The Transition from Classical to Romantic Music






    Classical music is defined by having strict rules and traditions, however it moved away from this around the early decades of the 18th century. Composers of classical music often adhered to simple ideas aiming for elegance in all areas of music – structure, melodies, and harmony.

    At the time, literature and art, as well as music, was heavily influenced by the movement referred to as the Age of Enlightenment. This was the philosophical movement focussing on the pursuit of knowledge, bettering the self and liberty. Society aimed to promote tolerance of others and the attainment of information. Classical music was a way for society to reflect on human values; composers felt as if they had a moral and societal duty to write music for every person.

    The emergence of romanticism was a clear deviation from the ideologies of the Age of Enlightenment. Music was now often seen as a way to show emotions beyond what humans could express. Composers were pushing the boundaries of how musical elements like dynamics, texture and orchestra were used in the Classical era. They began experimenting with new forms such as the tone poem, choral symphonies as well as featuring more instruments and voice types working as a soloist with an orchestra.

    The later works by Beethoven incorporated descriptive titles seen in his Symphony No. 3 titled Eroica or his Pathetique sonata for piano, further taking his music into the Romantic era by deviating from the strict rules of classical music. The development of the song cycle saw composers like Brahms and Schubert pioneered the genre with new approaches to melodic shape and the use of chromaticism.

    At the time, art and literature also underwent significant change. Visionaries like Goethe and Wordsworth aimed to incorporate all aspects of life after the Age of Enlightenment into their writings. This resulted in complex and winding storylines often reflecting on the state of the world.

    The transition to the Romantic era also coincided with the Industrial Revolution. This meant that countries now had the means to design and construct large concert halls. In response, composers such as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler began composing music on an equally grand scale. These were often pieces commissioned to open new concert halls.

    Oliver Clayton
    Oliver Clayton
    Oliver Clayton is currently reading an undergraduate degree in Music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where he studies modern violin with Susanne Stanzeleit and baroque violin with Lucy Russell. Whilst at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Oliver often plays in the Birmingham New Music concert series where he premiers new compositions. Oliver also works as a creative, collaborating on various artistic projects in and around Birmingham. Oliver regularly performs with the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus singing alongside the CBSO. When not playing the violin, Oliver is an avid reader of modern and contemporary fiction and writes commercially. Before attending higher education, he studied German and History alongside Music.
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