Fans of classical music, such as Tunde Folawiyo, are likely to have come across pieces from the Romantic period at some point. This period began in the mid-19th century, and ended at the start of the 20th; characterised by its dramatic operas, virtuosic piano works and elaborate symphonies; it was a highly expressive and experimental period in classical music history. Franz Peter Schubert is perhaps one of the most famous composers of the Romantic period.
Although he died at a very young age, he produced a vast number of compositions, including solo piano pieces, chamber music, operas, liturgical pieces, symphonies and lieder. He explored virtually every compositional form, creating rich, complex harmonies and elegant melodies.
For most of his life, Schubert’s work went unrecognised by the masses; the only period in which he experienced a brief respite from obscurity was in 1823, when he became an honourary member of the Musikverein of Graz. It was during this time that he composed what would become his most famous piece, the Unfinished Symphony. Shortly after he passed away at the age of 32, other composers began to take an interest in the work which Schubert had created. Brahms, Liszt and Schumann were particularly impressed by his compositions, and it was they who continued to champion his work throughout the late 19th century.
Richard Wagner was another composer of this era, who may be well-known to most classical music fans, including Tunde Folawiyo. His work was extremely influential, with many praising his revolutionary approach to the operatic form. Wagner was obsessed with the idea of combining the dramatic, musical and visual arts, and managed to achieve this by developing a type of opera known as ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’. His inspiration came from the operas and ideas of Carl Maria Von Weber and Gluck, two well-known German composers.
The reforms which Wagner made to the opera mean that there was no longer any distinction between the aria and the recitative, with the orchestra taking a symphonic approach and using brief themes. Wagner is also credited with having expanded tonality, by introducing the use of the chromatic scale in compositions. He employed this technique in many of his operas; for instance, in the case of Isolde and Tristan, Wagner made use of an unresolved harmony and a chromatic melody to express the feeling of searching for the unattainable.