Romantic Music in Scandinavia

Scandinavia has many great composers to talk about, and these Northern countries take particular national pride in their Romantic composers. These composers took their native Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Danish folk song to heart and developed a sound distinct from the rest of Europe. In countries where there previously were no national “schools,” or styles, … Continue reading Romantic Music in Scandinavia

Slavic Music in the Romantic Era

Moving away from Germany/Austria, consistently a hotbed for classical-style composition, we will look today at a few examples of music from another musically fascinating part of Europe. In central Europe, Czech-speaking composers Bedřich Smetana, Antonin Dvořák and Leoš Janáček among others, capitalized on folk melodies in their compositions, as well as setting vocal compositions in their … Continue reading Slavic Music in the Romantic Era

Baroque Instrumental Music: Trio Sonata and Concerto Grosso

All of the Listening Club entries so far have focused on vocal music, and there’s a reason: music that has words is usually more accessible to the untrained ear. Word painting is a powerful technique that anyone can appreciate if made aware of it. With no words to paint, instrumental music is easy to listen … Continue reading Baroque Instrumental Music: Trio Sonata and Concerto Grosso

Absolute Music and Johannes Brahms

A German composer of the mid-romantic period, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) is known today for his humble, perfectionist personality and his straight-laced, crafted-yet-heartfelt music. He burned many of his works out of fear that anyone would discover what “awful” music he had composed, and there are stories of contemporaries and friends forcibly stopping him from destroying … Continue reading Absolute Music and Johannes Brahms

Programmatic vs. Absolute Music: The Schumanns

After our week in Russia, we’ve returned to Western Europe to resume our discussion of programmatic versus absolute music. Last time we talked about this topic we saw some highly programmatic examples, so this week we will look at the other side of the debate. As a reminder, absolute music adheres strictly to rules of … Continue reading Programmatic vs. Absolute Music: The Schumanns

Tchaikovsky: The Cosmopolitan of Russian Music

Last entry focused on the Nationalism-charged, folk-inspired and Eastern-looking sounds of many Russian composers of the Romantic era. Meanwhile, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) grew up surrounded by multiculturalism, and this would color his identity as a Russian and a composer. His mother was of French descent, and he learned German and French from his governess … Continue reading Tchaikovsky: The Cosmopolitan of Russian Music

Nationalism in Russia: Musical Orientalism

The Romantic era is so rich with variety that it is difficult to have a sense of chronological motion but also to cover the sheer number of key concepts that can help to inform one’s listening of music from this time. There were also composers from all over Europe exploring these concepts in different ways. … Continue reading Nationalism in Russia: Musical Orientalism

Early Romantic Era Continued: Chopin and Nationalism

Taking a break from program versus absolute music, we will explore another major force at work in European art in the early Romantic period: Nationalism. We’ll see how Chopin perhaps unknowingly started a powerful trend in European music, and we’ll enjoy his gorgeous and unique works for solo piano. The European industrial revolution created wealth, … Continue reading Early Romantic Era Continued: Chopin and Nationalism

Programmatic versus Absolute Music: Part 1

In the early 19th century, a debate had already started about what music should be as an art form. You can’t touch or see it, and it begins and ends, but can be repeated. This intangibility and finite nature made it difficult to define it, and having an opinion on this matter became fashionable and … Continue reading Programmatic versus Absolute Music: Part 1

Early Romantic Vocal Music

We’ve given lots of attention to instrumental music lately, and I don’t want to give the impression that the entire Classical period went by without any noteworthy vocal music being written and performed. Mozart wrote some of the most iconic operas in history, and both Haydn and Beethoven, among others, left behind wonderful choral works. … Continue reading Early Romantic Vocal Music