “La donna e mobile” G. Verdi
RIGOLETTO Scene II: “LA DONNA E MOBILE”
G. Verdi (1830‐1901)
FOCUS: Operatic style singing, song form
|La donna è mobile||Woman is fickle|
|Qual piuma al vento||Like a feather in the wind,|
|Muta d'accento — e di pensier.||She changes her voice — and her mind.|
|0:25||Sempre un amabile,||Always sweet,|
|Leggiadro viso,||Pretty face,|
|In pianto o in riso, — è menzognero.||In tears or in laughter, — she is always lying.|
|La donna è mobile||Woman is fickle|
|Qual piuma al vento||Like a feather in the wind,|
|Muta d'accento — e di pensier,||She changes her voice — and her mind,|
|E di pensier, E di pensier!||And her mind, And her mind!|
|È sempre misero||Always miserable|
|Chi a lei s'affida,||Is he who trusts her,|
|Chi le confida — mal cauto il cuore!||He who confides in her — his unwary heart!|
|Pur mai non sentesi||Yet one never feels|
|Felice appieno||Fully happy|
|Chi su quel seno — non liba amore!||Who on that bosom — does not drink love!|
|La donna è mobile||Woman is fickle|
|Qual piuma al vento||Like a feather in the wind,|
|Muta d'accento — e di pensier,||She changes her voice — and her mind,|
|E di pensier, E di pensier!||And her mind, And her mind!|
Giuseppe Verdi (1830-1901) began being interested in music at a very young age. By the age of 33 he was conducting, composing and playing organ to make a living. Verdi suffered greatly with the loss of his two young children in 1838 and 1839, followed by the death of his wife in in 1840 when she was only 26. Despite these tragedies, Verdi continued to compose and went on to write great operas. Among these Operas are:
La Forza Del Destino - (1862) a story of love and revenge.
Aida – (1871) a story of love and betrayal set in ancient Egypt.
Don Carlos - (1866) a story of three generations of Spanish royalty.
Falstaff - (1893) a comedic opera setting of Shakespear’s Merry Wives of Windsor.
Il Trovatore - (1853) a story of jealousy, revenge and love set in wartime.
La Traviata -(1853) a story of love between two people that is not allowed to be. This is one of Verdi’s best operas.
Otello - (1887) Verdi’s adaptation of Shakespear’s Orthello. Written after he retired, it turned out to be a huge success.
Rigoletto - (1851) a tragic story of revenge, sacrifice and jealousy. This is one of Verdi’s most popular operas
The story takes place in China during the 12th century. This is an example of exoticism in Romantic music. When composers wrote music about places far away, it was classified as exoticism. When composers wrote music about their own countries, it was considered nationalism.
In a faraway Asian Kingdom, the King wishes for his daughter, Princess Turandot, to marry to continue his family’s rule. In order to wed the princess, a suitor must answer three riddles; however, if the person fails, he is put to death. The opera opens with the latest suitor failing and being put to death. As the crowd follows the condemned man to his execution, an old man trips and is in danger of being trampled. The old man’s servant girl, Lui, cries for help for her elderly master and a young man steps out of the crowd to save the old man. This young man is actually the old man’s son. The old man had actually been a ruler in another part of China until he was deposed. The young man (his son), Prince Calaf, asks both his father and Lui not speak his name, since there were still people hunting him and trying to keep him from regaining his kingdom. Upon seeing the beautiful Princess Turandot, Prince Calaf decides he wants to marry Princess Turandot, and rings the ceremonial gong to accept the challenge. Three of Turandot’s servants, Ping, Pong, and Pang, try to convince Calaf not to take the challenge, but to no avail. Lui, tries to stop him by professing her love for the him, but Prince Calaf is unmoved; he has seen the Princess and has decided he will have her, or die trying.
The second act begins with the challenge of the unknown Prince Calaf. The king tries to talk Calaf out of the tests, but the prince will not back down. Princess Turandot has sworn never to allow a man to possess her because of the horrible treatment one prince inflicted on one of her ancestors. Turandot presents Calaf with three riddles. The first riddle is “What is born each evening and dies each dawn?” to which Calaf correctly answers “Hope!” (No, I don’t get it either) The second riddle is “What flickers warm and red like a flame, yet is not fire.” Again, the prince answers correctly “Blood!” The Princess starts to get nervous and asks the third question, “What is like ice, yet burns?” The prince thinks a while, and then correctly answers “Turandot!” The princess is stunned by this and asks her father to not allow the wedding, but the father refuses. Prince Calaf then gives the princess a chance to win her freedom by giving her until morning to discover his name. If she discovers his name, he will release her and she can put him to death. The princess, in an effort to avoid marrying the prince announces a proclamation: No one is to sleep until the name of the prince is discovered, and, if morning comes and she does not have the name, the entire city would be put to death. At this point Calaf sings “Nessun Dorma” (which means “no one sleeps”).
