Composers of German Music

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The transition from the Classical area to the Romantic area

The characteristics of music during the Classical area were its simplicity of both melody and harmony, as well as a spirit of perfection; Moreover people expected something easy to listen. However things began to change gradually before 1800. Music was getting more and more expressive. Several musical examples include Mozart's slow movement from his Clarinet Concerto written in 1791, which is very romantic in style, full of expression and emotion. Moreover, the first appearance of a form of atonality can be heard in Haydn's oratorio The Creation written between 1796 and 1798, notably representing chaos. Music and other arts, which were clearly separated formerly, became to get close to each other by their common point of willing to describe nature and human feelings, that means full of expression. All those facts will actually end the Classical period, and will lead to the Romantic period.

During this period, composers will write either programmatic music, or absolute music, so it is important to know that the programmatic music is music intended to evoke extra-musical ideas, such as stories, or nature, contrary to the absolute music which is exclusively composed for the beauty of the music itself, and without reference concerning the outside world.

My essay is dealing with several of the important composers of the romantic area, in the first part the 'futuristic' composers, and in the second part 'conservative' ones. Not all composers are talked about, and several are talked about more briefly than others, according to the impact they had on music. Following each composer's footstep, we will discover whether they were conservative or futuristic in their music writing and why. Have they been influenced by other composers? If so, how can it be felt in their works? Moreover, have they influenced some composers after them? Eventually, have they contributed in any evolution concerning programmatic music, absolute music, or opera, and if so, how?

I. The futuristic composers

Among the composers from the Romantic period, several ones were futuristic: they contributed to the change of music thanks to the new ideas they brought. We will talk about several of the most important ones.

The first composer of the Romantic period was Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born in Bonn in 1770 and died in Vienna in 1827. He first wrote music in the Classical style of Mozart and Haydn, but from around 1800 he gradually opened up his music with his own new ideas. There was more tension and drama in his music than in the music of earlier composers, and this led to the 'Romantic' style of music. Beethoven claimed that “Music must represent humans' feelings”. One of Beethoven's first works, Sonata for Piano No. 8 written in 1798 was very dramatic in mind, thus continuing the 'expressive' movement of late Mozart and Haydn. Beethoven wrote his Symphony No. 6, also called Pastoral Symphony composed between 1805 and 1808, describing scenes from the countryside. It is the first ever official 'programmatic' work to be written and is the work that starts the programmatic movement. But almost all of his music was absolute, even if some of his symphonies have themes related to them. Beethoven developed the symphony, extending instrumentation as well as length; he was the first composer to use trombones in a symphony and his Symphony No. 3 also called Eroica written in 1803 and 1804 lasted more than an hour. His opera Fidelio composed in 1804 and 1805 dealt with human suffering. From around 1815 he was a pioneer with his Symphony No. 9 composed between 1822 and 1834 in including voices to a symphony for the first time. Indeed he is the first composer to replace the Minuet by a Scherzo, quicker, and could re-use themes in different movements of the same symphony, those called 'Leitmotif'. Even if he was a pioneer, he was also influenced by earlier masters such as Bach...
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