CCSF MUS27A Symposium musician with his seven-stringed lyre beside the fluted column of a building, ca. 460 b.c.  University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology (c) Instructor: Larry Ferrara  
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Music Appreciation
Week 13



ROMANTIC ERA (1827-1900)

The years between 1827 (the death of Beethoven) and 1900 (the turn of the century). The Romantic period takes its name from literary “romances” which were expressive stories and poems about heroic historic or legendary subjects. Romanticism tends to be personal and subjective stressing freedom, intense emotion and individuality.

Some historians feel the Romantic period was a revolt by sensitive, creative artists against the onrushing industrial revolution and its mechanization of work which seemed to threaten the dignity of man. The Romantic period was a time of highly individual musical styles. Composers got their inspirations from life experience, from nature and its wildness, the supernatural, poetry, ancient mythology, the romantic ideal of love and the notion of unfulfilled love, and the suffering from a loss or death of a loved one. Small spontaneous and flexible forms (miniatures), programmatic forms, or large grandiose forms dictated how the music was written. Many of the Classical forms such as sonata, theme and variations, minuet & trio and rondo form, which evolved in order to take advantage of the dramatic possibilities offered by homophony, were abandoned. The new Romantic forms were governed by spontaneity, expression, ideas, individualism and creative freedom. Romanticism take its name form the medieval “romances,” which were stories and poems about heroic figures written in one of the romance languages of the people.

Beethoven’s innovations and contributions served as a catalyst for Romantic era composers. He was considered by many to be the liberator of music, as the person who broke the molds and led the way. Romanticism represents an approach to life and to art completely different from that of Classicism. Whereas Classicism tends to be traditional and objective, Romanticism is individual and subjective, when Classicism shows emotional restraint then Romanticism is emotionalistic. The composers from the Romantic period include: Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Piotr Tchaikovsky and Gustav Mahler.



LEGENDS and myths from faraway places and times.

Hacker, Arthur, 'The Temptation of Sir Percival', 1894
Hacker, Arthur, 'The Temptation of Sir Percival', 1894, City Art Gallery, Leeds

Extreme expression, fantastic things, marvelous and legendary as opposed to the mundane aspects of the present.

  Wagner writes the Ring of the Nibelung (an early medieval cycle of Nordic myths).

 Berlioz imports Gregorian Chant into his Symphony Fantastic .

 Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Verdi, and Tchaikovsky use Shakespeare as the basis
for their music works.

 Mendelssohn revives the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.


NATURE and the wilder aspects of nature.

Bierstadt, Albert, 'Yosemite Valley', 1866, Collection of Joann and Julian Ganz, jr.
Bierstadt, Albert, 'Yosemite Valley', 1866, Collection of Joann and Julian Ganz, jr.

  Mysterious forests.

  Night time.


 Untamed seas.

 Music depended on nature descriptions.

 With the urbanization of the industrial revolution going on nature, wild and unfettered by civilization provided a sense of purity, something uncontrollable by man.

Listen to a Nocturne by Frederic Chopin. This night piece is intended to convey the mysterious, intimate and reflective mood night time brings on:



LOVE and the yearning for something just beyond ones grasp.

Klimt, Gustav, The Kiss, 1907/08

Klimt, Gustav, The Kiss,
1907/08, Austrian Gallery

  The love of an unattainable woman .

  A hero warrior in conquest of power and love.

  Unfulfilled desires, unrealized dreams.


MACABRE and supernatural subjects,

nightmarish, awful, ugly, and within this terrible ugliness a kind of weird supernatural, anti-rationality. The idea of the less sense something makes the better off it is. The wilder, crazier, weirder uglier the more horrific something can be……the better.

Listen to the final movement in Berlioz's Symphony Fantastic. This section is describing a moon lit night in a grave yard, mist is on the ground and a casket filled with a headless body is lying near by. This piece was written in 1831 only a few years after Beethoven died!



DEATH and resignation.

Bramley, Frank, 'A Hopeless Dawn', 1888, Tate Britain
Bramley, Frank, 'A Hopeless Dawn', 1888, Tate Britain

The experience of a loss and the profound emotion that comes when the experience in the death of someone close or of great importance. The affect of this experience on the meaning of life.



IMPRESSIONISM is an artists conception of reality as depicted by color, light and atmosphere. The French artistic movement in the early 20th Century had visual artists such as Monet and Degas preoccupied with depicting water. Also, these artists were concerned with the effects of light, color, and atmosphere. Water depicts shades of light in its movement and reflections off it’s surface. Impressionistic painters were not concerned with the literal depiction of an object or person but the with the way light, color, shade or atmosphere influenced the depiction of that object or personthe upcoming season: chooses music, soloists etc.

Henri Matisse, La Musique

Henri Matisse, La Musique.

Impressionistic music (especially that of Claude Debussy) creates light by the lack of strong rhythmic articulation and accentuation. It creates color by the tremendous reliance on timbre or the tone color of the orchestras varied instruments. Atmosphere is developed by long held out notes (pedal tones), or long successions of chords creating a tonal haze. These chords lack tension and therefore resolution but provide a strong sense of atmosphere.



EXPRESSIONISM is a movement in art and music where feelings are expressed by the subjective reaction to reality rather than the objective depiction of reality.

Kokoschka, Oscar, 'Power of Music', 1920 

Kokoschka, Oscar,
'Power of Music', 1920

Expressionism is centered on the inner world of dreams, the subconscious and in many other of the many discoveries of Sigmund Freud. Early 20th Century composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern were preoccupied with the expressionists thoughts and issues.





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