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Romanticism in western music

This paper is a study of the consequences of romanticism in Western music. Much of the work of 19th century composers was influenced by a sweeping desire to express emotion through music, explore varied forms and lengths of composition, and link music to the other arts, especially literature. The romantic movement encouraged composers to find their individual voices, both in the work they wrote and in the way they supported their art. It released music from the formality of classicism and laid the groundwork for many elements that are now established in modern music, from the variable size of the orchestra to the appreciation of the conductor's importance to performance and interpretation. As the century ended, however, composers began to believe that the romantics had fully explored the limits of major-minor tonality. In moving beyond what they saw then as confining restrictions, the musical heirs to romanticism staked their claim to new uses of the available tones. The freedom to experiment that had characterized the romantic era was perhaps the greatest of all the gifts bequeathed to the composers who found new paths to follow.

Romanticism was the last great musical movement to fully engage a wide range of composers over a substantial period. In the 60 to 70 years encompassed by the romantic era, an astonishing range of artists produced a rich variety of work that shared a common aesthetic while retaining the individual voices of each composer. Gerald Abraham describes it as "music as a record of the most subtle and intimate personal emotions and impressions, music as a rhetorical language addressed to large audiences . . . fertilized more richly than ever before by literature and painting" (1974, p. 1). The death in 1983 of "the ideal romantic musician" (Abraham, 1974, p. 1), Richard Wagner, heralded the end of romanticism and the exhaustion of the explorations of major-minor tonality in musical composition. The art w...

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Romanticism in western music. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:16, May 25, 2020, from