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The “Romantic” movement

After Beethoven, composers turned their attention to the expression of intense feelings in their music. This expression of emotion was the focus of all the arts of the “Romantic” movement. For inspiration, many Romantic composers turned to the visual arts, to poetry, drama and literature, and to nature itself. Using the classical forms of Sonata and Symphony as a starting point, composers began focusing more on new melodic styles, richer harmonies, and ever more dissonance, in the pursuit of moving their audiences, rather than concerning themselves with the structural discipline of Classical forms.

Later composers of the nineteenth century would further build on the forms and ideas developed by the Romantic composers. One of the best known and best loved composers of the Romantic period, Chopin was born in Poland and lived most of his life in Paris, which was at that time the musical hub of Europe. Chopins entire musical output was devoted to his favorite instrument, the piano. His over 200 solo composition for the piano all demonstrate his highly individual melodic style. Chopin was most influenced by by vocal music like that found in Italian opera.

Even at a very early age, his mothers singing would bring him to tears. It is fitting that this should be the case. The human voice is naturally the most emotional instrument of all, and music, as well as the instruments it is played on, has always seemed to strive to imitate this most moving sound. Chopin brought this “singing” or “cantabile” style to his piano compositions from the onset. Chopin began writing in wide variety of miniature expressions of an original poetic nature.

He soon wrote pieces that were among the most succinct and direct expressions of musical petry and sentimentality that the world had ever heard. He had a unique ability to move the listener in a direct, personal, and succinct manner. Some of his shortest Preludes are the most complete and perfect expressions of musical thought to be found. No composer before him exposed his most inner self so nakedly. He literally tore himself open and showed you what was inside of him, no matter how painful, whimsical, lonely, confused, or frightning.

Chopin displayed a complete mastery over all aspects of piano composition technically. His music is extremely rich texturally and rhythmically. He used syncopation between the right and left hands to wonderful effect- the melody played on the right hand often occurs between the time kept by the left. He used trills to a charming and elaborate extent. This device, very common in earlier music was used by Chopin to a new sensibility in the Romantic era.

He often invoked many other devices to add charm and intrigue to his pieces. He also used pedaling, particularly the sustain pedal, with much more freedom than anyone before him to add even more richness and depth to his works. All of his creations are studies in harmony- those which were conventional and many that few before him were willing to explore. Not only was the left hand rich in intriguing harmony, but many of his pieces had the right hand carry the melody in two part harmony throughout the piece.

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