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Romantic Celebration

Romantic Celebration
Discover: Music of the Romantic Era
Various Artists


Rel. 1 Jan 2005

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Romantic Celebration Concert
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The music of the Romantic era (c.1800-1850) is for many classical music lovers the pinnacle of artistic and expressive achievement within the whole of music history, where names like Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Rossini, and Liszt stand as models of the art form at its very zenith. Likewise, many top tier artists dedicate the lion’s share of their output to this repertoire, and forge stellar careers in the process. This “Romantic Celebration” is the next in our series of features devoted to the nine principal periods of music history, whereby we invite our visitors – regardless of experience – to explore and discover the many composers and works that exalt the era, and some of the outstanding artists that successfully bring it to our modern ears. Specifically, this Feature includes a brief written Overview of the Romantic era, as well as a useful index of key composers, works, and artists – each of which is linked to the related page on our site. In addition, we provide a two-hour 1-Click Concert (full streams to our subscribers only), a featured “sampler” album, and a set of “Romantic” videos. Enjoy!

“For me, music is always the language which permits one to converse with the Beyond.”
– Robert Schumann

Romantic Period Overview

The term “Romanticism” was first applied to trends in literature in the late-18th century, as an idealized revival of the medieval “romance”, and soon spread to its sister arts, painting and music. In each of these, the term embraces a belief in the power of human emotions, and especially in the vital expression of an artist’s innermost “truths” – in defiance of the rule-bound traditions of the preceding age. In music history, the term generally refers to the period between Beethoven’s maturity and the rise of the Modernist trends of the early 20th century; at the same time, it has become common to draw a division between the (Early) Romantic and Late- or Post-Romantic eras – such as is adopted here.

The principal musical trends of the 19th century stem not so much from the introduction of new musical techniques or systems, but rather from an increased accentuation on those elements found already in 18th century music – newly driven by the Romantic ideals of subjective expression and organic unity. For example, the chromatic (sophisticated) harmonies found in the late string quartets of Beethoven, Franz Schubert, or Felix Mendelssohn follow directly from the harmonic developments of Mozart and Haydn, though are heightened to a degree beyond what might have occurred without the noted aesthetic impetus. Similar trends can be seen in the new, sometimes exotic approach to orchestration heard in the symphonic works of Hector Berlioz and Carl Maria von Weber, with natural evolution being pushed by philosophical imperatives.

Social and cultural trends likewise made their impact on musical practice in the first half of the 19th century, most notably the coming of age of the middle class, and the related decline in the nobility; composers now had to respond more directly to the demands of the “public”, and less to the whims of a wealthy patron. Among the notable consequences of this latter trend was the birth of the private musical salon, and the great works written for them: the piano miniatures of Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann, the songs of Schubert and Schumann, etc. Another consequence was a new fascination with the virtuoso soloist, with audiences dazzled by the technical prowess required in the works of Niccolò Paganini and Franz Liszt. Perhaps nowhere was the combination of the Romantic impulse and market forces more palpable than in early 19th-century opera – where composers such as Weber, Gioacchino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, and Gaetano Donizetti ushered in a new era of opera both artistically and in terms of popularity. By 1850, the Romantic aesthetic had fully ripened, and composers sought ever more potent ways to infuse their works with emotion and unity, yielding a new era – the so-called Late Romantic period.

Principal Romantic Composers

Here is a list of some of the principal composers of the Romantic era:

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Principal genres: Piano Sonatas, Symphonies, Piano Concertos, String Quartets

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
Principal genres: Piano Sonatas, Concertos, Piano Trios

Fernando Sor (1778-1839)
Principal genres: Works for Guitar

John Field (1782-1837)
Principal genres: Piano Nocturnes, Piano Concertos

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Principal genres: Violin Concertos, Solo Violin Works, Violin and Guitar Duets

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
Principal genres: Operas

Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)
Principal genres: Operas

Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868)
Principal genres: Operas, Choral Works

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1828)
Principal genres: Operas, String Quartets

Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)
Principal genres: Piano Sonatas, Symphonies, String Quartets, Lieder (Songs)

Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35)
Principal genres: Operas

Hector Berlioz (1803-69)
Principal genres: Symphonies, Operas

Michael Ivanovich Glinka (1804-57)
Principal genres: Operas, Songs

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-47)
Principal genres: Symphonies, Violin Concerto, String Quartets, Piano Works

Frédéric François Chopin (1810-49)
Principal genres: Piano Works (Etudes, Nocturnes, Waltzes, etc), Piano Concertos

Robert Alexander Schumann (1810-56)
Principal genres: Piano Works, Symphonies, Lieder (songs)

Franz Liszt (1811-86)
Principal genres: Piano Works, Symphonic Poems, Piano Transcriptions

Key Romantic Works

Here is a short, and quite partial, list of some of the many masterpieces of the Romantic era. Use this list as a springboard for further musical exploration. In addition, please enjoy the 1-Click Concert above, which is in large part based upon these selections.

