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Reports & Essays: Music & Art - Music

"AND""OR"

:Romantic Music
Romantic Music Romantics believe man's creative powers work best when the imagination is unrestrained. They emphasize passion rather than reason, and imagination and inspiration rather than logic. Romanticism favors full expression of the emotions, and free spontaneous action rather than restraint and order. It stresses freedom for the individual and rejects restricting social conventions and unjust political rule. Romantic composers modified the formalism of classical music, and aimed at lyric expression and emotion. Many composers gave their works a nationalistic character by using folk songs as themes. Romantic composers include Franz Schubert of Austria; Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner, and Frederic Chopin of Poland. The attempt to combine words and music that tell a specific story usually describing fairly obvious actions or moods, became known as Program Music. Program music aimed to absorb and transmit the imagined subject matter in such a way that the resulting work, although "programmed", does not sound forced, and transcends the subject matter it seeks to represent. Instrumental music thus became a vehicle for the utterance of thoughts which, although first hinted in words, may ultimately be beyond the power of words to fully express. Practically every composer of the era was, to some degree, writing program music, weather or not this was publicly acknowledged. One reason it was so easy for listeners to connect a scene or a story or a poem with a piece of Romantic music is that often the composer himself, perhaps unconsciously, was working from some such ideas. Writers on music projected their own conceptions of the expressive functions of music into the past, and read Romantic programs into the instrumental works not only of Beethoven, but also the likes of Mozart, Haydn, and Bach! The diffused scenic effects in the music of such composers as Mendelssohn and Schumann seem pale when compared to the feverish, and detailed drama that constitutes the story of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique (1830). Because his imagination always seemed to run in parallel literary and musical channels, Berlioz once subtitled his work "Episode in the Life of an Artist", and provided a program for it which was in effect a piece of Romantic autobiography. In later years, he conceded that if necessary, when the symphony was performed by itself in concert, the program would need not be given out for the music would "of itself, and irrespective of any dramatic aim, offer an interest in the musical sense alone." The principle formal departure in the symphony is the recurrence of the opening theme of the first Allegro, the idee fixe. This, according to the program, is the obsessive image of the hero's beloved, that recurs in the other movements. To mention another example: in the coda of the Adagio there is a passage for solo English horn and four Tympani intended to suggest "distant thunder". The foremost composer of program music after Berlioz was Franz Liszt, twelve of whose symphonic poems were written between 1848 and 1858. The name symphonic poem is significant: these pieces are symphonic, but Liszt did not call them symphonies, presumably because or their short length, and the fact that they are not divided up into movements. Instead, each is a continuous form with various sections, more or less varied in tempo and character, and a few themes that are varied, developed, or repeated within the design of the work. Les Preludes, the only one that is still played much today, is well designed, melodious, and efficiently scored. However, its idiom causes it to be rhetorical in a sense. It forces today's listeners to here lavishly excessive emotion on ideas that do not seem sufficiently important for such a display of feeling. Liszt's two symphonies were as programmatic as his symphonic poems. His masterpiece, the Faust Symphony, was dedicated to Berlioz. It consists of three movements entitled respectively Faust, Gretchen, and Mephistopheles, with a finale (added later) which is a setting for tenor soloist and male chorus. The first three movements correspond to the classic plan of an introduction in Allegro, Andante, and Scherzo. Liszt attempted to sum up the ideas of Romantic music in these words: "Music embodies feeling without forcing it - as it is forced in its other manifestations, in most arts and especially in the art of words - to contend and combine with thought....it is the embodied and intelligent essence of feeling; capable of being apprehended by our senses, it permeates them like a dart, like a ray, like a dew, like a spirit, and fills our soul."

 



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