How to Listen to and Appreciate
Classical Music

  Structures and Forms
  Orchestra Instruments
  The Medieval Period
  The Renaissance Period
  The Baroque Period
  The Classical Period
  The Romantic Period
  The 20th Century and Beyond

The Romantic Period

The Romantic period in Western classical music lasted from around 1825 (shortly before Beethoven's death in 1827) to around 1900 or so.

The word "Romantic" is not meant to imply that the music of this period is all about romance and love. Instead, composers wanted to express their feelings through their music, whatever those feelings might be. For example, Beethoven started losing his hearing at age 31 (during the Classical period), and he expressed his pain and anguish in his music. As some people put it, Beethoven single-handedly brought music out of the Classical period and into the Romantic period, where expressing one's feelings was the most important element in the music.

Unlike in earlier periods, composers of this period didn't write music for patrons of the arts who had musical knowledge and wanted technically perfect (but somewhat cold and dry) pieces. Instead, composers during the Romantic period tended to write music for festivals and public concerts, music which was meant to be heard and enjoyed by the masses (who might not have any musical knowledge at all).

During the earlier Classical period, composers wrote music which minimized any national differences and emphasized elements which were common to all people. The goal was for music to have universal appeal no matter what country it was performed in. During the Romantic period, however, composers began to embrace nationalistic differences. In some cases, composers incorporated folk music and folk dances from various countries. In other cases, composers wrote music which represented the struggle for freedom in certain countries, or music which attempted to capture the beauty (or some other characteristics) of their homeland.


These are some of the composers of this period, and a taste of their music. I tried to select well-known pieces, but in many cases I had to pick something at random from what's available in YouTube. Where possible, I chose videos which show live performances of the pieces. The links will take you to the Wikipedia pages for the composers and their works.

The names of many of these pieces are followed by a number which is based on a catalog of the composer's works, such as "Op. 67" or "BWV 1046-1051." See the Terminology page for more on these catalogs.

Modification History

  • June 24, 2014 - New website.

Dave Root

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