Crowds descend on Calaf, his father, and the servant girl Lui, but Calaf tells the crowd that only he knows his name. To save Calaf from the crown, Lui cries out that only she knows his name. The crowd grabs her and takes her to the princess. Turandot tortures Lui, but she will not give up Calaf’s name. When Calaf asks Lui how she could withstand the torture, Lui tells him that she does it out of her love for him. When Turandot orders more torture for Lui, Lui grabs a sword and kills herself. The crowd takes Lui’s body to be buried, leaving only Turandot and Calaf. Calaf turns to her and calls her the “Princess of Death” and forcefully kisses her. The princess weeps since this is the first time she has been kissed, so Calaf tells her his name. In the morning the crowd comes to see Calaf and the Princess on the thrones. The princess announces that she knows the princes name, and it is “Love.”
We will listen to “Nessun Dorma” from this opera. The title translates to “No One Sleeps.” This recording is by one of the greatest opera tenors of all time, Luciano Pavarotti, and was performed in concert. In the actual opera, the piece does not end, but continues right into the next piece. Notice how his voice soars on the last line “At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!” This is the Romantic Era’s opera fulfilling the ideals of romanticism, which in this case is pure emotion.
EXAMPLE: “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot, G. Puccini
TURRANDOT, ACT III, SCENE I “NESSUN DORMA”
Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924)
FOCUS: Vocal expressiveness and orchestral support.
|Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!||Nobody shall sleep!... Nobody shall sleep!...|
|0:19||Tu pure, o, Principessa,||Even you, oh Princess,|
|nella tua fredda stanza,||in your cold room,|
|0:28||guardi le stelle||watch the stars,|
|che tremano d'amore||that tremble with love|
|e di speranza.||and with hope.|
|0:48||Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,||But my secret is hidden within me,|
|il nome mio nessun saprà!||my name no one shall know...|
|No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò||No!...No!... On your mouth,|
|quando la luce splenderà!||I will tell it when the light shines.|
|1:32||Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio||And my kiss will dissolve the silence|
|che ti fa mia!||that makes you mine!...|
|(Il nome suo nessun saprà!...||(No one will know his name|
|e noi dovrem, ahime, morir!)||and we must, alas, die.)|
|Dilegua, o notte!||Vanish, o night!|
|Tramontate, stelle!||Set, stars!|
|Tramontate, stelle!||Set, stars!|
|All'alba vincerò!||At dawn, I will win!|
|vincerò, vincerò!||I will win! I will win!|
Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924) was another Italian opera composer who followed Verdi and was, in large part, inspired by the operas of Verdi. Puccini was born in Tuscany, Italy and was the last descendent of a family with a rich history in music. When he was 18, Puccini attended a performance of Verdi’s Aidi which inspired him to become an opera composer. Puccini’s first opera brought him recognition and the support of the music publisher Giulio Ricordi, who remained a business partner and fried to Puccini for the rest of his life. In the last section we saw how the career of Verdi began with the deaths of his wife and children. Puccini’s early career, in contrast, was one where things seemed to fall together easily for him.
After the death of Puccini’s mother, he left Luca and ran off with a married woman, Elvira Gemignani. This was extremely scandalous for the time; however, Puccini continued in his career. Puccini married Elvira after the death of her husband, but their life together was never easy. Puccini engaged in a number of affairs and Elvira made his life very difficult because of the affairs.
In 1908, Puccini moved to Torre Del Lago where Elvira became convinced that Puccini was having an affair with a young servant girl in their employ. Elvira fired the girl but the news of the alleged affair spread among the people. The servant girl, not being able to live with the innuendos and gossip, committed suicide by poisoning herself. Her parents had her body autopsied and the doctor declared that the girl was still a virgin. The girl's parents brought charges against Elvira, but Puccini settled with the family. From that point on, the couple lived in the same house, but Puccini had little to do with Elvira.
