The Romantic Period composers brought great changes to classical music. The Romantic period in the arts started in literature in the late 18th century as a reaction against the strict and formal approach of the Classical period. Romanticism brought a greater emphasis on the emotions and instincts of the artist as opposed to the intellect. Composers were looking for greater freedom of form and expression.

The era of Romanticism is generally divided into three shorter periods.


The Early Romantic Period, 1820 to 1850, was foreshadowed by Beethoven’s later works. Composers of this period include Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Chopin.


The Middle Romantic Period, from 1850 to 1890, includes the works of Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak and Grieg.


The Late Romantic Period, from 1890 to 1910, includes the works of R.Strauss, Sibelius, and the late works of Grieg and Dvorak which are part of a “Nationalism” movement.


The Early Romantic Period


Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-1847. This German is considered a major Romantic Period composer. He was a child prodigy, and composed his first major work at age 17. At age 20 he conducted a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, that sparked a renewed interest in J.S. Bach. Mendelssohn’s works are characterized by restraint, refinement and sensitivity. He wrote symphonies, concertos, oratorios and piano pieces.

Robert Schumann, 1810-1856. This German is considered a leader of the Romantic Period composers. He wrote primarily piano music until 1840, when he began composing orchestral works and songs. His works had great emotional intensity, which foreshadowed his later nervous breakdown. He was an influence on Chopin and Brahms.



Frederic Chopin, 1810-1849. Born in Poland, Chopin settled in Paris. His piano music is known for its unprecedented heights of expressiveness. Chopin established the piano as a solo instrument, or as a dominating force in his piano concertos. He wrote concertos, preludes, etudes, and sonatas.

The Middle Romantic Period

Franz Liszt, 1811-1886. This Hungarian composer is regarded as the greatest pianist of his time. He was a “superstar” who thrilled audiences with his dramatic technique. Liszt was also a teacher, guiding many of the great pianists of the following generation. He changed the concept of the sonata, and influenced other Romantic Period composers, includingWagner and Strauss.

Richard Wagner, 1813-1883. This German composer’s operas are regarded as the finest musical expression of German Romanticism, and were a great influence on following composers. He employed the use of continuous flow of melody, and called his operas “music-dramas.” He wrote his own librettos, which are taken from German mythology.



Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897. This German composer is considered one of the masters of the Romantic Period. His conservative style was at odds with some of the more dramatic composers of his day. His four symphonies are regarded as among the greatest in music. He composed in almost every genre but opera, and he devoted special attention to his chamber music and songs.


Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1840-1893. This Russian composer is one the most popular and influential of the Romantic Period composers. An annuity from a wealthy patroness allowed him to devote years to his music. His compositions are melodious, richly orchestrated, often melancholy and emotional. He is known for his symphonies, ballets, operas and concertos.

Antonin Dvorak, 1841-1904. A Czech composer, of which much of his music is nationalistic. He is best known for his New World Symphony, which he composed while in the U.S. He wrote symphonies, chamber works, concertos, and overtures.



Edvard Grieg, 1843-1907. This Norwegian composer is known for his nationalistic style. He founded the Norwegian Academy of Music in 1867. Grieg composed piano concertos, cantatas, suites and works based on Norwegian folk songs. He is perhaps best known for the “In The Hall of The Mountain King,” from the Peer Gynt Suite, the music for a play by Henrik Ibsen.

The Late Romantic Period: 1890-1910

Richard Strauss, 1864-1949. This German composer is known for his romantic symphonic poems and operas. His music is dramatic and richly orchestrated. He was also a conductor. Thus Spake Zarathustra, used as the theme in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey may be his best known work.

Jean Sibelius, 1865-1957. This Finnish composer wrote romantic and personal pieces of a nationalistic nature. He composed seven symphonies, a violin concerto, and other orchestral works. His best known work may be his symphonic poem Finlandia.

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