Ludwig von Beethoven, Symphony No.5
Romanticism: Striving for a better, higher, ideal state of being was at the heart of
the Romantic Movement. Emotional expression (feeling, unconstrained by
convention, religion, or social taboo- “natural” human feelings, as opposed to the
artificial constraints imposed by society) became the highest artistic goal.
The Age of Revolution: When the French Revolution of 1789 rocked Europe, the
Romantics were inevitably cast in the role of rebels against the established order.
Many musicians including Beethoven associated themselves with libertarian politics
o Along with political revolution went social revolution- the barriers of
hereditary nobility were breached, and the lower and middle classes
assumed more social mobility (Liszt)
o In the music itself, composers searched for higher experience and more
intense expression- worked to break down barriers of harmony and form.
Romantic composers experimented with imaginative new harmonies and
treated the sonata form, which is the hallmark of Classicism, so freely.
Teleology: Belief in or the perception of purposeful development toward an end.
Design or purpose in natural phenomena
o Psychological progression: Beethoven traces a coherent and dramatic
psychological progression in several stages. “There Fate knocks at the door!”
he is supposed to have said about the first movement- but after two eventful
middle stages, Fate is nullified in the last movement, trampled under by a
o Motivic consistency: A single motive is heard constantly, in many different
forms. They are not random forms; the motive becomes more and more vivid
and significant as the work proceeds. This is Organicism- the musical work
seems to grow, rather than to have been constructed. It contains the seeds of
its own development, and progress according to its own internal makeup,
rather than seeming to be built from the outside. (A motive is a short
fragment of melody or rhythm used in constructing a long section of music.
The development of a Romantic motive gives the music a gripping urgency,
instead of the consistency and sense of growth in the Classical motive)
o Rhythmic drive: the drive and blunt power of the rhythmic style. Beethoven
hammers the meter, piles accent upon accent, calculates long time spans
with special power.
Scherzo: A form developed by Beethoven from the minuet to use for movements in
larger compositions; it is a fast, rushing movement in triple meter and in the basic
minuet-and-trio form. Sometimes have more repetitions. Broad, brusque, jocular,
even violent, like a “joke”. Became an ideal vehicle for Beethoven’s characteristic
Beethoven’s Third Period: Music loses much of its earlier tone of heroism and
becomes more introspective, gentle, spiritual- and tends to come framed in more
intimate genres than the symphony (eg. piano sonata, string quartet, piano
miniature). Also becomes retrospective in that some of his works sound like Bach
and Handel. More difficult to describe a certain abstractness, however his control of contrast and musical flow becomes more potent than ever, and a new freedom of
form leads to a range of expression.
Ludwig von Beethoven, String Quartet in F Op. 135 II: Scherzo (ABA; scherzo-trio-
scherzo). Three blind mice- A, G, F.
o A= a |: b a’ c :| (Where a is the AGFGA theme)
o B= scales up from F from G, then A ff explosion ppp AGFGA
o A= same as previous A but in pp, then coda
Franz Schubert, The Erlking
Miniatures: Romantic compositions that last only a few minute or even less, mostly
songs and short piano pieces. Designed to convey a particularly pointed emotion,
momentary and undeveloped. (As opposed to Grandiose Compositions- larger and
larger symphonies, cantatas, and so on, with more movements increased
instrumentation, longer time span)
The Lied: a particular type of German song, one of the “miniature” genres of the
Romantic era. It is accompanied by piano alone, the text is usually a Romantic poem
(the art of the lied depends on the sensitivity of the composer’s response to the
poetic imagery and feeling), and the expression is intimate- words and music are
uttered softly, inwardly.
Strophic Song: A song in several stanzas, with the same music sung for each stanza.
Through-composed Song: A song with new music for each stanza of the poem, as
opposed to strophic song.
“The Erlking” was based on the poem by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (the greatest
literary figure of the day)- a Romantic and a Classic poet, novelist, playwright,
naturalist, philosopher, and a favorite source of texts for many generations of lied
Song cycle: a group of songs associated by a common poetic theme or an actual
story. The advantage of a song cycle was that it extended the rather fragile
expression of the lied into a larger, more comprehensive, and hence more
impressive unit. It was in a sense an effort to get beyond “miniaturism”, even while
composing miniatures. Schubert wrote two great song cycles late in his career.
Hector Berlioz, Symphony Fantastique (Fantastic Symphony)
Program music: instrumental music written in association with a poem, a story, or
some other literary source. Many felt that instrumental music could be made even
more expressive by linking it to poetry and ideas. Berlioz’s program symphonies
were entire symphonies (grandiose composition) with programs spelled out
movement by movement.
Idèe fixe: A fixed idea, an obsession; the term used by Berlioz for a recurring theme
used in all the movements of his program symphony. Berlioz subjects his idèe fixe to
thematic transformation for all its other appearances throughout the piece to
illustrate his drastic mood swings. Eg in the last movement (“Dream Of a Witches’
Sabbath”) it appears as a grotesque parody with a new jerky rhythm and squeaky
orchestration. (Inventive and demanding new orchestration such as plucked and
bowed strings, muted brass instruments) In the piece, the idèe fixe is a representation of Berlioz’s beloved, or obsession, Harriet Smithson, an Irish
In the 5 movement “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath”, as the merriment of the
Sabbath is brought to an end by the tolling of funeral bells, a burlesque of one of the
most solemn and famous of Gregorian chants, “Dies irae”, is heard (a Gregorian
chant, the centerpiece of Requiem Masses) in three segments; in low brasses, then
faster in higher brasses, then faster still in woodwinds and plucked strings. It makes
for a blasphemous, shocking picture of the witches’ black mass. In the final section, a
“Witches’ Round Dance”, Berlioz wrote a free fugue; a traditional form in a
nontraditional context. Counterpoint is used to give a feeling of tumult and orgiastic
confusion. The climax of the symphony comes when the Round Dance theme is
heard together with the Dies irae, played by the trumpets.