Puccini never stopped growing as a composer, and always tried to stay current with the newest trends in music. He left his last opera, Turandot, unfinished when he died from throat cancer. He died with the unfinished opera still in his hand. The opera was completed by Franco Alfano with help from the conductor, Arturo Toscanini. To honor the composer, when the opera was premiered by Toscanini in La Scala, Italy on April 25, 1926, the conductor stopped the performance at the point where Puccini stopped writing.
Richard Wagner (pronounced Rick-ard) (1813-1883), like Beethoven, created music that affected the future direction of music. His operas, which he called “music dramas,” were much different than the operas of the Italian style by Verdi and Puccini. The Italian operas of these two great composers are among the greatest ever written, but Wagner’s operas were different in many ways.
Wagner was a great composer who was also known for his anti-Semitic beliefs that many people find repugnant. Wagner wrote openly about his disdain for Jewish people and even modeled one of the main characters in his famous ring cycle on his image of the Jewish people. Well after he died, in the 20th century, he became Adolph Hitler’s favorite composer. It was even rumored that Hitler had Wagner’s music played over loudspeakers in the infamous Dachau concentration camp in order to “re-educate” the
prisoners. Hitler was known to say “A person cannot understand National Socialism without understanding Wagner.”
Wagner was born in 1813, but it is unclear who his father actually may have been. His father died before he was born and, within a year his mother remarried a man who many historians believe may have been Wagner’s biological father. Wagner was raised around the arts and theater. Although he did not show great musical aptitude as a child, by age 16 he was writing musical compositions. He was selftaught at this point.
Wagner attended Leipzig University in 1831 and, shortly thereafter, presented his first symphony. He became inspired after hearing Beethoven’s 9th symphony and in 1834, Wagner wrote his first opera. Wagner traveled throughout Europe, usually one step ahead of his creditors. Wagner liked to borrow money from people but usually avoided paying it back. When Wagner became embroiled in leftist politics around 1848, he had to flee to Switzerland. Historians have different opinions on the reasons Wagner became involved with this leftist movement to overthrow the monarchy. Some claim that he really did believe in the movement, as evidenced in some of his operas; however, there are those who believe that he sided with the revolutionaries simply because he believed that, in a new government, his debts would be wiped away.
Wagner was in Switzerland for 11 years. During this time, he began work on his famous “Ring Cycle,” a series of 4 operas that would make heavy use of leitmotivs. Leitmotivs were short musical themes placed in the operas and represented a person, a place, a thing, or even an idea. This compositional device would be adopted by early film composers, like Max Steiner, to create film scores that became an integral part of the movie. Also, during this time, Wagner wrote the anti-Semitic book Jewishness in Music, which was a harsh criticism of Jewish composers and musicians.
In 1682, King Ludwig II, who was a fan of Wagner, allowed Wagner to return to Germany and even supported Wagner financially. Wagner did not stay in Bavaria long after he was found to be having an affair with Cosima, the wife of the conductor Hans van Bülow. Cosima was also the illegitimate daughter of pianist and composer Franz List. Apparently, van Bülow was fine with the affair and even conducted one of Wagner’s works. Wagner and Cosima were married in 1870.
Wagner continued to work on his Ring Cycle and it was finally performed in its entirety in 1876. The entire work is presented over 4 nights and the total time for all 4 operas is 18 hours. The complete cycle is performed yearly at the Bayreuth opera house that Wagner had built especially for his “music dramas.” There have been times that, in order to buy seats for the opera, you have to plan 10 years in advance!
Wagner’s “music dramas” were quite different from the operas of Verdi and Puccini. First, Wagner wrote both the music and the libretti to his music dramas, something that few operatic composers ever did. He also wrote for orchestras that were quite a bit larger than those of his contemporaries. In many cases, the music was almost always non-stop because the orchestra was used not just to support the singers, but as an important part of the story. In these operas, Wagner used his leitmotivs masterfully. His “music dramas” were usually longer than the operas of other composers and, as mentioned above, one of his masterpieces, Der Ring das Nibelung, (Ring Cycle) consists of 4 operas that are presented over 4 consecutive nights. Wagner, like the opera composers of the Baroque, liked to use mythology for his subject matter.
One of the most famous pieces from the Ring Cycle is the “Ride of the Valkyries.” This work come from Die Walküre, the second opera in the Ring Cycle. This particular work has been used in movies, on television and even in commercials, including 5 times in 2019 alone. The most familiar use of this work was in the 1979 movie “Apocalypse Now.” According to IMDB.com (Internet Movie Data Base), this work has been used over 300 times in films or on television. IMDB also lists almost 1400 films or television shows that have used Wagner’s music.
