Western Music History/Romantic Music

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

The Romantic era spans from 1820 A.D. up until 1900 A.D. It can be characterized by the individuality of style, where there is an emphasis of self-expression and individuality in compositional style. The music is generally very programmatic, where the instrumental music depicts a story, idea or a poem - e.g., Smetena’s “The Moldau” depicts scenes along the Moldau River. The programmatic style can also be seen in the titles, which are usually very descriptive. Nationalism becomes important during this era, where composers created music using folk song, history and dances of their homelands.

There is a variety of mood, atmosphere and tone color. The orchestra expanded due to the growing size of concert halls and opera houses, causing an increase in the power of the brass section. The woodwind section takes on new tone colors, with the addition of the contrabassoon, bass clarinet, piccolo and the cor anglais. There are huge technological improvements in musical instruments which made them more musically flexible and accurate. New sounds were now created/used in all instruments. i.e. flutes were required to play in the breathy, lower registers; violins were asked to strike the strings with the wood of the bow – col legno. All instruments were required to play with more virtuosity.

Harmony[edit | edit source]

In Romanticism, a broader harmonic vocabulary was used, such as chromatic harmonies, adding color to the music. Dissonant, unstable chords where also used more freely. Delayed resolution of dissonances gave an increased feeling of angst. Extensive modulation was now used much more than previously in the Classical era. Because of this extensive modulation, there is less tonal gravity (the centration around one common key).

Dynamics And Rhythm[edit | edit source]

Romantic music uses a wide range of dynamics from fff (fortississimo: very, very loud) to ppp (pianississimo: very, very soft). The range of pitch is expanded. Tempo becomes another tool in the hands of the Romantic composers as indicated by the increased use of accelerandos (speeding up) and ritardandos (slowing down), as well as extensive use of rubato (the bending of tempo/rhythm). These techniques were used to express the individuals emotions and meanings.

Forms[edit | edit source]

Composers wrote musical miniatures as well as monumental pieces. Some genres are carried over from classicism, but are more greatly exploited, such as sonatas and symphonies. Additionally, a few new forms are invented.

Art Song

One of the forms of the Romantic Era is the Art Song. It is standardly a composition for solo voice and piano. The piano accompaniment is an integral element in the piece, and serves as an interpretive partner to the voice, rather than a simplistic accompaniment. Poetry and music are thus intimately fused. The best Art Song composers of the Romantic era include Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. The Art Songs based on German texts tended to favour the poets Heine and Goethe. The song composers interpret the poems, translating their mood and atmosphere into music. Most songs have a piano introduction and in many cases a postlude.

Types of Art Songs: Strophic - The same music is used for each stanza. Like a hymn in structure. Through-composed - New music is used for each stanza. Allows music to reflect changing moods in the poem. Song Cycles - Contains several art songs, grouped into a set. Often unified by a single story line. i.e. : Schubert's “The Winter Journey”

'Tone Poem

Beethoven (1770 – 1827)[edit | edit source]

Ludwig van Beethoven's career has 3 phases. His first phase was between 1770 – 1802, during which his music was strongly influenced by Mozart and Haydn. He wrote his first two piano concertos, first two symphonies, string quartets Op.18 and first 10 piano sonatas all during this period. His second phase was between 1802 – 1815. During this stage he was going deaf. He greatly expanded upon existing forms, and infused his music with heroic expression. His works include the Kreutzer Sonata for violin and piano, his only violin concerto, the 3rd, 4th and 5th piano concertos and some of his greatest piano sonatas, including “Les adieux”, “Waldstein” and “Appassionata”. His third phase was from 1815 – 1827. Now he was totally deaf, leaving him completely isolated from society. He departs substantially from established conventions, both in form and in style. His works include the 9th symphony, the Missa Solemnis, and the late piano sonatas and string quartets.

