The Romantic Period: Music History, Composers and Pieces
The Romantic period in music was from about 1820 to 1910. It’s typically the era that intermediate and advanced students fall in love with once they start getting into more exciting repertoire by Chopin and Liszt.
Some really great expressive writing came from this time period, which is why people tend to fall in love with it. It’s closer in sound to the modern music we enjoy, and the pieces from this period cover the full spectrum of human emotion.
The Romantic Period
This video series goes into depth on the Romantic period in music, the influential composers from this time, and genres and instruments that were popular.
Opera was a big part of the Romantic era, so it seemed important to plant this video here. The second video discusses opera in the Romantic and Modern eras of music.
Not many people outside of piano circles are familiar with Chopin, but for those of us who do play piano, the man is a legend. He wrote almost exclusively for the piano, and is known for his beautiful (and often tragic) expressive writing.
Liszt was a rockstar in his day – he toured constantly, was such a dreamy performer that women swooned in his presence, and of course he was very good. So good, in fact, that he’s considered to be one of the best pianists of all time.
Schubert had a remarkable output of music for his short life (31 years). He wrote some keyboard, but is most known for his vocal works and symphonies.
Charles Alkan was a fascinating Romantic-era musician who is virtually unknown nowadays. Franz Liszt considered him to be the best pianist of the day (high praise from someone many others considered to be the best pianist), and he wrote many insanely difficult pieces for piano.
Tchaikosky was a late-Romantic composer who wrote in a highly emotive Russian style. Though he wrote piano music, he was much more well-known for his ballets (like The Nutcracker) and his symphonies.
This video is a good place to start if you’re wanting to get into Chopin’s music but aren’t sure where to look. It covers a variety of genres and moods, showcasing what I consider to be the highlights of his work.
This is a starting point for getting into Liszt’s music. Not all of the pieces featured here are super famous, but they represent the scope of his style.
If you’re getting into Schubert, this video walks through several of his famous and impressive pieces.
This nocturne is arguably Chopin’s most famous piece simply because it’s all over pop culture – you’ve likely heard it. It’s also not wildly difficult at a grade 9 level (still advanced, but achievable for most casual and committed pianists).
Chopin’s 24 preludes are very odd. Some pieces are easy, some are insanely difficult. Some are thirty seconds, some are several minutes. And each has a very distinct mood. That’s why I think it’s worth looking at the collection as a whole, instead of individual pieces.
Franz Liszt wrote 3 Liebestraume, which are all dreamy “songs of love”. The third one is the most famous, but in this video we take a look at all three.
This epic (and extremely virtuosic) piece is one of my favorite piano pieces of all time, so of course I had to do a video on it. It’s wild, it’s exciting, and it’s very daring for the era.
Though I believe Schubert wrote many, many masterpieces, this one in particular is very well-loved. In this video, we take an in-depth look at its form and style, and listen through bits and pieces of it.
This is a grade 9 level piece. I recorded my daily practice progress and made some notes about my learning process and how much time everything took to come together. The video finishes with a completed play-through.
Ave Maria is a very famous prayer, and has had many great musical compositions fashioned around it. Schubert’s Ave Maria is the most notable, though it originally didn’t follow the words of the prayer. Other famous versions are by composers such as Liszt and Bruckner.
Tchaikovsky is a very well-known Russian composer from the later Romantic period. He wrote music for various ballets such as Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. This video is a brief look at 5 of his famous compositions.
This Halloween-y composition by Berlioz s very creepy and very well-known. Though the symphony has multiple movements, this video explores the Witches’ Sabbath movement in particular.
In this video, you can follow along my journey of practicing November, which took 20+ hours. I share insights I had along the way, and you can see my progress.
This preparatory/beginner level piece is suitable to those in their first few months of lessons. It’s a famous melody, and I’ve adapted it here to simplify it significantly.
Brahms’ Lullaby is another extremely famous tune, played to calm babies all over the globe. This adaptation is simplified for students in their first six months of lessons.
Another preparatory level piece, though this one is less known. This is the true version of the piece (not adapted and simplified by me), and is part of the RCM syllabus.
Made famous by pop culture, this is a very fast piece. It’s playable for first year students, but its speed makes it more of a project.
Usually a grade 6 level piece, I’ve adapted this waltz to be approximately a grade 1 level. It’s a lovely tune with chords for accompaniment – even simplified, it sounds rather sophisticated.
This might be another one of those famous Classical pieces that you’ve heard, but don’t know the title for. Originally written for symphony, I’ve adapted this to grade 1 piano.
This is the easiest composition from Tchaikovsky’s Album for the Young. It’s a great album full of diverse pieces for the beginner and intermediate student. This particular piece is very moody and dark.
This is a great album to get into as an intermediate student. They’re all between grades 3 and 7, so it’s a collection you can grow into over the span of several years. The first tune, Melodie, is the easiest – but it’s got some deceptively difficult aspects.
Tchaikovsky’s op. 39 album is very similar to Schumann’s above – they’re both meant for intermediate-level students. This piece is at a grade 3 level in the RCM syllabus, but it’s very difficult for the level. This is mainly because of the multi-voiced chorale writing style.
This grade 3 piece is marked as an etude, which means it’s designed to improve an aspect of your piano technique. In the case of this piece, it helps you play fast 5 finger patterns and light left hand chords. I haven’t met a student who hasn’t fallen in love with this fun piece!
Grechaninov is a little-known Romantic composer, but he wrote some really appealing early-intermediate music. My students tend to really enjoy his pieces, and they’re more approachable than some pieces by more well-known Romantic composers (such as Chopin).