The Valkyries were the daughters of the Norse god Odin and earthly mothers. The Valkyrie would take the souls of heroes who died in battle and deliver them to Odin. Odin then used them to build an army that he planned to use at the time of Ragnarök. Ragnarök was believed to be the final ending of the world, including the gods. In Wagner’s Ring, he used the name Wotan instead of Odin; however, both names represent the same mythological deity. Wagner’s music fits the description of the Valkyrie perfectly. They are powerful, determined female warriors who unquestioningly follow the directives of their father and god.
EXAMPLE: “Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walküre R. Wagner
DIE WALKÜRE, ACT III “RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES”
R. Wagner (1813-1883)
FOCUS: powerful compositional style
Key: B minor
|0:00||Upward string glissandos (slides) over tremolos in other strings and woodwinds|
|0:08||Bassoons and French Horns enter playing short series of notes as strings and woodwinds continue as before.|
|0:22||Trombones enter with the Valkyries’ melody A phrase|
|0:49||Trombones, French horns and trumpets trade 5‐note motives until phrase ends B phrase|
|0:58||B Phrase repeats but with a more triumphant ending|
|1:07||Valkyries’ A Phrase melody begins again|
|1:24||Music begins to “change direction”, followed by long downward string slide|
|1:32||Music again begins to “change direction”|
|1:40||Mysterious section – continues “whirlwind”|
|1:46||Crescendo begins until 1:50|
|1:51||Valkyries’ A phrase returns in major key and repeats but on higher pitches.|
|2:07||B phrase returns and repeat and crescendos until|
|2:25||Climactic consonant chord in brasses, timpani rolls|
|2:31||Chord changes to dissonant ‐ Wagner creates dissonance over 50 seconds until the theme returns|
|2:39||Music suddenly gets soft and crescendos then decrescendos down to a soft dynamic.|
|2:48||Pulsating sounds lead to another crescendo, then decrescendo|
|2:59||Slow steady crescendo that sounds like it is going to explode into a triumphal sound, but then quickly decrescendos.|
|3:14||Soft dynamic then quick crescendo ‐ building tension|
|3:18||Sounds as if the work has started again|
|3:20||A phrase enters softly in French Horns and is repeated ‐ woodwind tremolos|
|3:40||B phrase returns and is repeated, but ends with three short fanfares. Last fanfare crescendos|
A phrase returns, louder, adding tubas to the melody, woodwinds create the
|4:18||B phrase returns, louder, with tubas and repeats.|
Again, the music seems to “Change direction”
There is a slow, steady crescendo as the tension builds. The brass punctuates the sound and the strings again create the downward “slides”
Music reaches a triumphant chord, then begins to fade
Strings repeat 4‐note downward sequence,
Then a short tremolo before a longer, upward slide.
|5:29||The work comes to an end on a short chord|
ASSIGNMENT: If you this scene were in a movie, and you were directing the actors, how would the action change as the music changes? Take the first 2 minutes and 40 seconds of this piece and write a kind of “screenplay.” You can use your imagination, as long as it fits the music. If you want to make this a battle between ants and grasshoppers, or soap and dirt, it is fine. Create a “listening guide like the one above. When the music changes a little, consider the action changing as well.
INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC OF THE ROMANTIC ERA
THE PROGRAM SYMPHONY
Program music is music that tells a story without words. Sometimes is “paints a picture” or represents a place. The program symphony is one where the form is not dictated by formal structures such as the sonata-allegro form, or the minuet and trio. The form is based on the story line. The most famous of program symphonies is Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.
This Symphony is presented in five movements. The first movement, “Dreams and Passions,” presents a musical theme that is associated with the woman whom the Artist in the story loves. This woman is called his Beloved. This theme is called the idée fixe and will be used in all five movements of the symphony. As the symphony progresses, the theme will undergo what is called thematic transformation. We often hear thematic transformation in movie scores. In Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Ring, he introduces themes that change as the movie progresses change. This will be discussed later in the chapter on film music. In the second movement of the Symphonie Fantastique, titled “The Ball,” the Artist watches people dance at a great ball as he continues to watch his beloved from a distance. The third movement, “Scenes in the Field,” tries to create the feelings of the Artist as he thinks of his Beloved, but before he sees her with another man.