Beethoven believed that there was a moral force behind music. He revised and refined his work repeatedly. He used classical forms and techniques but gave them new power and intensity, creating a bridge between Classicism and Romanticism. His works convey tension and excitement through syncopations and dissonances. Entailing many contrasts in mood, tiny rhythmic ideas are repeated over and over to create momentum. There is an enormous range of expression in his work: tempo, dynamic and expressive indications are marked far more extensively in his scores than in those of his predecessors. Often he had markings such as “< p”. He used extremities of pitch far more. He unified the movements of his symphonies, sonatas and string quartets. Often one movement leads directly into another with out a pause (attacca). There are also thematic inter-relationships between movements. Many of his movements use sonata form, but the development sections and the coda are greatly expanded. He uses the scherzo rather than the minuet for the 3rd movements of his pieces. His Scherzos have rapid movements with rhythmic drive. His most famous works are his 9 symphonies, which were conceived for large orchestras. In some of them he adds piccolos, trombones and contrabassoon. All instruments play difficult music, and the odd-numbered symphonies are more forceful, whereas the even-numbered symphonies are very calm and lyrical. His Symphony No. 9 is the first up to that time in music history to use a choir, which we hear in the "Ode to Joy" finale movement. He wrote 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, 5 piano concertos, 1 opera (“Fidelio”), 1 ballet, 1 violin concerto, and 2 masses. He incorporated fugues extensively in his later works.

Symphony no.3 This symphony was intended to reflect on the life of Napoleon. However, Beethoven scratched out its dedication to Napoleon when he found out the general had invaded Austria. Nicknamed the Eroica Symphony, it was the longest symphony ever composed at the time of its premiere.

Symphony no.5

In his Symphony no. 5, he unifies all contrasting movements. The first four-note motif is used extensively in first and third movements. The third movement theme reappears in the finale. The last two movements are connected by a bridge. This contrasting element that he retained by employing the motif in all four movements of Symphony no. 5 is known as a cell.

Paganini (1782 - 1840)[edit | edit source]

Weber (1786 - 1826)[edit | edit source]

Rossini (1792 - 1868)[edit | edit source]

Though his career as an operatic composer only spanned two decades, Gioacchino Rossini was one of the most significant operatic composers in Italy in the first half of the 19th century. Along with Bellini and Donizetti, Rossini was among the last of bel canto composers. Rossini started his career with several one-act farces at Venice's Teatro San Moisè before he moved on to other cities in Italy, and by 1817 he had basically settled in Naples. After settling in Paris in 1824 he became an important figure in establishing French grand opéra, later taken up by Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), with what many people considered his masterpiece, Guillaume Tell (1829). After this Rossini wrote no further operas and very little else until his death in 1868, but he left a profound impact on many composers in both Italy and France.

Donizetti (1797 - 1848)[edit | edit source]

Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847)[edit | edit source]

Schumann (1810 – 1856)[edit | edit source]

Robert Schumann was a very conservative composer, whose works are very autobiographical and programmatic in nature. He was the founder of the first musical journal – “The New Journal of Music”. His most famous Art Song is considered to be "In The Lovely Month Of May", an example of an Art Song which makes use of Strophic form.

Clara Schumann (1819 – 1896)[edit | edit source]

Clara Wieck, 1838


Clara Schumann was a prominent pianist and composer during the Romantic period. She was the wife of the famous composer Robert Schumann and the mother of eight children. As a child prodigy, Clara was surrounded by music all her life which she exhibited through her 61-yearlong performance career. Clara was acquainted with many of the distinguished composers of her time and even surpassed their musical talents. Sadly, Clara was not acknowledged as much as she should have been during her lifetime due to her gender. Many people have not heard of Robert Schumann’s wonderful wife, the composer, pianist, and astounding artist.

Early Life

Clara Josephine Schumann (née Wieck) was born on September 13, 1819, in Leipzig, the Kingdom of Saxony, to Friedrich Wieck and Marianne Wieck (née Tromlitz). Her father was a piano maker and a music dealer. Later in life, he taught piano, notably to Robert Schumann. Clara’s mother was also a musician, gifted in piano and voice. Friedrich and Marianne had five children, and their first child died, leaving Clara as their oldest living child. At age four, Clara did not speak a single word and seemed deaf and mute, which could have been due to her father’s aggressive nature or that her nurserymaid, Johanna Strobel was relatively silent. Yet, this issue was resolved entirely at around age eight.

