Romantic Virtuosity Essay, Research Paper
As the many socio-political revolutions of the late eighteenth-century established new social orders and new ways of life and thought; composers of the time period broke new musical ground by adding a new emotional depth to the prevailing classical forms.
This period is known as the Romantic period. It accured approximately from 1820 to 1920. Artists became intent in expressing their subjective, personal emotions. “Romanticism” derives its name from the romances of medieval times — long poems telling stories of heroes and chivalry, of distant lands and far away places, and often of unattainable love. The romantic artists are the first in history to give to themselves the name by which they are identified.
The Romantic Movement in music co-insides with a general Romantic movement in all arts. At this period, the arts of literature and painting began to influence music. In the Romantic era, music acquired poetic or philosophical meaning. Antiquity, folklore, history and exotic cultures were examined as possible sources of inspiration. Romanticism in literature appears to precede the first signs of Romantic music (for example Goethe [1749-1832] and Wordsworth [1770-1850]). The Romantic Movement was fostered especially by a number of German writers and poets. Their influence on musicians was pervasive and enduring. Weber and Wagner were attracted by the legends of Northern Europe; Schumann by the pseudo-philosophic romantic literature of his day; Chopin by his national poet Mickiewicz; Berlioz by the earlier romantic poet Shakespeare; Liszt by the contemporary French romantic poet Lamartine and by various French romantic painters, and so on. Thus, an explosion of music by poetry, fiction, philosophy and painting took place, and with it was associated a further explosion by the spirit of nationalism. Weber, Schumann, Wagner expressing the German spirit; Chopin, Poland; Listz, Hungary; Dvorak, Bohemia; Grieg, Norway, and so on.
Virtuoso: A person of notable accomplishment; a musician of extraordinary technical skill. In its original Italian usage (particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries) ‘virtuoso’ was a term of honor reserved for a person distinguished in any intellectual or artistic field: a poet, architect, scholar etc. A virtuoso in music might be a skilful performer, but more importantly, he was a composer, a theorist or at least a famous maestro di cappella. In the late 17th and 18th centuries a great number of Italian musicians carried the term ‘virtuoso’ to the courts and theaters of northern Europe, regularly applying it to themselves whether not they merited such distinction in the traditional Italian sense.
IMPORTANT VIRTUOSO/A OF THE ROMANTIC PERIOD
Born: Raiding, near Odenburg, October 22, 1811
Died: Bayreuth, July 31, 1886
Hungarian composer Franz Liszt began his career as the outstanding concert pianist of the century, who, along with the prodigious violinist Nicola Paganini (1782-1840), created the cult of the modern instrumental virtuoso. To show off his phenomenal and unprecedented technique, Liszt composed a great deal of music designed specifically for this purpose, resulting in a vast amount of piano literature laden with dazzling scales, trills, arpeggios, leaps, and other technical marvels. In this vein, Liszt composed a series of virtuoso rhapsodies on Hungarian gypsy melodies, the best-known being the all too familiar Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2. his kind of music is worlds apart from the generally more introspective, poetic music of pianist-composer Frederic Chopin.
Liszt is often credited with the creation of the symphonic poem: extended, single-movement works for orchestra, inspired by paintings, plays, poems or other literary or visual works, and attempting to convey the ideas expressed in those media through music. Such a work is Les Preludes, based on a poem in which life is expressed as a series of struggles, passions, and mysteries, all serving as a mere prelude to . . .what? The Romantic genre of the symphonic poem, as well as its cousin the concert overture, became very attractive to many later composers, including Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Sibelius, and Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
Born: Oct. 27, 1782, Genoa, republic of Genoa [Italy]
Died: May 27, 1840, Nice, Fr.
Italian composer and principal violin virtuoso of the 19th century. A popular idol, he inspired the Romantic mystique of the virtuoso and revolutionized violin technique.
After initial study with his father, Paganini studied with a local violinist, G. Servetto, and then with the celebrated Giacomo Costa. He made his first appearance in 1793 and then studied with Alessandro Rolla and Gaspare Ghiretti at Parma. In 1797, accompanied by his father, he toured Lombardy, where with each concert his reputation grew. Gaining his independence soon after, he indulged excessively in gambling and romantic love affairs. At one point, he pawned his violin because of gambling debts; a French merchant lent him a Guarneri violin to play a concert and, after hearing him, gave him the instrument.
