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