MUSC 1100 23 – The Romantic Period and Nationalism

MUSC 1100 23 – The Romantic Period and Nationalism


Nationalism – Nationalism is a very, very
important theme throughout the Romantic period. Nationalism is the use in art music that is
instantly recognizable, or instantly identifiable, as being from a composer’s country or region. Now the nice thing about nationalism is that
it dovetails very nicely to program music, which we have just discussed. But nationalism,
national music, can be found in ANY genre of music, from opera to symphony to concerto
to piano sonata. So you can find it anywhere. Where a composer might take an old tune, and
old folk tune, or an old folk dance, or even a rhythm, and use it anew, and this happens
all the time in music today. People are always borrowing, in contemporary music, themes from
the past, melodies from the past, rhythms from the past. So I want to discuss two different composers
who exhibit nationalism during the Romantic period. The first one is Frederic Chopin, who is the
poet of the piano. Chopin was born in 1810 and he passes away in 1849. So like Mozart,
he lives a very short life. He was born in Zelazowa Wola, Poland, and he’s also considered
to be the national composer of Poland. He graduated from the Warsaw Conservatory
of Music at an advanced age, and then he started to tour Europe giving recitals. For a couple
of years, he tours all of Europe, and then in 1831, at the age of 21, he arrives in Paris,
and he falls instantly in love with Parisian society, and so he takes up residence there. Chopin was not only sought after as a great
composer, as a great recitalist, but he was also known as a great piano teacher. What
a wonderful piano teacher Chopin must have been! I studied piano starting in the third
grade, and if you only had to play with your right hand, then I would have been amazing.
But you have to use both, and the dexterity that I had with my left hand just was not
up to speed. But Chopin would have been able to identify that, and try to help me out by
composing a piece himself, in order for me to work through these problems. So a lot of Chopin’s piano compositions
are called character pieces. They’re very, very short music. If you have every studied
piano, if you’ve had any family members that have, if you’ve attended these piano
recitals, a lot of the music on those piano recitals is music by Frederic Chopin. One of the national dances of Poland is the
mazurka, and Chopin composed many mazurkas throughout his lifetime, and then once he
arrives in Paris, he starts to write more polonaises. So he kind of exhibits a dual-nationalistic
approach to music. One composer, who I’m going to talk about
later, Robert Schumann, heralded Frederic Chopin as the composer of the time because
he was focusing in on one style of music, solo piano music, and because he was doing
it so well, and having a great career. Schumann felt that composers should not try to mimic
the huge catalogs of Haydn, and Mozart, and Beethoven, but should focus their attention,
and do one thing, and do it very, very well, and Chopin was the epitome of that particular
style of composer. One of the collections that Chopin achieved
is called The 24 Preludes. If you recall, a composer named Johann Sebastian Bach, in
the Baroque period, composed a composition called The Well-Tempered Clavier. The Well-Tempered
Clavier was in response to equal temperament, the tuning system of the day, and the tuning
system allowed us to use twelve major keys and their twelve corresponding minor keys,
or twenty-four keys in all, scales in all, and so Chopin LOVED The Well-Tempered Clavier,
and so he wanted to kind of pay homage to Bach. So he wrote a similar composition called
The 24 Preludes. I have several of these on your listening
list. I would like for you to listen especially to Prelude #7 in A major – see if you recognize
this tune. They’re so short. They’re used a lot in commercials. Chopin and another composer, Felix Mendelssohn,
started to discuss The Well-Tempered Clavier, and the music of Bach, and they wondered what
else Bach had composed. So they took it upon themselves to resurrect the music of Johann
Sebastian Bach in the 1830s, and this is where Bach finally finds his fame, eighty years
after his passing, and then his music never leaves the repertoire. So we owe a lot of
debt to Chopin and to Mendelssohn for their efforts. Well, let me tell you about Chopin’s relationship.
Chopin was involved with a lady who we know of as George Sand. Her God-given name is Aurora
Dupin Dudevant, but she was a novelist, a playwright, a poet, and she knew that if her
writings were going to be taken seriously, then she needed to have a male pen name. So
she took the name of George Sand, and she and Chopin developed a relationship, and this
relationship was between 1838 and 1846. During the time that they were together, Chopin created
some of the most joyous music he ever had. When they were apart, his music became very
disturbing and very melancholy. So she was a big influence on the music of Chopin. But
ultimately, she left him for a poet, and Chopin’s life kind of took a tailspin from there. He
returned to his Paris apartment and passed away from tuberculosis in 1849. One of the questions that was on your list
of questions for the Mozart Biography video was why is Mozart’s first symphony so Mozartian?
Well the guy in the Mozart Biography talks about how he sings out the melody for Mozart’s
first symphony and everybody can instantly identify it as being Mozart’s. They might
