As an art, music is very interesting and engaging. One of the most symbolic and imperative periods in music is the Classical and romanticism periods. The two periods are similar in one way and are also different in another way. A comparison of the two periods depicts that genres in music are very distinct and unique. To start with, the Classical period which took place between 1750 and 1820 entailed a variety of Western musical styles particularly from 17th to the 19th century. This period falls between the Romantic and Baroque periods. The renowned composers from this period include Ludwig Van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, and Franz Schubert among others (Mitterschiffthaler, 2007).
Notably, the words ‘enlightened’ and ‘natural’ are over and over again used to exemplify this period. Like any other style, music from the classical period has a particular style, although it is not easy to describe. Among the common features of the classical period include; a tune, and the name. Initially, the classical period was created by composers such as Mozart and Haydn. These composers diverted from the formality of the ‘elitist’ that was rooted in the Baroque period. In its early stages, independent lines were added by the composers making the music easy to understand.
The Romantic period on the other hand is a symbolic period that is similar to the classical period. It is an era of Western classical music that developed in the early 19th century. It is an era related to the European literacy and artistic movement (Romanticism) that emerged in mid 18th century. It started in around 1832 and ended round 1900 when compositions were very inventive and expressive. In its early stages, virtuosic piano music, expansive symphonies, passionate songs, and dramatic operas took inspiration from literature and art.
However as the classical period moved towards greater understanding and simplicity, several changes were evident including; composers were allowed by new forms of music to take advantage of the continuing evolution of music and musical instruments, and to provide stringent organization of their musical thoughts. The later period of the classical music was characterized by profound changes in the tune, names, and style of the music. For instance, works such as Masses, Oratorios, and hymns became a part of the compositional palette. New performing options emerged like the string quartets, and the piano which brought forth new developments. In addition to that, the classical desire for non-emotional and simple music led to new straightforward titles such as ‘sonata’ and ‘symphony’ that replaced the initial titles of the Baroque. Other developments of the later period were absolute music works. These works were typically performed in recital halls and in concerts, and were purposely written for their own sake (Lu, 2006).
Different from the classical period, the use of rubato became popular, and elements such as, tempo, dynamics, and pitch developed wider ranges. In addition to that, the orchestra was significantly expanded. Similar to the classical period, the main instrument during the early Romantic period was the piano. Conversely, the piano was taken to greater heights by composers. During the Romantic period, some forms of the classical period were carried on. However, some of these forms were altered while others were adjusted to make music more appealing and subjective.
Despite changes in the classical music from the earlier era to the later era, some elements still prevailed in the two periods. For instance, dynamics, melodies, rhythm, Basso Continuo, and texture were dominant in the two eras. These elements are paramount in the relationships of the two periods. However, growth of the public concert is one key development of the classical period. The aristocracy continued to play a key role in the two earlier and later eras of the classical music. Markedly, concerts were publically allowed and not limited to specific venues such as drawing rooms. Larger audiences were attracted by composers who now began to organize concerts that featured their own music. Due to the increased popularity of the public concert, the orchestra also became famous and was widely used.
Markedly, in the later era of the classical music, solo and chamber works were played at intimate and home settings. It was a major development in the classical music because symphonic music including oratorio and opera appeared to be extroverted in some way. To accommodate the now expanded musical vision, composers progressively increased the size of the orchestra. Therefore, there was some difference and also some similarity in the earlier and the later classical periods. There is a clear distinction between the two periods, notably, during the earlier period (Baroque), music was fairly compound where numerous coincident melodies competed for attention. However, transition from the earlier classical period to the later period was characterized by inspiration and confidence of the composers who began to expand, explore, and develop the forms, and the melodic vocabulary of the classical music.
Renowned Romantic composers include Brahms, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler. Unlike the classical era that was characterized by a ‘tune’ and a ‘name’, the Romantic era was known for its intense passion and energy. Notably, the unbending forms of the classical music paved way for the Romantic era by giving way to more expression. As a result, music grew closer to theatre, art, and literature. Romanticism as pioneered by Beethoven who developed stringent formulas for sonatas, and symphonies. By doing this, he gave his works references to various elements of life by introducing a whole new loom to music (Mitterschiffthaler, 2007).
As the later era of music, the Romantic period brought forth new virtuoso. The tone poem, symphonies, and expressive approach were widely accepted. The Romantic era was distinct in such a way that, emotion was the focus of all the arts of the movement. Towards the beginning of the 19th century, an evolution of new genres including program symphony was pioneered. Notably, Beethoven was behind this development. Until the musical rules had to be rewritten, compositions and ideas became more and more inventive and outlandish.
Although there is some similarity between the Romantic and Classical periods in music, the Romantic period is very pleasing and lighter. The difference between the two periods is evident with the distinct style, tune, and naming. Music became more subjective and emotional during the Romantic period because composers used music to express themselves. Composers were inspired by the dark and supernatural themes, and romantic love. Various composers drew inspiration from folk songs and history of certain nations. Similar to the classical period that evolved into many phases, the Romantic period saw changes in the tone, theme and style of the music. For instance, Harmony became more complex while tone became richer. Due to profound changes in the Romantic era, music changed significantly from a stiff to a flexible setting. For this reason, romantic music has had a stylistic influence all over the world. As a result, it is easily identifiable as compared to the classical music.
Notably, the symphonic structure was adopted during the Classical era. In addition to that, other significant works, including the 40 some Mozart Symphonies, 100 Haydn, and the 9 Beethoven were composed. Seemingly, since the orchestration calls for more instruments, Romantic Symphonies are thicker in textile. The Romantic music on the other hand shifted from absolute music to program music. For instance, one remarkable aspect with the Romantic era was the biggest compositional. In its time, vocal music took a major change; this change was a shift from choirs that were used in the Baroque, to concert pieces and solo works. Musicians, artists, and architects moved from the Rococo and the Baroque styles which were heavily ornamented to embracing uncluttered and clean styles. For instance, dances such as ‘gavotte’ and ‘minuet’ were provided in forms of entertaining divertimenti and serenades.
Ideally, the Romantic period was in a flexible setting. It brought a freedom in design and form. Alongside that, it also brought weightier and denser textures with bold, dramatic contrasts that explored a wide range of dynamics, pitch, and tone-colors. Romantic music which is the later period in music was exuberant. Since it was high-spirited, it stressed drama, strong emotions, and conflict which periods adopted. There were closer links with various arts to a keener interest in concert overture and program music. Lastly, the Romantic period led to greater technical virtuosity particularly from violinists, pianists, and flautists (Bowie, 2007).
Bowie, A. (2007). Music, Philosophy, and Modernity (p. 428). Cambridge University Press.
Lu, L., Liu, D., & Zhang, H. J. (2006). Automatic mood detection and tracking of music audio signals. IEEE Transactions on audio, speech, and language processing, 14(1), 5-18.
Mitterschiffthaler, M. T., Fu, C. H., Dalton, J. A., Andrew, C. M., & Williams, S. C. (2007). A functional MRI study of happy and sad affective states induced by classical music. Human brain mapping, 28(11), 1150-1162.