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The Periods of Classical Music, Part 3: The Romantic Period

Learn about some of the most interesting aspects of the Romantic Era in music

Released on December 11, 2013

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Video Transcription

Welcome to and with the third in a series of the previous styles of classical music. Well, we started with the baroque which is good because we're going in order here. The next was the classical era. The Baroque was this beautiful filigree of counter ploy destruction in the classical era.

So what happened after that? Well, music got more complex. This is the tendency, by the way, you're gonna notice this; the overreaching architecture of how music progresses over time and not just music but art, architecture, theatre, all of it. Things tend to get more complex over time because somebody writes something really great that becomes very influential and somebody has to try to tap it with something, and how do you tap something that's great? Well, more and bigger and more themes, more instruments. That's exactly what happened. In the romantic, the Piano got bigger and louder. The symphony orchestra expanded with more instruments. Forms were extended instead of just three-movement works, four and even five-movement works. Everything got bigger, the expression also becomes much more fluid, there's a lot more personal expression in the music, there's a lot of freedom. So what kind of freedoms are there? Well, there's all sorts of freedoms, but I wanna talk about one in particular; Roberto, which is a given take in the rhythm. Whereas, in classical era and baroque music you keep the tempo rather steady, you know, metronomic, really most of the time with a little bit of fluidity but really very straight and structured.

In the romantic, often times it can sound almost like you're improvising like in the B flat minor nocturnal of Chopin, where condenses are written out where you might have 23 notes in one hand against six or seven in the other. There's all kinds of freedom that is necessitated by the writing itself. Listen to this and you'll see what I mean and gonna play it with that abandon


It sounds very natural that way, doesn't it? Now if I were to play this as if it were a classical period piece, trying to play it very straight and structured with clarity and not too much pedal, you'd end up with this kind of performance


You could hear it looses the tenderness and the expressiveness so that give and take, it's not just all straight, it can move ahead and it can then hold back a little bit. Never gaining or losing time but getting a little bit ahead of the beat in the middle of the phrase and then releasing at the end. Almost like going over a hill in a car and you get that wonderful feeling where the music draws you in as it goes to the middle of the phrase. There's all kind of nuances with the peddling, you notice how dry and antiseptic it sounded in that last performance.

So to recap, in the romantic era, unlike the baroque and the classical there is more freedom in the interpretation. You can allow yourself to play with more fluid tempo, with more pedal of different nature. You can play it in many different ways, and that's the interesting thing. Take a piece like the B flat minor nocturnal I just played, listed to several different performances and you'll be astounded at how what a unique individual voice great artists bring to the very same pieces of music.

Alright, thanks so much for joining me. You must check out the last of the series should be coming out for you soon; Impressionist music.

Thanks for joining me here at and

Your host, Robert Estrin.
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Peter Ma on February 10, 2016 @6:27 am PST
I like this presentation on the romantic period, & many others before it from you. But my question below is more about something basic & technical: What are the most common ways of ending a piece of music played or improvised on the piano?
marty kuiper on December 12, 2013 @1:40 am PST
thank you so much for a wonderful lesson in music. I enjoyed it very much.
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