Romance has been claimed by the easy attempts: the familiar shades of red, valentine sentiments and flowered declarations. It has become little more than a shadow of its former meaning – with all preferring the fast rewards of the expected over the structure of sound. But the notion of romanticism was first offered to classical music and it is through this that it can best be understood. This is not the common gestures of candied cliches or tedious serenades. This is instead a perfected form.
The Romantic age is best defined as occurring between 1815 and 1900; directly after the Baroque period and its religious flavorings and before the contemporary sounds of the 20th century. During these years a surge of passionate melodies were created, with an emphasis on drama, fluidity and expressiveness. Classical music structures were expanded. Composers began to utilize chords that were often ignored, creating rhythms that lacked the tight patterns of previous attempts. These instead were grand, chaotic and fell across the musical scale in unprecedented ways.
And it was through this that the Romantic period earned its name. While many of the themes found within symphonies and concertos did feature love and sacrifice, the true distinction of this time was in its experimentation. It was not restricted to the notations of the former genres, kept to the rigid structures. It instead tried to reinvent classical music, wishing to push at the boundaries that had become stale – and it succeeded. Its preferences of diverse designs, exaggerated pitch and even creating far larger orchestras (a process that is still used today) proved a worthy successor to the past.
There is an assumption that the Romantic age is little more than a dedication to passion. It is instead, however, a time that reinvigorated classical music and produced some of the most recognized compositions throughout the world. Appreciating it is essential to understanding the sounds that followed and the ones that will eventually come.