“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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