In the fourth movement the Artist tries to commit suicide by ingesting opium; however, instead of killing him, it gives him hellish dreams. In this movement, entitled “March to the Scaffold,” the Artist is to be executed by guillotine for the murder of his Beloved. The music follows the Artist as he is led from his cell, through the crowds and up the steps of the executioner’s platform. Berlioz even includes music to emulate the fall of the blade, the bouncing around of the severed head, and finally the roar of jubilation from the crowd. Right before the blade falls, however, we hear the clarinet play the idée fixe, in its purest form, as the Artist thinks of his beloved one last time.
The fifth and final movement, “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath,” the Artists envisions himself in hell with monsters and demons all around. His Beloved appears to him as a witch while the idée fixe takes on an unnerving transformation. As he watches his own funeral, the bells chime and before we hear the low threatening tones of the Dies Irae that announces the judgement of the Artist’s soul. In the end he is ushered into hell as his beloved gloats over his damnation.
This symphony is actually based on the love Berlioz had for a woman he only saw from a distance. He was instantly smitten by the actress and sent her many love letters. We will discuss this further in his biography. As you listen to movement 4 below, please follow with the listening guide.
EXAMPLE: March to the Scaffold from Symphonie Fantastique
SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE, MVT 4 “MARCH TO THE SCAFFOLD”
Hector Berlioz (1803‐1869)
FOCUS: how the music tells the story
Tempo: Allegro non troppo
|0:00||A. Drums and soft horns signal the oncoming doom. Gradually other instruments enter and crescendo||The man overdoses on opium|
|0:27||B. Monophonic strings enter playing a syncopated figure that descends until it is harmonized with the horns. Figure is repeated with a solo bassoon||in a dream he murders his beloved.|
|0:53||C. Two melodies are played simultaneously, moving downward and end in strong, short chords. Repeated.|
|1:20||D. The upper melody is replaced by plucked (pizzicato) strings, lower melody is in the bassoon. Upper melody moves up before it moves down|
|1:39||E. March melody begins in trumpets. Repeats with different ending.||prisoner marches through crowd as he witnesses it as if in the crowd.|
|2:07||Repeat of A|
|2:31||Repeat of B|
|2:57||Repeat of C|
|3:43||Repeat of E|
|4:08||F. Brass fanfare answered by chord and repeated|
|4:15||G. Plucked strings|
|4:26||Repeat of E|
|4:51||Repeat of F|
|4:57||Repeat of G|
|5:05||Repeated groups of three notes begins to build tension and brass begins to crescendo|
|5:21||The original monophonic syncopated section returns but homophonic, then decrescendos to very soft level.|
|5:30||Music is suddenly loud then builds upward movement||prisoner ascends stairs to his death|
|6:10||Short punctuated brass figures alternate with strings and woodwinds and gradually gets softer.|
|6:19||Short chords sound as if the movement is ending||The crowd waits|
|6:25||The idée fixe is heard by itself|
|6:34||A short chord, followed by two short, plucked notes, then the final triumphant chord’||The guillotine falls, the man’s head bounces a couple times before the crowd erupts in cheers.|
As you found out, with the repeat of the first section, the movement does not play as if it was in “real time.” Berlioz repeats the first part of the movement, much like a sonata-allegro form might repeat the exposition. The story line is therefore general.
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) was born in France, the son of a doctor. He showed musical talent at a young age and basically taught himself music. Following his father’s advice, he attended medical school when he was 18. During his time there, he spent a lot of time attending opera and concerts. While in medical school, it has been written that upon attending his first autopsy, he fainted, then left the room when he woke up, never to return. Whether or not that is actually a true story does not matter; Berlioz was determined to become a composer. Upon leaving medical school, his father stopped the financial support for the young Hector, but that did not stop Berlioz from pursuing music.
In 1826 Berlioz attended the Paris Conservatory. In 1830 he wrote his famous Symphonie Fantastique. This program symphony told the story of a man who had fallen in love with a woman (called his “beloved”) from afar and pursued her. Since the man in the symphony could not have her, he tried to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs. In the drug induced state, the man dreamed he killed the woman, and then went to the guillotine where he was executed. The final movement of the symphony depicted the man in hell as he watched “his beloved” dancing around a fire with a group of witches. Eventually, Smithson attended a performance of the symphony, met Berlioz, and married him. The marriage did not last long.
