Characteristics of Beethoven’s style and composers of the Romantic period

Characteristics of Beethoven's style

Beethoven changed over time, so his works are usually divided into three periods. His first period was more conventional, but his second period introduced a number of innovations in things like length, emotional force and variation in the tone of his compositions. His third period, during which he composed his Ninth Symphony, tended more towards meditation and the union of extremes.

On page 182 of his Vintage Guide to Classical Music, Jan Swafford says of Beethoven that “no one before or since has achieved such a fusion of wildness and control”. He used established forms such as the symphony and the concerto, but what he did with the forms took them outside the expected range, for example introducing vocals or connecting his music to external ideas such as thunderstorms. Furthermore, Barbara Hanning has observed that some of her late compositions are difficult to perform because they push the boundaries of what is playable.

Beethoven’s compositional methods relied heavily on inspiration derived from objects in nature or his own personality. He also seems to have often struggled to compose works that expressed exactly what he wanted, leading him to complete fewer works than composers such as Haydn. Comparison of these facts with what is typical of the Romantics shows the similarities.

Features of the Romantic Period

In general, the music of the Romantic movement that became dominant around Beethoven’s death had several characteristics. He had a greater emphasis on emotional expression in music than previously, was often connected to external themes or stories, simultaneously focused on larger and more intimate compositions than in the Classic Period, and emphasized the expression of personality or nationality in music.

Individual personality was also vital to the Romantics, as their exalted idea of ​​artists demanded that each express a personal vision, not one drawn from another. Beethoven’s naturally strong personality made him a hero to the Romantics.

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