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Music Styles and Their Differences Essay

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Updated: Feb 4th, 2021

Major differences between the Classical and Romantic styles of Music

The Classical and the Romantic styles of music are characterized by several significant differences in terms of treatment of forms, genres, and the general content of the music. On the one hand, the forms of the sonata, symphony, and concerto that had crystallized in Classical style were still widely used in Romantic music.

However, Romantic composers treated those forms more freely: they preserved the formal elements but allowed themselves to enlarge the existing patterns by inserting additional sections. Also, the light transparent texture of Classical music was replaced by the rich texture in the Romantic style. More instruments were used in the Romantic orchestra with full compliments of woodwinds, brass, and percussions.

While composers of the Classical style tended to write in the absolute and abstract genres of the symphony, sonata, and concerto, the Romantic composers demonstrate a tendency towards program music. This term denotes musical pieces that have a narration or a story behind them. New genres appeared in the Romantic period, such as intermezzos, rhapsodies, fantasies, and symphonic poems, which reflected the narrative qualities of Romantic music.

Besides, the genre of the song (or ‘lied’) was widespread among the Romantic composers, allowing them to combine word and music in an intimate narration. A special Romantic tendency to small-scale performance was reflected in such miniature genres as nocturne and prelude.

In comparison with Classical music where order and form satisfy the key requirements of rational balance, Romantic style is more about expression, impulse, restlessness, and passion. This difference is obvious, inter alia, in the melodic lines, while in Classical music they are guided by the requirements of harmony and often comprise the sounds of harmonic triads Romantic melodies span almost boundlessly. Freedom of expression in Romanticism concerns the harmony as well: Romantic music wanders over most bizarre alterations and modulations.

Advantages and disadvantages of the patronage system from the Renaissance through the Romantic period

The patronage system in music existed for quite a long time spanning the eras of Renaissance and Classicism up to the Romantic period. This system meant that a composer or a musician was hired by contemporary authorities, such as the church or members of the aristocracy, to produce music in exchange for a fixed salary. Among the advantages of the patronage system is the fact that it secured relatively fixed workplaces for musicians of the time and provided their families with a stable income.

Also, the patronage system was the perfect chance for talented musicians to reveal their talent since some of the aristocrats were musically sophisticated who readily encouraged excellent musical performance. A well-trained musical chapel was a matter of prestige at the time, and therefore it was in the interest of the patrons to support their musicians enthusiastically.

The major disadvantage of the patronage system was that the music created and played within the chapels mostly depended on the musical tastes and preferences of the patron. It sufficiently limited the creative freedom of talented and innovatory composers, hampering their musical development and self-expression. Everything depended on the momentary caprices of the patrons, who rarely had the necessary musical background to access the talent of their musical servants. In case of disobedience, the musician would simply lose the job. Besides, due to the limited nature of chapels, the creative contacts between musicians of different backgrounds were limited since everyone had to work for an individual patron with individual requirements.

Nowadays, the patronage system in music exists in a latent manner. Musicians have to conform to the taste of music producers and recording companies that define whether musicians succeed in the market or not. Publishing one’s works online and receiving support from multiple fans is another form of musical patronage.

Impressionism, and how this style differs from the Romantic style

The late nineteenth century witnessed the style of Impressionism that penetrated music from painting and was mostly developed in the works of such French composers like Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. As it is obvious from its name, Impressionism in a music-focused by large on the impression of an object or phenomenon and its artistic contemplation. It is one of the major differences with the Romantic style of music, which is all about emotion, passion, and empathy.

There is no strong emotion or a definite story in the music of Impressionism rather, it is a detached artistic impression of a perceived view. Any dramatic or tragic anguish is alien to the Impressionist style.

In terms of harmony, the difference between the Romantic and the Impressionist styles in music lies in the fact that while the Romantic composers explored the capacities of the traditional major and minor, the Impressionists developed an alternative system of scales. They employed the bizarre whole tone scale and pentatonic scales, as well as static harmony to emphasize the timeless nature of Impressionistic observation.

The Romantic composers are famous for their luscious melodies, while the Impressionists attempt to avoid obvious melodic lines to avoid direct depiction but rather to hint at the possible subject of their music. On the whole, the pieces written in the Impressionist style create an impression of shimmering colors due to the play of harmonies including dissonant tones. The Impressionists’ experiments with harmony led to the creation of such harmonic phenomena as bitonality, fuzzy multilayer harmonies, and exotic scales reminding of far-away locations.

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