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History Of Music:
George Frederic Handel
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ludwig Van Beethoven
The Romantic Composers
Development Of The Piano
Famous Operas And Their Composers
Wagner And His Music Dramas
Tristan And Isolde
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The final outcome of the Romantic movement in music was the establishment of the "programme" school. The tendency to make music reflect definite thoughts and scenes of nature may be said to have been founded and carried to its culmination by Berlioz and Liszt.
By programme music, or "music with a poetic basis," is meant that which presents an idea that could be expressed in words. It is in direct contrast to the "abstract" music of the classical composers, which sought only to express general ideas or moods, and clothed them in conventional forms, such as sonatas, fugues or rondos. Programme music, which includes all instrumental music with titles, may be divided into two classes. First, that expressing some single thought or image, and is not connected with a story; Schumann's compositions illustrate this class. To this division, also, belongs modern "landscape" music, describing some phase of nature.
Music that is associated with a story or succession of scenes is more strictly of the programme school. In writing music of this class, the composer selects or creates some poem or narrative, and lets the movement of his music follow that of the story. This poetic counterpart is called the programme. It naturally follows that in this style of production it is wellnigh impossible to model upon the old forms, and the order of composition is necessarily detached.
The finest programme music is that which sets forth contrast of emotion, rather than that imitative of outward action. The effort to suggest the external in music has often led to amusing and sometimes to absurd effects. The final test of programme music, as of any other, is its musical value. The programme must be carefully chosen but its mission at best is only that of lending interest, not creating it. The finest of poetic suggestions cannot counteract poor music.