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Thread: Was Beethoven the first Romantic composer?

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    Senior Member Cyclops's Avatar
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    Default Was Beethoven the first Romantic composer?

    Most sources say that Schumann was the first of the Romantic period(some say Schubert) but listening to Beethoven's late piano sonatas I think to myself,no way that is Classical. The piece I'm listening to now,his Hammerklavier is magnificent and powerful but no way does it fit the Classical label. It surely is Romantic in the strictest meaning of the word.
    He died in 1827 but surely he was ushering in a new era with music like this!
    And all those moments are soon lost,like tears in the rain•••

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    Senior Member Bach's Avatar
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    The strictest meaning of the word 'romantic' in reference to music comes from the French word for novel rather than any associations with love. Romantic music should therefore have a close relationship to literature - often describing or capturing an event or telling a story. Schubert's songs were some of the first romantic compositions, along with Beethoven's overtures and the Pastoral Symphony. Perhaps the first romantic composer was Berlioz, with early works (written only two or three years after Beethoven's death) like Symphony Fantastique telling stories and describing scenes.

    The Hammerklavier is in Beethoven's late style - unique - neither classical or romantic, nobody really attempted to imitate this style or take it any further (if that was ever, indeed, possible).
    Si vos agnosco is tunc vos es quoque erudio

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    I'm not sure about this classical / romantic divide. Didn't the classical style just continue but slightly changed with many composers anyway? People like Scriabin, Liszt, Debussy, Wagner maybe mark more of a different approach, but many are following on from the classical masters just slightly differently coloured.

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    Senior Member Cyclops's Avatar
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    Yes Bach I was correcting someone on another forum about this the other day. The poster naturally assumed that Romantic was all to do with love and longing etc,but I explained to him that in music it refers to a period of more free expression,not so bound by the tenets of classical composition. In Mozart's and Haydn's day music was a job,a profession,and to be successful you HAD to comply. I think Beethoven was like,huh,stuff that,I'll write it the way I want.
    That to me is the spirit of romanticism.
    And all those moments are soon lost,like tears in the rain•••

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    Mozart broke away and became freelance. Even Haydn eventually broke the chains of his employment. Beethoven wrote to commission just like them. I'm sure all the great composers must have wrote something just out of pure pleasure and individuality anyway. No doubt even Bach did back in baroque period at one time or another.

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    Senior Member Cyclops's Avatar
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    You know its funny,but listening to the Hammerklavier I couldn't help noticing a similarity to Bach! Fast and precise piano runs,no ornamentation.
    And all those moments are soon lost,like tears in the rain•••

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    Would the greatest composers really care about what category they are put into anyway, lol. To them maybe music is simply music. Perhaps they might have liked to see themselves as successors in some ways to composers of the past that they admired.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    I always consider Beethoven to be largely into the romantic style of thinking. I mostly listen to his symphonies but i think they are th best examples of this, their style are so far ahead from the symphonies of say.. Mozart or Haydn. (barring maybe 1-4)

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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    I always consider Beethoven to be largely into the romantic style of thinking. I mostly listen to his symphonies but i think they are th best examples of this, their style are so far ahead from the symphonies of say.. Mozart or Haydn. (barring maybe 1-4)
    But what is 'the romantic style of thinking', and didn't those who are called romantics now want to 'romanticize' composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart etc anyway?

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    Senior Member Bach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    You know its funny,but listening to the Hammerklavier I couldn't help noticing a similarity to Bach! Fast and precise piano runs,no ornamentation.
    Or perhaps the fact that the entire last movement is a giant fugue..
    Si vos agnosco is tunc vos es quoque erudio

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    Senior Member Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    He died in 1827 but surely he was ushering in a new era...
    I agree.

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    Senior Member Bach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    Not many people would disagree..
    Si vos agnosco is tunc vos es quoque erudio

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    i think Beethoven was not a romantic composer but he set the tone for romantic period. his late sonatas and compositions were hardly accepted that time. did the old Beethoven become rebellious? i don't think so. it's the re-awakening of his music making that influenced the younger composers.

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    According to an important comtemporary, the writer and amateur composer ETA Hoffman, the first Romantic composers were... Haydn and Mozart...

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    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    The strictest meaning of the word 'romantic' in reference to music comes from the French word for novel rather than any associations with love. Romantic music should therefore have a close relationship to literature - often describing or capturing an event or telling a story.
    This doesn't hold up for Chopin. The only music with program he wrote was his Ballades (poems by Mickiewicz, at least that's what Schumann tells us), and his songs.

    It's definitely a romantic source of inspiration, but it won't serve as a definition.
    Maybe it should be searched in the extension of the forms (both extending the exiting ones and the creation of new ones: ballades, fantaisies, nocuturnes...), style of construction (less defined phrases...) and the extention of harmony (9th, 11th...)

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