not know it’s the first symphony. Same kind of idea for Chopin’s music. Chopin has a
certain knack. Once you hear enough of his music, you can pinpoint and know that you’re
hearing a work by Chopin later on. So please listen to the different Chopin examples that
are on your listening list, and know that Chopin is one of the most important composers
from now, the Romantic period. Another composer that exhibits a great deal
of nationalism is a Russian composer, and his name is Peter Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky
was born in 1840 and he passes away in 1893. Not all of his music was nationalistic, but
many of his compositions were. For instance, the second symphony that he composed is called
The Little Russian, which uses several different folk songs from Russia’s past. Tchaikovsky learned music from his governess,
and when he – You have to remember in czarist-ruled Russia you’re basically predestined into
a particular career. His parents were both members of the government, and so Tchaikovsky
originally studied law. But because he was exceling in the field of music, strings were
pulled for Tchaikovsky, and he was able to reenroll in the St. Petersburg University,
now in the Conservatory, and he worked on a degree in composition. During this time, the St. Petersburg Conservatory
was the ONLY conservatory of music in Russia. But near the end of Tchaikovsky’s education,
a new one was being put together in Moscow, and so the faculty members at St. Petersburg
recommended Tchaikovsky as one of the new faculty members for the Moscow Conservatory. Kind of similar to Beethoven, where Beethoven
had three different stylistic periods – Tchaikovsky basically has two stylistic periods, and the
first one is the Moscow Period. The Moscow Period is exemplified by Tchaikovsky’s first
three symphonies and his ballet success. Toward the end of his stay in Moscow, Tchaikovsky
marries a young lady, and the marriage does not go very well. Tchaikovsky was homosexual,
and he was trying to allow the people in the Russian society to think of him as a straight
man. Well people were discovering that he was having an affair with a man in the Moscow
Conservatory, and so he tried to attempt suicide, and people found him, and collected him, and
took him off to a nearby hospital. So he was able to heal and get better, and then his
family took him back to St. Petersburg. Now with scandal surrounding Tchaikovsky’s
name, Tchaikovsky didn’t know how he was going to be able to continue in the field
of music, and so his second period is called the von Meck Period. A very rich, wealthy
widow, named Nadezhda von Meck LOVED classical music, but in particular, she loved the music
and was OBSESSED by the music of Tchaikovsky. So she knew about the scandal as well, so
she started to send letters to Tchaikovsky saying, please go on composing, I will subsidize
your career, I’ll set you up in an apartment, just keep composing. And so Tchaikovsky agreed
to her terms, and one of the terms was if he ever saw her in public, that he would go
the other way because she did not want anybody to know that they were friends. So Tchaikovsky has more success as a composer
with nationalistic operas like Eugene Onegin, and Boris Godunov, and The Queen of Spades.
His final three symphonies come from this period. The fourth symphony is a wonderful
piece of music with a theme of destiny that’s heard in the trombones. And the final symphony,
the Pathetique symphony, which comes at the very end of his life, is a beautiful work
for orchestra. But the book kind of promotes Tchaikovsky
as the great ballet composer from the Romantic period, and he continues his ballet success
with now, The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker, of course, is something that’s inescapable
in the malls in the time of Christmas Muzak, when everybody is decking the halls, now I
guess, in October, and we hear that music over and over and over again. The Nutcracker, based off of a story by ETA
Hoffmann, tells a story of this young girl whose godfather comes to a party, and then
her nutcracker gift comes alive, and does battle with the Mouse King, and then the nutcracker
is morphed into a handsome prince and whisks her off to the Land of Sweets. In the Land
of Sweets we have a lot of different dances that are representative of different countries.
The trepak, which is the Russian dance, which is on your listening list, is again showcasing
Tchaikovsky’s nationalism. So please listen to it. Tchaikovsky though, was not pleased with The
Nutcracker, and he asks von Meck to help him get another debut for it. But it was too late,
von Meck had already worked on having a debut for The Nutcracker, and even though it was
related to the Christmas season, it was first performed in the summertime, and so it was
not the big hit in the beginning that we think of it today. Tchaikovsky wanted to rework
it, and especially redo the Kingdom of Sweets section, but that was not to be. So in the
late 1920s and early 1930s, The Nutcracker then, is premiered during the Christmas season
at the Royal Ballet in London, and then the next season, it comes across the pond as they
say, and is debuted in New York, and the rest is history. The Nutcracker becomes a very,
very important piece of music. So we have Chopin and Tchaikovsky using nationalism
within their music to bring comfort to their people, and bring their nation’s music to
light. When next we meet, we’re going to talk about
German art song and several different German composers.

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