When Clara was five years old, her parents divorced, having been separated for some time before. Clara’s father was not an easy man to be around, which could have contributed to the divorce. He was known to have “a violent temper and disliked interference and arguments”.[1] Before the divorce, Clara lived with her mother, but at age five, she needed to return to her father and began her music studies immediately. The custody laws required Clara and her sibling to return to their father as “they were legally his property”.[2] Years later, in 1828, Friedrich Wieck married Clementine Fechner, with whom Clara was not close. She considered Clementine a rival for her father’s affections. Clara’s mother married Adolph Bargiel, a close colleague of Clara’s father, a few months after her divorce.

Friedrich Wieck wanted Clara’s piano playing to be “with feeling” and so did not make her “practice to death”.[3] Therefore, Clara’s father limited her piano playing to three hours per day. For a year and a half, Clara attended school and was tutored in English and French afterward. From age three, Clara went on long walks for several hours with her parents, which continued to be a habit her entire life.[4] These walks created stamina in Clara, contributing to good health and long life. The tradition of long walks continued in her marriage with Robert, as often, after tea, the couple would go on an hour walk together.

Becoming the “Forever Unforgettable”

From her birth, Clara’s father wanted her to have “a great artistic career [that was] to be directed by him”.[5] Indeed, Clara fulfilled her father’s desire. Clara became the primary breadwinner for her family when she lived with her father and was married to Robert Schumann. At age seven, Clara was given a diary by her father, who wrote many entries using Clara’s name. It was not until she left home at nineteen that the diary finally became hers alone.[6] During her childhood, Clara’s father hosted the music circle of Leipzig, which included prominent composers such as Friedrich Hoffmeister. Through this, Clara emerged in the music society as she would play for the members of the music circle, and at age nine, Clara became a part of this group.

At age nine, Clara had her first official performance in a concert on October 20, 1828. While it was just a little duet with her father’s student, Emilie Reichhold, this concert emerged and exposed Clara to the public eye. The renowned violinist, Niccolò Paganini, praised Clara for her performance, and from then on, Clara vowed to be the Paganini of the piano. Although her performance was minor, Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung’s review of the concert mentioned Clara and her father taking part in it.[7] This concert marked the beginning of her 61-year-long career.

Plaster relief of Robert and Clara Schumann. The artist had wanted Clara in the front, but Robert did not want this and overruled him.

Through favorable reviews and a promising place in musical society, Clara became known to the world around her. She met many distinguished musicians, including Chopin, Liszt, and Mendelssohn. By age twelve, Clara was performing without music which was foreign to Germany at the time, although relatively common in France. Clara was known for playing “by [only] looking at the keys,” which some people thought was odd.[8] Yet, Clara was one of the leading musicians in promoting memorization for performances.

“The Schumann Couple”

Clara first met Robert Schumann when she was nine years old, and he was eighteen. Robert was a piano student of Friedrich Wieck while studying law in Leipzig. He did not stay there long and soon moved to Heidelberg to continue his law studies there. Yet, Robert used his law studies as an undercover for music and arts, his true passion. So, in 1830, after consulting with his mother, Robert began his music career. He moved back to Leipzig to stay with and study under Friedrich Wieck, the only person his mother trusted would make Robert into a prominent musician. Robert admired Fredrich Wieck’s musical skills and abilities but thought of him as “dull, boring, and arrogant”.[9]

Clara fell in love with Robert through his stay with the Wiecks. She would see him many times during the day as they had lessons with Friedrich Wieck together in the morning. Robert would become a child again in the evenings, playing with Clara and her two younger brothers. In 1843, Ernestine von Fricken came to stay at the Wieck household, with whom Robert seemed to be engaged. Clara, who was in Dresden, tried to ignore the stories she heard. Soon, the rumors reached Ernestine’s father, who quickly resolved the issue. Robert stated noticing Clara more, and in November of 1835, a kiss marked the beginning of their long, challenging engagement.

When Friedrich Wieck found out about Robert’s and Clara’s mutual affections, he tried everything to separate the two. He even threatened to shoot Robert if he ever saw Clara again. Clara and Robert rarely saw each other for a year and a half and wrote letters through their mutual friend, Ernst Adolf Becker. [10] On August 13, 1837, Clara performed three of Roberts’s compositions, who was present for the performance. The next day, August 14, was considered their betrothal date. Yet, there were still many challenges, including Clara’s father.

