A History of Western Music

By Donald Jay Grout; Claude V. Palisca | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16

ROMANTICISM AND NINETEENTH‐
CENTURY ORCHESTRAL MUSIC

ROMANTICISM

Classic and Romantic are rough and imprecise labels, yet we use them like their counterparts Renaissance and Baroque to define chronological boundaries and to give us starting points for discussing the music of these periods. Contrasting Classic with Romantic has caused confusion in the study of music history because the two are not entirely contradictory: the historical continuity between the two cultural movements is greater than any contrast. The great bulk of music written between 1770 and 1900 lies on a continuum, employing common conventions of harmonic progression, rhythm, and form. E. T. A. Hoffmann considered the instrumental music of Haydn and Mozart "romantic," and Beethoven, as we saw (page 539),"a completely romantic composer." 1.

Classic vs. Romantic

The term "romantic" enjoyed a vogue at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772-1801) borrowed the term from the Roman or novel, a genre descended from the medieval romance, a tale or poem about heroes or events written in one of the vernacular "Roman" dialects of Latin. The literary critic Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829) differentiated classic poetry—which was objectively beautiful, self-limited in scope and theme, and had universal validity—from modern romantic poetry, which transgressed rules and limits, and expressed the richness of nature and insatiable longing. (For an example of romantic art, see Plate X, facing page 495. )

"Romantic," however, meant so many things to different people that in 1837 Schumann exclaimed, "I am heartily sick of the term 'romantic', though I

____________________
1.
E. T. A. Hoffman, "Beethoven's Instrumental Music" (1813), trans. O. Strunk in SRrev, p. 1195; 6:153.

-542-

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