A few snippets from the web: - Good Luck (and welcome to the BBB)
The classical style may be seen to culminate in the music of Beethoven, who is perceived as the link between the classic and romantic style. This distinction is important for the so-called common practice era from ca. 1725 to 1900, that is the period of the defining tradition of western music. Beethoven contributed to almost every genre of music at the time, including piano sonata, string quartet, and symphony. He expanded the symphony with regard to form, orchestration, texture, and aesthetics, contributing programmatic elements to an otherwise self-contained style.
As the link to the romantic era that dominated the nineteenth century, Beethoven is a point of departure for many of the trends that existed in the era. The so-called Romantic style includes the growth of a number of varied and often antithetical influences. These include the development of the symphony as a genre; program music and the ideal of absolute music; grand opera; lieder; character pieces for piano; the piano sonata; national musical style; and the expansion of tonality and harmonic practice. The early Romantic composers include Schubert, Weber, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Chopin; among the later ones are Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, and Verdi.
Was Beethoven a Classical or a Romantic composer? The 6th Symphony seems to present the strongest case for the latter - it’s a programmatic work, and program music is a distinctive element of much romantic music. It was written in 1808, just three years after Wordworth finished his 13-book Prelude, when the romantic movement in poetry was in full swing. Also, the standard classical four-movement symphonic structure is replaced by five movements in the 6th symphony, a model which Berlioz adopted for his early romantic work, the Symphonie Fantastique.
Nevertheless, all the experts that I have referenced agree that Beethoven was a purely classical composer. In his classic survey The Classical Style Charles Rosen says:
Beethoven enlarged the limits of the classical style beyond all previous conceptions, but he never changed its essential structure or abandoned it, as did the composers who followed him. In the other fundamental aspects of his musical language, as well as in the key relations within a single movement, Beethoven may be said to have remained within the classical framework, even while using it in startlingly radical and original ways.
Charles Rosen, The Classical Style
There is a technical basis for this view, as Rosen explains how the classical style is rooted in the tonic-dominant relationship, while romantic composers (when not sticking strictly to sonata form) favour subdominants as secondary tonalities. This point is reinforced by close anlaysis of the 6th Symphony, which, as Bernstein says in one of his Charles Eliot Norton lectures (available on DVD and in book form), is dominated by the tonic-dominant relation - F to C. Bernstein tells us that this tonal relationship is what the music is really ‘about’, and not the jonquils and the daisies implied by its ‘program’.
And if that weren’t enough, here’s one final expert opinion: :
For all the religious and potentially programmatic elements, the ‘Pastoral’ is never really in danger of forsaking its status as a Classical Symphony. True there are five movements, and some imitative bird song towards the end of the slow movement; but the latter is little more than an inventive cadenza and the former is self-evidently part of - or a powerful preface to - the Finale. Moreover, the craftmanship is unwavering.
Richard Osborne, Beethoven, A Guide to the Symphony
For all the inspiration that Beethoven was to succeeding generations of romantic composers, both in the transcendence of his music and the independence of his character, he almost completely worked within the heritage of the classical tradition. The sublime world of the last five of his sixteen string quartets and the late piano sonatas is still within the bounds of classical procedures, but now forms are telescoped and there is a very personal use of unusual numbers and types of movements combined with an increasing use of counterpoint. Many of the final works contain fugal sections of a very personal nature within sonata forms. In these works Beethoven, in his isolation brought about by years of total deafness, reaches a profound state of resignation and understanding, humor, and contemplation. The rhetorical trills of the earlier classical era have been transformed into the shimmering stars in the heaven of the variations of the Op.109 piano sonata
Classical (1750 - 1820):
Towards the end of the Baroque period, some composers were already setting off in new directions. The sons of Bach (CPE and JC) for example were already seeking new avenues away from the styles of their father, and a freer movement of artists and musicians between European countries helped to give them inspiration. During this classical period, the forms instigated by the church were still there, but for the most part the major composers of the day worked for the royalty or nobility of the time. Nevertheless public concerts were becoming more popular during this time, and concert halls and opera houses were attended in all major cities.
It is in this period that many familiar "forms" were conceived, and the music of this time was often thought of as being abstract and pure rather than depicting anything in particular. Indeed instrumental music was more common than vocal forms. The concept of a Theme and Variations reached its zenith in this period, Sonata Form was the foundation of Symphonies, Concertos and String Quartets as well as Sonatas, and works were not given titles but merely called things like "Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major". The strict definition of form (and the concept of music being abstract and detached) was seen as a major constraint by some later composers, but allowed the great composers of the day the creative tools to build many acknowledged masterpieces.
The great composers of this period were Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, Johann Christian Bach, Johann Stamitz, Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Luigi Boccherini and Christoph von Gluck with others such as Franz Schubert and especially Ludwig van Beethoven being seen as transitional and indeed instrumental in bringing about the Romantic period.
Romantic (1820 - 1910):
The Romantic era was another period of rapid evolution in music. From the foundations laid down by the Classical masters, composers were now composing from the heart. The fact that composers were no longer employees but independent meant that they could follow their own direction, composing music that pleased themselves. Of course composers still had to live so they accepted commissions, made deals with publishing houses, composed music with commercial value, and promoted their own music through concerts across Europe and other parts of the world. Many composers of the time were also very skilled performers or conductors and would therefore go on tour with their new works. Thus composers were among the celebrities of the time, and there a degree of showmanship involved with ever longer and more elaborate works played by huge orchestras and choirs.
Played using "modern instruments" the music of this period is very familiar to us today, especially those "popular favourites" which are still played frequently today. The language of this music is also familiar from its influence on music for film and television. That it was able to make this transition was the result of its dramatic power and ability to convey both the extremes and subtleties of emotion. This kind of power needed new techniques and audiences heard ever more complex harmonies and rhythms, and the leitmotif was invented. Many composers sought new directions, and different "schools of thought" branched out in different directions. Examples of this being the impressionists who used notes to paint musical pictures or impressions, and the nationals who embraced the folk tunes and styles of their own countries. Classical forms were also stretched so that for some composers the symphony became a symphonic or tone poem, which might tell a story for example. Not all the music of this time was orchestral. Chamber music for smaller forces was also very common, and musical miniatures for solo instruments or singers could be heard in smaller venues or played by ordinary people.
As well as Beethoven and Schubert, composers of the Romantic period include Frederic Chopin, Felix Mendelssohn, Hector Berlioz, Johannes Brahms, Edvard Grieg, Antonin Dvorak, Robert Schumann, Georges Bizet, Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, Erik Satie, Claude Debussy.
"Leave it better than you found it"