In 1837, on Clara’s birthday, Robert asked Friedrich Wieck for Clara’s hand in marriage but received no answer. He was afraid that Clara would not have a stable future and that her career as a prominent musician would end.[11] Clara’s father filed many lawsuits against the couple, which hindered them from being able to marry. Furthermore, Clara’s relationship with her father became strained as she was still entirely dependent on him. In December of 1839, the court threw out all the accusations against Robert except for one. Immediately, the couple began preparing for marriage. Clara became Mrs. Schumann on September 12, 1840, a day before her twenty-first birthday.

Family Life

Clara and Robert kept a joint dairy for the first four years of the marriage. Clara enjoyed her unique married life. Both Clara and Robert were drawn together, not only by musicality and musical abilities but also through mutual attraction.[12] Robert would always encourage Clara to compose. Often, Clara would give him her composition as a gift on his birthday or Christmas. Clara found it hard to practice piano when Robert was composing, as he was distant and very much in his own world.[13] Yet, Clara continued performing and doing some tours throughout her marriage.

Robert and Clara Schumann's children: Ludwig, Marie, Felix, Elise, Ferdinand, and Eugenie. Julie is missing.

While she was pregnant and had children, Clara would also perform and hold concerts because of her love of performing and the piano and to provide money for her family. Clara and Robert had eight children. Marie (1841-1929), Elise (1843-1928), Julie (1845-1872), Emil (1846 - 1847), Ludwig (1848 - 1899), Ferdinand (1849 - 1891), Eugenie (1851 - 1938), and Felix (1854 - 1879). Four of Clara’s children died before she did, which was hard for her. Clara and Robert’s daughter Eugenie was the one who complied their diary entries and journal and published them in the 1900s.

Life After Robert’s Death

In early 1854, Robert attempted suicide, as he struggled with mental health issues, but was saved by some sailors. It was a hard time in Clara’s life, and she “did not go to bed for sixteen days and was at his side throughout the day”.[14] Soon after, Robert was put into a private asylum where Clara was not permitted to see him until two days before his death on July 29, 1856. Clara stayed with him until July 29, and Robert died in alone peace that afternoon. A different life began for Clara; she was a thirty-seven-year-old widow, left with seven children. Clara loved motherhood, but her divided life made it hard for her to accomplish her role as a mother well. Often, her children were scattered all over the place while she was performing. Some were at boarding school, some with her mother, and some with Clara.

Clara continued performing piano as she was accustomed to doing. She began to tour many places, including England, which became one of her best places to perform and a source of income. Clara also gave lessons each day, performed soirées, and toured many other places.[15] As she became older, Clara began suffering from rheumatic pain in her hands and arms. Later in life, Clara also suffered from arthritis and found it challenging to play challenging pieces. Brahms wrote some more manageable pieces for her play that were less technical. In 1884, Clara began to have hearing problems, but this did not hinder her from performing as she continued playing at concerts for over ten years. Her last public performance was in March of 1891. Clara died from a stroke on May 20, 1896, while listening to music from Robert Schumann’s Intermezzi, op. 4, and his F-sharp Major Romance, op. 28.[16]

Friendship with Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a close friend of the Schumann family. When he was twenty, he met the Schumanns through a mutual friend, Joseph Joachim, and was influenced musically by their family. Brahms stayed with the Schumann family many times throughout his life and was Clara’s main supporter during her husband’s mental breakdown and death. Brahms had strong feelings for Clara and was deeply in love with her. Clara, however, had “motherly feelings and [thought] of him as a son”.[17] He was deeply impacted by Clara’s death in 1896 and died a year after her.

