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)
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)
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)