Beethoven, Piano Sonata No.23 in F-, Op.57 (‘Appassionata’)

Beethoven, Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 (‘Pastoral’)

Beethoven, String Quartet No.15 in A-, Op.132 (‘Heiliger Dankgesang’)

Hummel, Trumpet Concerto in Eb, WoO1, S.49

Sor, 24 Etudes for Guitar, Op.35

Field, Nocturne No.13 (‘Dernière pensée’), H.59

Paganini, Violin Concerto No.2 in B-, Op.7 (‘La campanella’)

Weber, Der Freischütz, Op.77 (opera)

Meyerbeer, Les Huguenots (grand opera)

Rossini, Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville; commedia)

Rossini, Guillaume Tell (William Tell, opera)

Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor (opera)

Schubert, Piano Quintet in A, D.667, Op.posth.114 (‘Trout Quintet’)

Schubert, Symphony No.8 in B-, D.759 (‘Unfinished’)

Schubert, Erlkönig, D.328, Op.1

Bellini, Norma (opera seria)

Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d’une artiste, Op.14

Berlioz, Harold en Italie (Harold in Italy), Op.16

Mendelssohn, Symphony No.4 in A, Op.90 (‘Italian)

Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto in E-, Op.64

Chopin, Ballade No.1 in G-, Op.23

Chopin, Nocturne in Eb, Op.9, No.2

Chopin, Polonaise in Ab, Op.53 (‘Heroic’)

Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op.12

Schumann, Carnaval: Scènese mignonnes sur quatre notes, Op.9

Schumann, Dichterliebe, Op.48 (song cycle)

Liszt, Mephisto Waltz No.1, S.514

Liszt, Les Préludes, S.97 (symphonic poem)

Top Romantic Artists

Here is a short, and quite partial, list of the many outstanding artists (conductors, soloists, chamber groups, orchestras) featured on Classical Archives who specialize in performing music of the Romantic era – divided into their various categories:


Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra   London Symphony Orchestra
Berlin Philharmonic   New York Philharmonic
Chicago Symphony Orchestra   Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia
Cleveland Orchestra   Philharmonia Orchestra of London
Dresden Staatskapelle   Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig   SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Hanover Band   Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra


Claudio Abbado   Herbert von Karajan
Vladimir Ashkenazy   Kurt Masur
Daniel Barenboim   Pierre Monteux
Leonard Bernstein   Roger Norrington
Karl Böhm   Gerard Schwarz
Sir Colin Davis   Georg Solti
Wilhelm Furtwängler   George Szell
Bernard Haitink   Michael Tilson Thomas

Chamber Ensembles

Alexander String Quartet   Guarneri Quartet
Amadeus Quartet   Kodaly Quartet
Beaux Arts Trio   Stuttgart Piano Trio
Borodin Quartet   Tokyo String Quartet
Borodin Trio   Verdi Quartet
Emerson String Quartet  


Claudio Arrau   Jenö Jandó
Vladimir Ashkenazy   Wilhelm Kempff
Daniel Barenboim   Radu Lupu
Idil Biret   Gerhard Oppitz
Alfred Brendel   Murray Perahia
Ignaz Friedman   Maurizio Pollini
Emil Grigoryevich Gilels   Arthur Rubinstein
Friedrich Gulda   Andras Schiff
Vladimir Horowitz   Artur Schnabel

Other Instrumental Soloists

Joshua Bell (violin)   Yo Yo Ma (cello)
Arthur Grumiaux (violin)   Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)
Natalia Gutman (cello)   Takako Nishizaki (violin)
Ludwig Güttler (trumpet)   Itzhak Perlman (violin)
Lynn Harrell (cello)   Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Jascha Heifetz (violin)   Isaac Stern (violin)
Ilya Kaler (violin)   Mela Tenenbaum (violin)
Timo Korhonen (guitar)   Jan Vogler (cello)


Robert Alagna (tenor)   Alan Opie (baritone)
Montserrat Caballé (soprano)   Luciano Pavarotti (tenor)
Maria Callas (soprano)   Thomas Quasthoff (bass-baritone)
Enrico Caruso (tenor)   Michael Schade (tenor)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)   Andreas Schmidt (bass-baritone)
Plácido Domingo (tenor)   Peter Schrier (tenor)
Renée Fleming (soprano)   Cesare Siepi (bass)
Matthias Goerne (baritone)   Beverly Sills (soprano)
Marilyn Horne (mezzo-soprano)   Joan Sutherland (soprano)
Leo Nucci (baritone)   Bryn Terfel (baritone)

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