Main Compositions

Although she stopped composing after Robert’s death, Clara composed many pieces throughout her lifetime. Clara’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7 was published on September 1, 1835. She began writing and orchestrating the entire concerto in 1833 at age thirteen. The concerto premiered in November of 1835, with Clara as the soloist and Mendelssohn conducting the orchestra. Liebesfrühling (Love’s Spring), Op. 12 was a joint work Clara composed with her husband, Robert. The composition was based on a cycle of poems by Friedrich Rückert and was published in 1841. There are twelve songs in this work of which Clara composed three pieces and are labelled her Op. 12.[18]

Clara Schumann's signature

Clara composed one piano trio in her lifetime, involving the violin, violoncello, and piano. Her Piano Trio in G major, Op. 17 was written in 1846 and published the year after. During its composition, Clara was going through hard times in her life. Robert was ill, and Clara suffered from a miscarriage and the death of her fourth child, Emil. Clara inspired Robert to begin writing his piano trios. When his was composed, Clara felt her trio lacked palatability when compared to Robert’s trio.[19] The Drei Romanzen (Three Romances for Violin and Piano) was Clara’s main work she composed after her Piano Trio. She began to write this piece in the summer of 1853 after a visit from Brahms. It first premiered in 1855 while Robert was in the private asylum. Clara dedicated this work to Joseph Joachim, and it was one of the last pieces she wrote.[20]

Schubert (1797 – 1828)[edit | edit source]

Schubert was a Viennese composer and child prodigy. His output consists of over 600 songs, nine Symphonies, eight completed operas, six masses, and an abundance of piano music, string quartets and other chamber works. His songs embrace a wide spectrum of moods, and his melodies range from simple folk-like tunes to complex lines. He makes use of very rich harmonies and rich accompaniments.

The Erl King

'The Erl King' is an Art Song based on a ballad by Goethe. The Poem is in dialog throughout. The story is about a father riding through a storm on horse-back with his sick child in his arms. The boy has visions of the Erl King – a symbol of death. A through-composed setting is used to capture the tension and excitement of the poem. The piano part has a triplet motion, describing the galloping of the horse. The motif in the bass symbolizes the Erl King and death. Schubert makes one singer portray several characters. The ‘boy’ is sung in the high register in a minor key, often with dissonant harmonies (symbolic of his sickness), whereas the ‘father’ sings in the low register, trying to reassure the boy. The ‘Erl King’ sings coy and enticing melodies in the major key. The highlight of the piece is its closing recitative, announcing the father's discovery on reaching home of his son dead in his arms.

The Symphony[edit | edit source]

During the Romantic era, two groups of Symphony composers arose. The first being the "Conservative" Group, comprising of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. The second is known as the "Revolutionary" Group, and consists of Berlioz, Liszt, Mahler, and Dvorak.

Berlioz (1803 – 1869)[edit | edit source]

Berlioz was a French composer, whose work contains abrupt contrasts in dynamics and tempo changes. He assembled hundreds of musicians in his orchestras to achieve an enormous range of power. He made use of unusual orchestral effects such as col legno, and the combination of bells and brasses. His melodies are long, irregular and asymmetrical. All his works are for orchestra or for orchestra with chorus and vocal soloist, and have a literary program and are dramatic and use new forms.

Symphnonie Fantastique, 1830

Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique (1830) is a five movement programmatic symphony. A single melody, called the ideé fixe, is used to represent the beloved, and makes an appearance in all movements, unifying the symphony. The theme changes in character throughout the symphony. He makes use of a large and colorful orchestra consisting of bells, harps, timpani, piccolo, cor anglais, etc… He has the heaviest orchestration in the last two movements which depict the fantastic and the diabolical.

1st movement: slow introduction with 11 tempo changes, followed by the Allegro, in which the ideé fixe is very noble and shy.

2nd movement: A waltz, using ternary form and including the harps.

3rd movement: describes a country scene and includes the cor anglais.

4th movement: a march, here the timpani are tuned a 3rd apart.

5th movement: most fantastic. Starts with muted strings. Here the ideé fixe is a witch, and is transformed into a dance tuned decorated by trills. Bells are used, tubas and bassoons intone the Dies Irae, symbolizing eternal damnation. There are contrasting Pizzicato in the strings. The movements ends with a figure in the lower strings. There is a huge crescendo at the end, culminating in a musical nightmare.

