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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 )
Early in the nineteenth century two movements made their appearance in German music (1) Romantic opera and (2) the German art song. With the former we connect the name of Weber and with the latter that of Schubert; these two composers began their work when Beethoven was at his height.
The opera and song are connected with the Romantic movement then prevalent in German art and literature. The first step in this direction was made about the year 1800 by a group of one hundred or more men who banded together to create a new department in literature. This group of poets came to be known as the "Romantic School" and later on the name was applied to a school of artists, and, last of all, to musicians. Romanticists in poetry and painting have been almost entirely superseded by Realists, but the Romantic school of music still exists.
It is difficult to define the Romantic movement because it embraced so many different things. It was the result of an attempt on the part of German writers and critics to break away from the classic style and create one that should be distinctly national. Their subjects were drawn from the beliefs and stories of the middle ages and, because these early Romanticists were poets rather than historians, they portrayed mediaeval life not as it really was, but as they fancied it to have been. These stories were not without historical basis, but they were idealized and altered to such an extent that they lost their original character and became beautiful myths and fairy tales.
Pater gives as his definition of romanticism: "It is the addition of strangeness to beauty that constitutes the romantic character in art; and the desire of beauty being a fixed element in every artistic organization, it is the addition of curiosity to the desire of beauty that constitutes the romantic temper." The spirit of romanticism supplanted that of the more conservative classicism, and has existed in some degree in every art in every age.
Although Beethoven belonged to the classic school, he opened the door that gave romantic music its liberty when he forced the detached and impersonal language of the early classic composers to give place to one expressive of individual passion and personal feeling. The Romanticists did not confine their subjects to German lore; their love of the bizarre and highly colored led them to Spain and the Orient. In the new style of opera the comic element was sometimes woven into the plot, but never the burlesque. The strength of this movement lay in the fact that it developed patriotism and the imagination; its weakness, as we shall see, was due to the sentimentality to which it tended. Schubert possessed qualities of both the romantic and the classic school, but Weber was an out-and-out Romanticist. Down to the beginning of the nineteenth century opera had been Italian in its melody, text and treatment; it remained for Weber to establish a form of musical drama which should be distinctly German in all its traits.