Romantic Era Musical Examples

Franz Schubert

 An Die Musik (To Music)

Du holde Kunst, in Weiviel grauen Stunden
Wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt,
Hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb entzunden,
Hast mich in eine beßre Welt entrückt!
O blessed art, how often in dark hours,
when the savage ring of life tightens round me.
have you kindled warm love in my heart,
have transported me to a better world!
Oft hat ein Seufzer, deiner harf’ entflossen,
Ein süßer, heiliger Akkord von dir
Den Himmel beßrer Zeiten mir erschlossen,
Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür!
Often a sigh has escaped from your harp,
a sweet, sacred harmony of yours
has opened up the heavens to better times for me.
O blessed art, I thank you for that!


Wer reitet so spat Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er fasst ihn sicher, er halt ihn warm.
Who rides so late through the night and the wind?
It is the father with his child;
he folds the boy close in his arms,
He clasps him securely, he holds him warmly.
“Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?” “My son, why do you hide your face so anxiously?”
“Siehst, Vater, du den Erklonig nicht?
Den Erlenkonig mit Kron’ und Schweif?”
“Father, don’t you see the Erlking?
The Erlking with his crown and his train?”
“Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif” “My son, it is a streak of mist.”
“Du liebes Kind, komm,
geh mit mir!
Gar schöne Spiele
spiel’ ich mit dir,
Manch bunte Blumen
sind an dem Strand,
Meine Mutter hat manch
Gölden Gewand.”
“Dear child, come,
go with me!
I’ll play the prettiest
games with you.
Many colored flowers
grow along the shore;
my mother has many
golden garments.”
“Mein Vater, mein Vater,
und hörst du nicht,
Was Erlenkönig mir leise
“My father, my father,
and don’t you hear
the Erlking whispering
promises to me?”
“Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig,
mein Kind:
In dürren Blättern
säuselt der Wind”
“Be quiet, stay quiet,
my child;
the wind is rustling in
the dead leaves.”
“Willst, feiner Knabe, du
mit mir gehn?
Meine Töchter sollen
dich warten schön;
Meine Töchter führen
den nächtlichen Reihn
Und wiegen und tanzen
und singen dich ein.”
“My handsome boy, will
you come with me?
My daughters shall wait
upon you;
my daughters lead off in
the dance every night,
and cradle and dance and
sing you to sleep.”
“Mein Vater, mein vater
und siegst du nicht dort
Erlkönigs Töchter am
düstern Ort?”
“My father, my father,
and don’t you see there
the Erlking’s daughters
in the shadows?”
“Mein Sohn, mein sohn,
ich seh’ es genau:
Es scheinen die alten
Weiden so grau.”
“My son, my son, I see
it clearly;
the old willows look so
“Ich liebe dich, mich
reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
Und bist du nicht willig,
so brauch’ ich Gewalt.”
“I love you, your beautiful
figure delights me!
And if you are not willing,
then I shall use force!”
“Mein Vater, mein Vater,
jetzt fasst er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein
Leids getan!”
“My father, my father,
now he is taking hold of me!
The Erlking has hurt
Dem Vater grauset’s er
reitet geschwind,
Er hält in Armen das
ächzende Kind
Erreicht den Hof mit
Mühe und Not;
In seinem Armen das
Kind war tot.
The father shudders, he
rides swiftly on;
he holds in his arms the
groaning child,
he reaches the courtyard
weary and anxious:
in his arms the child
was dead.

Die Forelle

In einem Bächlein helle,
Da schoß in froher Eil’
Die launische Forelle
Vorüber wie ein Pfeil.
Ich stand an dem Gestade
Und sah in süßer Ruh’
Des muntern Fischleins Bade
im klaren Bächlein zu.
In a bright brooklet
briskly and gaily sped
the wily trout
like an arrow past me
I stood on the bank,
and in sweet calm watched
the cheerful fish bathing
in the clear brooklet.
Ein fischer mit der Rute
Wohl an dim Ufer stand
Und sah’s mit kaltem Blute,
Wie sich das Fischlein wand.
Solang dem Wasser Helle,
So dacht ich , nicht gebricht,
So fängt er die Forelle
Mit seiner Angel nicht.
A fisherman with his rod
stood there on the brink
and cold-bloodedly watched
how the fish turned round.
As long as the bright water
is undisturbed, I thought,
he won’t catch the trout
with his angle.
Doch endlich ward dem Diebe
Die Zeit zu lang. Er macht
Das Bächlein tückisch trübe,
Und eh’ ich es gedacht,
So zuckte seine Rute,
Das Fischlein zappelt dran,
Und ich mit gegem Blute
Sah die Betrog’ne an.
But at last the robber found
that time too long. He made
the brooklet muddy, by a trick,
and before I realized it,
his rod quivered,
the fish dangled on it,
and I with blood boiling
beheld the cheated catch.