Thematic transformation: variation-like procedure whereby short (fragmentary)
themes are freely varied at relatively wide and unpredictable intervals of time (new
versions of theme appear at irregular intervals).
Tone painting: the use of varying timbres and sound symbolism in creating musical
Col legno: (string instruments) played with the wood, that is, the back of the bow.
Glissando: a glide from one pitch to another
Pizzicato: technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument
Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto Act III “La donna è mobile”, “Bella figlia”
Rigoletto is the hunchbacked court jester of the Duke. He is a split character, divided
between cynicism and hatred for the courtiers and his shining love for his daughter,
Gilda, whom he keeps hidden from sight. The Duke is dashing, immoral, and
rapacious, and wants to add Gilda to his list of conquests (descended from Don
Giovanni). Gilda innocently falls in love with the Duke. Sparafucile (means “shotgun”
in Italian) is the assassin hired by Rigoletto to lure the Duke to his broken-down inn,
with the aid of his sister Maddalena.
Aria and quartet
o Recitative: Duke bursts in
o Aria “La donna è mobile”: Strophic form. Duke holds forth on the fickleness
o Recitative: Sparafucile comes out to confirm that this is the man Rigoletto
o Quartet “Bella figlia dell’amore (allegro)”: the Duke presses his attentions on
Maddalena while she jokingly resists. Meanwhile, outside, Gilda is horrified.
o Quartet (Andante): Each character sings distinct melody that captures the
emotions at stake. Then they shift through rich, Romantic harmonies, then
o Recitative: Rigoletto tells Gilda to go to Verona, where he will follow.
Recitative/aria: Still used recitative for the action and dialogue portions, and arias
for reflective, emotional expression. However plot action and dialogue were now
always accompanied by the full orchestra, who plays more active, motivic, excited
music that points up the words and urges the singer on. o Verdian recitatives: highly melodramatic, always on the point of merging into
a full-fledged melodic style.
o Verdian arias: formally complete and distinct. Often extracted and sung
separately as concert numbers.
Verdi’s unswerving commitment to the human voice- he was a faithful follower of
the bel canto principles of Rissini, Donizetti, and Bellini (early Romantic Italian opera
composers); Verdi never allowed the voice to be overshadowed by the orchestra. He
sought out dramatic, human, subjects full of stirring action, and he found just the
right vocal melody to capture a dramatic situation.
Madame Butterfly- Aria “Un bel di” from Act 2
Capitalizing on Romantic psychological depiction in opera, Puccini specialized in
intimate portraits of helpless women in hopeless situations (such as Cho-Cho-san in
Richard Wagner, The Valkyrie (Die Walküre) Act 1 Scene 1
Music drama: Music shares the honors with poetry, drama, and philosophy, as well
as the stage design and acting; Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”). The music is
very closely matched to the words, yet the music is very emotional and intense. The
dramas themselves deal with weighty philosophical issues, under the symbolic cover
of medieval German myths and legends (eg. Oedipus). These myths were
emphasized as embodiments of the deepest unconscious truths.
Leitmotivs: leading musical motive associated with some person, thing, idea, or
symbol in the drama.
o Leitmotivs can suggest with considerable subtlety what the hero is thinking
or feeling even when he is saying something else, or saying nothing. Also by
transforming the appropriate motives, Wagner could show a person or an
idea developing and changing under the impact of dramatic action.
o Leitmotivs, being music, could state or suggest ideas in emotional terms, over
and above the intellectual terms provided by mere words. The complex web
of leitmotivs provided Wagner’s long music dramas with the thematic unity
that Romantic composers sought.
Tristan and Isolde: Wagner’s first completed music drama that tells the great love
story of Tristan and Isolde, taken from medieval legend. The sexual love that is
portrayed in this work exemplifies “the Will”- human experience of emotions and
drives, which always dominates “Appearance”- of ideas, morals, and reason. The plot
shows the growing power of love, and the music grows more and more powerful,
whose passion becomes the ultimate experience and transcends the reality. The two
characters eventually die; Tristan is wounded when the lovers’ tryst is discovered,
and Isolde sinks down in rapture and expires.
o The “Tristan chord” :chord made up of the notes F, B, D♯ and G♯. More
generally, it can be any chord that consists of these
same intervals: augmented fourth, augmented sixth, and augmented
ninth above a root. It is so named as it is heard in the opening phrase of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde as part of the leitmotif relating
Within each act there is a continuous musical flow (Wagner called this 'unending
melody') instead of traditional arias, recitatives, and ensembles, and there are no
breaks where applause can interrupt.
“The Ring Cycle” (“The Nibelung’s Ring”): Huge music drama in four parts; The Rhine