Brahms (1833 – 1897)[edit | edit source]

Brahms was a German composer, influenced by Schumann to a small extent. He created masterpieces in all forms except opera. His output includes four symphonies, two piano concertos, one violin concerto, short piano pieces, many songs (over 200) and a large number of choral pieces. He was a master of ‘Theme and Variation’ form. Strongly influenced by Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, his music embraces a wide range of moods and uses intricate and dense polyphonic textures. He makes extensive use of imitation, canon and fugue, with intricate rhythmic patterns, including polyrhythms (various rhythms placed against each other E.g. : 2 against 3, or 3 against 2). Brahms treated tonality with greater freedom whilst adhering to strict, formal classical forms and standards. Each of his 4 movements are arranged in the traditional sequence: Allegro, Slower 2nd, Scherzo and massive finale. He employs extensive modulation throughout. He was very fond of mellow instruments / tone colors such as viola, clarinet and French horn.

Symphony IV opus 98

1st movement : Sonata form

2nd movement : Slow and lyrical, with a pair of song-like themes.

3rd movement : Scherzo. Incorporates Sonata-rondo from.

4th movement : Theme and Variation Form (Allegro in E min). Consisting of the theme, 30 Variations and a coda. The brasses and woodwinds introduce the theme (consisting of an ascending, eight bar/note melody). Variations embrace a wide range of moods, and are connected to each other and maintain the themes eight bar form and triple meter. In variations 1 – 3, the theme is presented in the top or middle parts. In variations 4 – 11, the theme is presented in the bass. In variations 12 onwards the theme is presented in the top, middle or bass parts. This movement uses an overall ternary form:


Theme, then Variations 1 – 11 in a Minor key. Very Forceful.


Variations 12 – 15 in a Major key with a slower tempo and more relaxed.


Variations 16 – 13 with a quick tempo in a minor key followed by the Coda.

Liszt (1811 – 1886)[edit | edit source]

Liszt wrote very controversial music. His output consists mainly of piano compositions. He found new and exciting ways to exploit the piano. He uses an enormous range of dynamics, reminiscent of Beethoven's symphonic compositions. Pianists are required to play rapid octaves and daring leaps. He transcribed many operas and symphonies for the piano. He is said to have created the symphonic poem, a one movement orchestral composition, based on a literary or pictorial idea. A single musical idea recurs throughout the work and its character is transformed. Similar in nature to the idée fixe utilized by Berlioz. Many of Liszt’s compositions deal with the devil or death. He makes constant changes of tempo and mood in his pieces.

Transendental Etude no.10 in F min

Uses ABA / ternary form, as well as the inclusion of a Coda. The B section is more lyrical and in a higher register, and there is constant contrast between brilliant virtuosity and melodic ideas, which occur throughout the movement.

Chopin, Frederic (1810 – 1849)[edit | edit source]

Frederic Chopin wrote relatively few works, but almost all of them remain in the pianist’s repertory today. Most of his music are short, musical miniatures, which evoke a variety of moods. Even his virtuoso passages are melodic. His music is nationalistic, and expresses his love of Poland (his home country) through his many Mazurkas and Polonaises. Chopin does not use literary titles or programs in his music, but rather, his poetic effects are created by the exploitation of the pedal. All of his harmonies blend together in a rich fashion.

“Revolutionary” Etude no.12 Opus 10 (1831)

This etude is inspired by the Russian Invasion of Warsaw. It is essentially a study which develops speed and endurance in the pianist’s left hand. The left hand plays rapid scale passages throughout. The piece begins with high, dissonant chords, and rushing passages.

Verdi (1813 – 1901)[edit | edit source]

Verdi's music has a great variety of moods. His operas are fast moving, and involve characters who are quickly plunged into extremes of hatred, love, jealousy and fear. The vocal melody is the soul of Verdi’s opera. He uses many trios, duets and quartets in which the emotions of each character are clearly depicted. Verdi’s last three operas are among his greatest: Aida, Falstaff and Otello.

