Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
is an icon of Romanticism - he died young and unappreciated, only to be revered
by later generations. His most significant contribution to the musical lexicon
is in the German Lieder where he wrote over 600. A perfect contrast to the
grand concert extravaganzas of Berlioz, Schubert's works are more at home
in the salon. The Erlking is a setting of Goethe's poem describing
a father's desperate attempt to keep the Erlking from taking his son into
death. Galloping on horseback the father races to reach home, but only after
he discovers his son has died.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
was a Romantic composer whose musical style builds on the Wagnerian tradition.
Mostly relying on the program symphony as his preferred idiom, Strauss weaves
an elaborate musical texture to express literary ideas. His most noted work,
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is a musical version of Nietzsche's ground
breaking philosophical treatise. Nowhere is the implication of the Ubermensch
better "sounded" than the opening of this work.
Also Sprach Zarathustra - Einleitung
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
described his own music as "requiring a combination of extreme precision,
and irresistible verve, a regulated vehemence, a dreamy tenderness, and an
almost morbid melancholy." Like many Romantics, his passion in music
was reflected in his passionate life. The story of Symphonie Fantastique
is a parallel telling of his relationship with Harriet Smithson - a man jilted
by his lover attempts suicide. The five movements of the symphony describe
the fantasies experienced by a man hallucinating on opium. His love appears
as a melody (Idee Fixe) in each movement, though transformed to reflect
her changed character. In every regard this is a Romantic tour de force
and the model for later 19th century program symphonies.
Symphonie Fantastique - Movement 5 Witches Sabbath
(Dance of the witches, followed by the dance and
the Dies ire combined)