Frederic Chopin


Franz Liszt


Les Preludes


“What else is life but a series of preludes to that unknown song whose first solemn note is intoned by death. Love is the enchanted dawn of all existence; but what destiny is there whose first delights of love are not interupted by some storm?… And what cruelly wounded soul, after such a storm, does not try to soothe its memories in the gentle calm of country life? But man does not allow himself to enjoy at length the restoring warmth which first attracted him to the bosom of nature, and when ‘the trumpet sounds the alarm’ (a quotation from Lamartine) he rushes to the dangerous post…to find in combat the full awareness of himself and the complete possession of his powers.”


Section 1.

  1. Pizzicato strings, f, Andante.
  2. Basic motive, p, bowed strings in unison. High woodwinds, p.
  3. Pizzicato strings, p.
  4. Basic motive, p, repeated a step higher, bowed strings in unison. High woodwinds, p.
  5. Basic motive developed in strings, p, crescendo, harp, high woodwind chords and brasses in background. Strings, f, introduce…

Section 2.

  1. Full orchestra, ff, majestic staccato theme in brasses, strings accompany. Descend to…
  2. First love theme, violins and cellos, p, basic motive in background. Solo horn, p, joins violins, first love theme continued in violins and cellos, crescendo. Decrescendo to…
  3. Horns, p, second love theme. High violins lead to woodwinds, p, second love theme repeated, violins. Crescendo to ff, tempo quickens.
  4. High woodwinds, p, tempo slows, oboe trill, strings ff, high woodwinds, p, oboe trill, p, high violins.
  5. Solo horn, p, first love theme, flutes, p, beginning of first love theme; pause.

Section 3.

  1. Cellos, p, storm theme, Allegro. Strings and woodwinds, crescendo, tempo quickens.
  2. Full orchestra, f, brasses, basic motive, faster tempo, rising violin melody leads to full orchestra, ff, detached chords, downward rushing scale in strings leads to…
  3. Brass fanfares, f, violins, ff, repeat fanfares; strings, decrescendo, tempo slows.
  4. Solo oboe, p, first love theme slightly varied, clarinet accompanies, a little more moderate tempo; violins, p, repeat first love theme more slowly, harp accompanies.

Section 4.

  1. Solo horn, p, pastoral motive, Allegretto, harp; solo oboe, clarinet, and flute develop pastoral motive.
  2. Strings, p, answered by woodwinds in graceful exchange; legato melody in violins, p, flute answered by pizzicato strings, p, solo woodwinds lead downward, violins introduce…
  3. Second love theme, violins, p, pastoral motive accompanies in lower strings. Second love theme repeated by flutes and violins, pastoral motive accompanies in harp and woodwinds. Second love theme repeated by horns and cellos, crescendo, tempo quickens. Full orchestra, ff, second love theme, trumpet fanfares. Running notes in violins, ff, introduce…

Section 5.

  1. Trumpets, f, martial transformation of first love theme, Allegro. Suddenly softer, trumpet fanfares, crescendo.
  2. Full orchestra, ff, martial transformation of second love theme, cymbal crashes, side drum.
  3. Full orchestra, ff, martial transformation of first love theme, cymbal crashes, side drum, violins, woodwinds, trumpet calls, crescendo, cymbal crashes, tempo slows.

Section 6.

  1. Full orchestra, ff, majestic staccato theme in brasses, strings accompany, cymbal crashes. Powerful orchestral chords at end.