Wagner (1813 - 1883)[edit | edit source]

Wagner was one of the few great composers who was able to write his own librettos, which he based on legends and myths such as the story of Tristan and Isolde and of the Norse gods. He called his works “music dramas” or “Universal Art Works” (gesamtkunstwerk in German). Wagner shifted the musical gravity from the voice to the orchestra, and so expands his orchestra, which is treated symphonically. His orchestral interludes were used to describe the present scene. He exploited the power of brass instruments fully and even invented a new instrument, the Wagner tuba. He used leitmotifs, which are a recurring, short musical idea associated with a person or object in the drama. He varied and transformed these leitmotifs to convey changes of character, and these leitmotifs are what unify Wagner’s operas. He uses chromatic and dissonant harmonies, and frequent modulation, but avoids resolution of dissonances, leading to the breaking down of tonality.

The Ring

"The Ring" (AKA Der Ring des Nibelungen) is Wagner's most famous work. It is a widely performed sequence of 4 operas /dramas, arranged in a gigantic cycle.

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)[edit | edit source]

Fanny Crosby is one of the greatest-known hymn lyricists in today's age, despite her blindness. She has composed lyrics for many famous hymns such as "Tell Me The Story of Jesus," "Pass Me Not My Gentle Saviour," and "Blessed Assurance" (Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988).[21] The purpose of this entry is to examine the impact that Fanny Crosby had on the hymns of today, as well as how she came to write hymn lyrics.

She was born to John and Mercy Crosby on March 24, 1820, in Southeast Putnam County, New York (Blumhofer, 2013).[22] She started infancy as a healthy baby but developed an infection at a few weeks old that affected her eyes. A fake doctor prescribed poultices for her eyes, which had detrimental effects and left her blind (Hawthorn, 1939).[23] A couple of months later, her father passed away from an unknown cause (Blumhofer, 2005).[24] As she grew, her mother did her best to explain the scenes of the country where they lived to help her grasp her surroundings and to give her enjoyment.

When she was eight, her family moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut, where she developed her love of hymns from the Methodist Church. It was there that her memory flourished. She started to memorize scriptures, and it was not long before she could recite "the greater portion of the New Testament, the five books of Moses, the book of Ruth, as well as most of the Psalms, and selections from the Prophets" (Hawthorn, 1939).[23] She had an incredible memory and was eager to learn.

At the age of fourteen, she was accepted into the New York Institution for the Blind. This was an answer to prayer (Crosby, 1906).[25] She had difficulty leaving, as it was her first time away from home. She learned many great skills at the Institution, such as the "phonetic alphabet and methods of printing raised characters and maps" (Crosby, 1906).[25] At the time, the teachers at the Institution had to change society's ideals, as many thought that blind people could not learn. She loved her music and English classes but discovered that she disliked math.

Before 1840, her poems received much praise from friends and family. As a result of the praise, she became overconfident in herself. The school's superintendent, Mr. Jones, saw this attitude in her and called her to his office to meet with her. He told her that he was sorry that the praises had influenced her idea of herself and reminded her that, ultimately, her gifts come from God. She recalls that this advice was "worth more than the price of rubies" (Crosby, 1906)[25] as it showed her the importance of constructive criticism and God.

The Blind Institution was where she met George Frederick Root, a music teacher and a composer. Root encouraged Crosby to write lyrics for songs and had her write for some of his cantatas, such as "The Flower Queen" and "Pilgrim Fathers" (Blumhofer, 2013).[22] After graduating, Crosby was hired on as a teacher. She resigned after marrying Alexander van Alstyne, a musician, in 1858.

The poetry that would make her known started in 1864 when she met William B. Bradbury through Peter Stryker, a minister of a Dutch Reformed church that she attended (Crosby, 1906). [25] He was a composer but had trouble writing lyrics. Upon meeting, he wanted her to write lyrics for a patriotic song that he composed. After Crosby composed the lyrics, Bradbury wanted her to do more for him and hired her at his publishing company. The first hymn she composed lyrics to was called "We Are Going, We Are Going" in the same year. This opportunity gave Crosby a sense of purpose and "brightened dark hours in her own life" (Hawthorn, 1939).[23] She was also grateful that she could give the message of salvation through songs to those spiritually struggling. Crosby worked for Bradbury until he died in 1868.

