Meet the Romantics, Part II: The Composers

February 13, 2012

Duly Noted, Giselle, Now Playing

“Othello and Desdemona in Venice” by Théodore Chassériau

Welcome to Part II of our “Meet the Romantics” series to help you enter into the world of Giselle. In this series of posts you’ll get a taste of what the world of European arts and culture was doing at the time, and how this masterwork ballet fits into the defining movements of its time.  

Read “Part I: Capital-R Romantic” here.

Five Key Characteristics of Romantic Composition

  • Rich and colorful orchestration with the introduction of orchestral “special effects”;
  • Increasing the prominence of woodwind and brass;
  • A greater focus by composers on moving audiences emotionally rather than strictly adhering to the structural discipline of Classical forms;
  • The development of new genres of music like the “art song,” which blended Romantic poetry with lyric melodies; “tone poem” symphonies; and short, free-form piano pieces like the fantasy, arabesque, rhapsody, romanza, ballade and nocturne;
  • Experimenting with new melodic styles, richer harmonies, and dissonance.

Ten Artists To Know

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847, German): Listen to “Nocturne” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (performed by the London Symphony Orchestra)

Frederic Chopin (1810–1849, Polish): Listen to Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 (performed by Sergei Rachmaninoff)

Franz Liszt (1811–1886, Hungarian): Listen to Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (performed by Jung Lin)

Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901, Italian): Watch an excerpt from Aida (directed by Franco Zeffirelli)

Richard Wagner (1813–1883, German): Watch an excerpt from Götterdämmerung (The Ring Cycle)

Johann Strauss II (1825–1899, Austrian): Listen to The Blue Danube (performed by the Vienna Philharmonic)

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897, German): Listen to Violin Concerto in D Major, Op 77: III. Allegro giocoso (performed by Henryk Szeryng)

George Bizet (1838–1875, French): Watch Maria Callas sing the “Habanera” from Carmen

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893): Watch the Act II Pas de Quatre from Swan Lake (performed by American Ballet Theatre)

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908, Russian): Listen to Flight of the Bumblebee (performed by Itzhak Perlman)

The Voyage of Life: Youth (Cole Thomas, 1848)
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About Claire

Writer Claire Willett is the Grants & Content Manager for Oregon Ballet Theatre. She is the 2011 Oregon Literary Fellow for Drama and was the Summer 2011 Writer-in-Residence at the I-Park Artists Colony in East Haddam, CT. Three of her plays have been produced as staged readings in Portland’s annual Fertile Ground Festival of New Works. Her fourth, entitled "Dear Galileo," will be produced as a staged reading in January 2012 by Artists Repertory Theatre, funded by a Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission. Her next project is a chamber opera based on Norse mythology co-written with Los Angeles composer Evan Lewis. Claire has a B.A. in Theatre from Whitman College in Washington and attended the Paul A. Kaplan Theatre Management Program at Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City. She is obsessed with coffee, Watergate, vintage dishes, English mystery novels, Leonard Cohen, "Star Wars," afternoon naps, obscure Catholic saint lore, dinosaurs and Christmas.

View all posts by Claire

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