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Music That Is Romantic Essay

782 words - 3 pages

The ideals of instrumental music

At one point in the study of the Romantic period of music, we come upon
the first of several apparently opposing conditions that plague all attempts
to grasp
the meaning of Romantic as applied to the music of the 19th century. This
opposition involved the relation between music and words. If instrumental
is the perfect Romantic art, why is it acknowledged that the great masters of
symphony, the highest form of instrumental music, were not Romantic
but were the Classical composers, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven? Moreover,
of the most characteristic 19th century genres was the Lied, a vocal piece in
Shubert, Schumann, Brahams, and Wolf attained a new union between music and
poetry. Furthermore, a large number of leading composers in the 19th century

were extremely interested and articulate in literary expression, and leading
Romantic novelists and poets wrote about music with deep love and insight.
The conflict between the ideal of pure instrumental music (absolute music)
as the ultimate Romantic mode of expression, and the strong literary
orientation of
the 19th century, was resolved in the conception of program music. Program
music, as Liszt and others in the 19th century used the term, is music
with poetic, descriptive, and even narrative subject matter. This is done
not by
means of musical figures imitating natural sounds and movements, but by
imaginative suggestion. Program music aimed to absorb and transmit the
subject matter in such a way that the resulting work, although 'programmed',
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
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
for listeners to connect a scene or a story or a poem with a piece of
music is that often the composer himself, perhaps unconsciously, was working
from some such ideas. Writers on music projected their own conceptions of
expressive functions of music into the past, and read Romantic programs into
instrumental works not only of Beethoven, but also the likes of Mozart,
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...

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