After his death, Sylvester Main and Lucius Horatio Biglow took over the publishing company. The company became known as Biglow and Main (Crosby & Hustad, 1977)[26]. Crosby was affiliated with them for the rest of her life. However, she was not on a contract with them, as she also composed lyrics for people such as William J. Kirkpatrick and John R. Sweney, who wrote hymns such as "Tell Me the Story of Jesus" and "Redeemed" (Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988).[21] During the 1870s, there was a revival in Gospel Preaching when many great hymns were printed and published (Hawthorn, 1939).[23] It is said that most of the hymns today were written during this time. Crosby could have profited from her poems during the revival, but instead, she only charged $2.00 per poem when, at times, poems were being commissioned for $10.00 (Crosby & Hustad, 1977).[26] She was not in the poetry business for the money but for blessing people. When she was paid, she gave what she could to others.

In 1880, she felt God leading her to do missionary work where she lived in New York. During her mission work, she was known as "Aunty Fanny" (Burger, 1997).[27] She spent time in places such as the Y.M.C.A. and the Bowery Mission, a well-known place in New York. (Hawthorn, 1939).[23] At the Bowery Mission anniversaries, she gave a short speech and wrote a hymn for sixteen of them. Even though she was denied motherhood, she loved children. Children would gather around to listen to her share stories from a wordless book she carried, captivating their minds.

Her poetry slowed in the 1900s as she grew older and moved in with a widowed sister in Connecticut. While in Connecticut, she participated in Chautauqua meetings and wrote two autobiographies (James & College, 1971).[28] She died in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on February 12, 1915, from a battle of arteriosclerosis and a cerebral hemorrhage (James & College, 1971)[28] (Blumhofer, 2013).[22]

Over her lifetime, she composed between six and nine thousand poems, approximately three thousand of which were made into hymns. Fanny Crosby was not only a poet but a missionary and a dedicated servant of God. Her poetry for hymns began through a series of events that led her to the right place at the right time. One could say that this was the workings of the hand of God. She did everything she could for the people around her and served others despite her disability. The hymns she composed lyrics to continue to be sung in many church denominations, even over one hundred years after her death. She exemplifies what it means to be humble, selfless, and dedicated to bettering the world.

Strauss (1825 - 1899)[edit | edit source]

Puccini (1858 - 1924)[edit | edit source]

  1. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 4
  2. Nancy B Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), 9
  3. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 7
  4. Nancy B Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), 14
  5. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 5
  6. Nancy B Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), 20
  7. Nancy B Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), 22
  8. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 19
  9. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 30
  10. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 31
  11. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 38-39
  12. Nancy B Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), 80
  13. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 51
  14. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 77
  15. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 90
  16. Nancy B Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), 166
  17. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 90
  18. Alexander Stefaniak, Becoming Clara Schumann: Performance Strategies and Aesthetics in the Culture of the Musical Canon (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2021), 156
  19. Alexander Stefaniak, Becoming Clara Schumann: Performance Strategies and Aesthetics in the Culture of the Musical Canon (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2021), 187
  20. Monica Steegmann, Clara Schumann (London: Haus Publishing, 2004), 75
  21. a b Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. (1988). Review and Herald Pub. Association.
  22. a b c Blumhofer, E. (2013, October 16). Crosby, Fanny (Frances) J(ane) [Van Alstyne, Fanny J.]. Oxford Music Online. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.burmanu.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/display/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-1002249240?rskey=NW0ZZP&result=1
  23. a b c d e Hawthorn, J. (1939). Fanny Crosby: The sightless songstress, author of 8000 hymns. A. Sims.
  24. Blumhofer, E. W. (2005). Her heart can see: The life and hymns of Fanny J. Crosby. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2024, https://books.google.ca/books?id=9LWkw81bRXwC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
  25. a b c d Crosby, F. J. (1906). Fanny J. Crosby an autobiography. James H. Earle & Company
  26. a b Crosby, F., & Hustad, D. (1977). Fanny Crosby speaks again: 120 hymns. Hope Pub. Co.
  27. Burger, D. T. (1997). Women who changed the heart of the city : the untold story of the city rescue mission movement. Kregel Publications. 2024, https://archive.org/details/womenwhochangedh0000burg/page/86/mode/2up?q=aunt
  28. a b James, E. T., & College, R. (1971). Notable american women 1607-1950: A biographical dictionary, volume 2, G - O. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.