Between 1801 and 1807, he wrote the 24 Capricci for unaccompanied violin, displaying the novel features of his technique, and the two sets of six sonatas for violin and guitar. He reappeared in Italy as a violinist in 1805 and was appointed director of music at Piombino by Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi. He later gave recitals of his own compositions in many towns in Italy and in 1815 formed his long attachment with the dancer Antonia Bianchi.
In 1828, Paganini experienced great success in Vienna, and his appearances in Paris and London in 1831 were equally sensational. His tour of England and Scotland in 1832 made him a wealthy man. In 1833 he settled in Paris, where he commissioned Hector Berlioz to write his symphony Harold en Italie. Paganini thought that the challenge of its viola solo was too slight, however, and he never played it
Paganini’s romantic personality and adventures created in his own day the legend of a Mephistophelean figure. Stories circulated that he was in league with the devil and that he had been imprisoned for murder; his burial in consecrated ground was delayed for five years. He was long regarded as a miser, but a more accurate portrait would consider his desire to be free from a train of dependent followers and their importunities for his largesse. His gift of 20,000 francs to the struggling composer Berlioz was an act of generosity seemingly uncharacteristic; possibly Paganini, recognizing in “Beethoven’s successor” a worthy talent, thought it was his duty to come to the composer’s aid.
His violin technique, based on that of his works, principally the Capricci, the violin concertos, and the sets of variations, demanded a wide use of harmonics and pizzicato effects, new methods of fingering and even of tuning. In performance, he improvised brilliantly. He was also a flamboyant showman who used trick effects such as severing one or two violin strings and continuing the piece on the remaining strings. Later virtuosi, notably Pablo Sarasate and Eugene Ysaye, imitated his technical innovations. His other works include 6 violin concertos, of which the first, in D major, is especially popular; 12 sonatas for violin and guitar; and 6 quartets for violin, viola, cello and guitar. The influence of his virtuosity extended to orchestral as well as to piano music. His influence on Franz Liszt was immense. Themes from the Capricci inspired works by Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Sergey Rachmaninoff.
Birth: April 8, 1692, Pirano, Istria, republic of Venice [Italy]
Death: Feb. 26, 1770, Padua, republic of Venice
Italian violinist, composer and theorist who helped establish the modern style of violin bowing and formulated principles of musical ornamentation and harmony.
Tartini studied divinity and law at Padua and at the same time established a reputation as a fencer. Before the age of 20, he secretly married a prot?g?e of the archbishop of Padua, resulting eventually in his arrest. Disguised as a monk, he fled from Padua and took refuge in a monastery at Assisi. There his violin playing attracted attention and ultimately influenced the archbishop to allow Tartini to return to his wife at Padua. In 1716, he went to Venice, later went to Ancona and eventually returned to Padua, where he was appointed principal violinist at the Church of San Antonio in 1721. He directed the orchestra of the chancellor of Bohemia in Prague (1723-25), and then returned once again to Padua, where he founded (1728) a school of violin playing and composition. He made a concert tour of Italy in 1740.
Tartini’s playing was said to be remarkable for its combination of technical and poetic qualities, and his bowing became a model for later schools of violinists. His compositions include more than 100 violin concertos; numerous sonatas, including the Trillo del Diavolo (Devil’s Trill), written after 1735; quartets; trios; symphonies; and religious works, including a five-part Miserere and a four-part Salve Regina.
He contributed to the science of acoustics by his discovery of the difference tone, also called the Tartini tone, a third note heard when two notes are played steadily and with intensity. He also devised a theory of harmony based on affinities with algebra and geometry, set forth in his Trattato di musica (1754; “Treatise on Music”) and expanded into Dissertazione dei principi dell’armonia musicale (1767; “Dissertation on the Principles of Musical Harmony”). His theoretical works also include Trattato delle appoggiature (”Treatise on Ornamentation”).
These are but of few of those to be considered “Romantic Virtuosos.” They were the musical “super stars” of their time and perhaps ours as well. Their influence on the music world is well known they were superb at what they did. No one could deny that they were and are virtuosos.
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