Clara Wieck Schumann

Allegretto, duple meter, A B A’ form
Violin, piano


A section (minor)

  1. Main violin melody, p, minor, syncopated upward octave leap. Melody descends from high tone.
  2. Main melody repeated, syncopatedleaps in violin, tempo slows slightly.
  3. Long trills in violin, melody in piano; two-note figure, repeated in ever-quicker rhythms, introduces…

B section (major)

  1. New soaring phrase in major, beginning with short trill, p.
  2. Playful phrase with trill; staccato “chirping” idea tossed from violin to piano.
  3. Violin trill, soaring phrase returns, shift from major to minor, melody in low register in violin and piano, mf. Staccato “chirping” idea and trill bring return to major.
  4. Violin trill, soaring phrase, p, playful phrase with trills.
  5. Two-note figure repeated in ever-quicker rhythms introduces…

A’ section (minor)

  1. Main violin melody, minor; paino immediately imitates violin. Melody descends from high note.
  2. Main melody repeated, syncopated leaps in violin, tempo slows slightly.
  3. Long trills in violin; melody in piano leads to soaring phrase, now in minor; ascent from low register to high; pizzicato major ending, p.

Hector Berlioz


Symphonie fantastique

The Program

A young musician of extraordinary sensibility and abundant imagination, in the depths of despair because of hopeless love, has poisoned himself with opium. The drug is too feeble to kill him but plunges him into heavy sleep accompanied by weird visions. His sensations, emotions, and memories, as they pass through his affected mind, are transformed into musical images and ideas. The beloved one herself becomes to him a melody, a recurrent theme (idee fixe) which haunts him continually.

Berlioz’ Symphony fantastique is a program symphony in five movements.

  1. Reveries, Passions
  2. A Ball
  3. Scene in the Country
  4. March to the Scaffold – Allegro non troppo:

    “He dreams that he has murdered his beloved, that he has been condemned to death and is being led to the scaffold. The procession moves forward to the sounds of a march that is now somber and fierce, now brilliant and solemn, in which the muffled sounds of heavy steps give way without transition to the noisiest outbursts. At the end the idee fixe returns for a moment, like a last thought of love interrupted by the death blow.”

  5. Dream of Witches’ Sabbath -Larghetto; Allegro:

    “He sees himself at a witches’ sabbath in the midst of a hideous crowd of ghouls, sorcerers, and monsters of every description, united for his funeral. Strange noises, groans, shrieks of laughter, distant cries, with other cries seem to answer. The melody of the beloved one is heard, but it has lost its character of nobleness and timidity; it is no more than a dance tune, ignoble, trivial, and grotesque. It is she who comes to the sabbath!… A howl of joy greets her arrival… She participates in the diabolical orgy… The funeral knell, burlesque of the Dies irae. Witches’ dance. The dance and the Dies irae are combined.”

Johannes Brahms

Giuseppe Verdi

La donna è mobile from Rigoletto





La donna è mobile, the Duke's aria from Rigoletto

La donna è mobile, qual piùma al vento,
	Woman is fickle (movable), like a feather in the wind,
muta d'accento, e di pensiero.
	she changes the tone of her voice (i.e., her accents), and her thoughts
Sempre un amabile, leggiadro viso,
	Always a sweet, pretty face,
in pianto o in riso, è menzognero.
	in tears or in laughter, (she) is (always) lying
La donna è mobile, qual piùma al vento,
	Woman is fickle, like a feather in the wind,
muta d'accento, e di pensier
	she changes her accents, and her thoughts
e di pensier, e di pensier
	and her thoughts, and her thoughts

È sempre misero, chi a lei s'affida,
	It is always miserable, he that trusts in her
	(He is always miserable who trusts in her)
chi le confida, mal cauto il core!
	who to her confides, his unwary heart! 
Pur mai non sentesi  felice appieno
	Yet nobody feels happy fully
chi su quel seno non liba amore!
	who on that bosom doesn't drink love,
La donna è mobil, qual piùma al vento,
	Woman is fickle, like a feather in the wind,
muta d'accento e di pensier,
	she changes the tone of her voice and her thoughts
e di pensier, e e di pensier!
	and her thoughts, and her thoughts!

Giacomo Puccini

Richard Wagner

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