Symphonie Fantastique is another important work in music history. In it he introduced the idée fixe, a short melody that represented the women he called “his beloved” in the symphony. The theme changes with each movement to represent the women as she moves through different events. At the beginning the theme is beautiful, but by the end, it is grotesque. Berlioz was a master of orchestration (how to use the instruments of the orchestra to create sounds and timbres that carried the music) and even wrote a book on orchestration that was used for almost 100 years in music schools all over the world. Through the 1840’s Berlioz produced a string of great works that have stood the test of time.
THE PIANO IN THE ROMANTIC ERA
The Romantic Era is also known as the “Golden Age of the Piano.” The piano had undergone many improvements that composers of the Romantic Era used to create some of the most well-known piano works in history. Among the great composers for piano was Frédéric François Chopin. Although Chopin wrote other works, he is best known for his piano works.
We will listen to several of Chopin’s short works for piano without listening guides. Composers of this era were enthralled by nature’s power and beauty as well as events around them. We will hear his short (2:22 minute) etude entitled “Revolutionary” from his set of 12 etudes, Op. 10. This is #12 in the set. Etudes are short works written mainly for instruction; however, in the hands of the master composers, even etudes have become masterworks. Obviously, this was not a book of etudes for beginners!
EXAMPLE: Etude #12 "Revolutionary” from 12 Etudes, Op.10 No. 12
The second short work in among his most famous. From his work 3 Waltzes, Op.64, Chopin wrote one that has come to be named the “Minute Waltz.” Although the name implies a “minute” of music, it is actually 1:42 in length. The waltz is based on the dance in triple meter; however, this work is not meant for dancing.
EXAMPLE: Waltz #6 in Db (the Minute Waltz) from 3 Waltzes, Op.64
Finally, we will listen to another of his most famous works, the Nocturne in Eb, Op.9. A nocturne is a short work that is meant to represent the night. Some might call nocturnes “dreamy” but this is too narrow of an explanation. We are not using a listening guide for this either; however, try to listen for the way Chopin uses the piano to create a mood that fits the title.
EXAMPLE: Nocturne in Eb, Op.9
DISCUSSION: As you listen to this piece, what mental images does if create in your mind. Think carefully and then post on the discussion board what you visualize. PLEASE NOTE: in the “middle” of this work there are some obvious changes, including, for a short period, a change in mood. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU TAKE THIS INTO CONSIDERATION as you write your narrative. You do not need to respond to any other posts; however, after you post yours, you can read what others.
Chopin, whose name is often spelled as Frédéric Chopin (1810- 1849) was born in Warsaw, Poland to a French father and Polish mother. His father was a tutor to the children of the aristocrats in Poland, which gave young Frédéric the chance experience culture. His mother introduced him to music at an early age. When the boy showed that he could play and compose at the age of 6, hi family hired a professional music tutor for the young boy. Soon, Frédéric surpassed his teacher. By the time he was 8 he was writing some of his early compositions, and at 16 he was enrolled in the Warsaw Conservatory of Music.
At the age of 19, his parents sent Chopin to Vienna where he became friends with other famous composers, including Liszt and Mendelssohn. In Vienna, Chopin was exposed to the music of Shubert and Beethoven. Also, during his time in Vienna, his personal piano style was firmly established. Remember that, during the Romantic era, every composer had a unique sound and compositional style. Although some of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s piano works might have similarities to each other, the composers of the Romantic era were very different from one another.
Chopin had many short affairs with women, but eventually met Aurore Dupin, who was a writer and used the pen name “George Sand,” in order to get published. Chopin developed tuberculosis while with her, and, for about 7 years, he was very happy and very productive. Eventually the relationship with Sands and his health both deteriorated and, at the young age of 39, Chopin died alone in Paris.
The Romantic era was a “coming of age” in the arts. As the world changed and tradition was challenged or abolished, artists changed, some braking traditional barriers as well. The Western world changed dramatically, as America became widely settled, the Second Industrial Revolution developed, mass communications and transportation modes were created, and governments were revolutionized. Musical extremes in instrumental ranges, dynamics, tempo, and texture were employed to express an equal set of extremes in emotional states. Composers crafted highly individualized works that sometimes mirrored their own lives and often reflected the world around them. Art and literature focused on intense beauty, morbidity, characterizations of nature, the supernatural and the exotic, and extreme emotion.
Open source textbooks: Introduction to Music Appreciation by Hanse, Whitehouse and Sliverman