Beethovens Contributions to the Transition to the Romantic Era of Music

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Beethoven’s Contributions to the Transition to the Romantic Era of Music
The transition that triggered the romantic era in music has remained a crucial topic of
discussion among historical scholars and musicologists during the past decade or so. However, it
remains challenging to specify when the era began and its end, as well as the changes it brought
about in the area of music. Typical of other transition times, it is not clear the exact year it started
and the one it ended, during the particular historical time (Newman 5). In an attempt to address
the question, almost all historians studying the topic, particularly musicologists claim that there
was the overlap of the era with the previous one and the succeeding one, which makes a lot of
sense. The romantic era marked a gradual shift from the classical era, which offered the
foundations and models that led to the start of the new era. However, it is crucial to note that due
to the musical careers of people such as Beethoven, the romantic era saw the creation of ideas
that are unique from those of the past, and thus original in many ways (Newman 477). In an
attempt to define the transition from the previous to the romantic era, it is crucial to explore the
role that one of the most influential musicians, Beethoven played in the shift, and ways they
marked the change.
The Characteristics of Music Compositions Characterize Romanticism
It is crucial to explore the characteristics of the music created by Beethoven among others
that are considered typical of the new era. The categorization is very broadly conceived, but they
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are in many ways typical of the works created after the shift. Notably, the characteristics are
typically the same aspects of compositions that characterize romantic artworks and literature. As
an example, the typical music written during the shift and after the change to romanticism is in
many ways inspired by nature. Further, one of the characteristics that are seen in almost all
romantic era music is the evidence of experimentation, in the ways the compositions are made
and the thematic focus of the musicians (Walker 1). Generally, the shift to the romantic era was
marked by the increased levels of liberation and freedom from the limitations that characterized
the previous eras, particularly those typical of the classical era. In that line of thought, the music
created during the romantic era was limitless in terms of themes and style, as compared to that
created during the classical era, and that makes it more challenging to explore (Walker 1). In
light of the characteristics of the era, Beethoven among other musicians of the era is credited for
triggering the start of the new era.
Beethoven, together with other romantic music composers such as Frederick Chopin and
Franz Liszt, among romantic musicians of the time is considered as the trendsetters in
experimenting with new tone colors, harmonies and themes (Stolba 430). In particular,
Beethoven is credited for experimenting with the structural changes that characterized the
musical creations of the romantic era, and the years that followed. The harmonic and structural
changes evident from the music of Beethoven, in particular, are fundamental to the definition of
the changes that characterized the shift to the new era. As a result, the characteristics of his
music indicate the central role that he played in the area of music, including the clear integration
of personal feelings and emotions in the portrayal of the musical themes (Gamwell and Neil
360). Through the use of different chords, for example, Beethoven and other notable musicians
of the time expanded the available musical ideas and broke away from traditional norms and
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cadences. The changes helped musicians to better articulate the emotions and feelings and
messages they were trying to convey to their audiences, and also helped to grow the music
composed to a new model of composition. The change of style by Beethoven, like other
musicians of the time, indicates the ways he made a major contribution to the area of music, and
thus triggered the shift from classical to romantic music era.
In order to understand the role that Beethoven played in triggering the shift to the
romantic era and music in general, it is crucial to explore the beginning of the transition, and his
role in music. To better comprehend the role and impact of Beethoven in music, it is crucial to
study his music, towards highlighting the changes it triggered or reflected from the previous era.
Beethoven is acclaimed for his prolific musical creation; he created world-leading symphonies,
quartets, operas, and concerti that can take a musicologist a decade to fully analyze and study.
However, to simplify the work of analyzing the impact of the music he created, it is crucial to
focus on a single area that he ventured, and the Piano Sonata is an ideal one (Wallace 18).
Beethoven’s impact in the field of music is evident to his creation of 32 Piano Sonatas, which
remained very valuable tools that marked the shift from Classical to Romantic eras of music. The
Sonatas were written between 1795 and 1822, and thus clearly depict the evolution of the Sonata
and the general change of style from the previous to the new era. The musical works depict
Beethoven’s experimentation with concepts such as musical structure and emotional content,
which are evident from the chronological creation of the Sonatas from the early to the latter years
(Burkhart and Rothstein 207). In a notable way, the experimentation that the sonatas show
highlights the transition from the classical to the romantic era, and that indicates his contribution
to music.
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Over the years of creating piano sonatas, as well as, other musical forms, Beethoven
continued to reshape and remodel the structure of his musical creations in both the general and
the internal components, right from the start to the end. To Beethoven, the sonata was a changing
and living type of musical creation (Gordon 147). As an example, Gordon notes that earlier in his
musical career, Beethoven followed the conventional style of sonata style that was established by
classical composers such as Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn, and showed little evidence of
experimentation (147). However, as the years went on, he showed more signs of experimentation
and then in his final stage, he was arguably the most experimental composer, which helped him
to set the trend for other romantic era composers. The first three piano sonatas created by
Beethoven were dedicated to the prolific classical composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, who was
among the greatest sources of influence for him. In the three pieces created during 1795 and
1796, Beethoven clearly used the structure and model used by classical composers, including
that he opens them in a way reflecting the sonata-allegro style (van Beethoven and Gordon 5).
The new style, which combined both the style approaches of the classical and romantic era
became the norm, but the style changed as Beethoven’s music moved further away from the
classical model of music.
The typical characteristic of the style is opening with the introduction of the underlying
theme of the movement, for example, the musical figure or fundamental melody. After
communicating the main them, he moved to highlight non-thematic information that aids with
the transition to the succeeding parts of the piece (van Beethoven and Gordon 5). The
transformation in Beethoven’s musical career was crucial in setting the trend and standards for
the romantic era musicians of the time, and thus indicates his impact in music. Later in his
musical career, Beethoven’s sonatas reflect very detailed expressiveness and tempo, and many of
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them he wrote in German and not Italian. In many ways, Beethoven’s change of style was an
attempt to communicate to the performer and audience, the way the music of the time needed to
feel, away from the vague allegretto and Allegro of the time. The change of style that Beethoven
championed for, which became characteristic of the music of the romantic era and the times that
came after included the constant attempt to express emotion (Gamwell and Neil 360). The
change of style became an essential characteristic of romantic music as well as the succeeding
era in music.
The transition that brought about the romantic era in music remains an important topic of
discussion for historical scholars and musicologists. Unfortunately, it remains a challenge to
explain the time that marked the start and the end of the era. Despite the challenges of defining
the boundaries of the era, it is clear that Beethoven is among the most influential romantic era
composers, despite that he started writing using the classical style. Over the years, historians and
musicologists agree that there are characteristics that mark the romantic era of music, including
the extensive use of emotions and experimentation with new forms of structure and thematic
focus. The analysis of Beethoven’s work showed that he was a trend and standards setter in
music, as one of the central romantic music era composers and musicians. As an artist,
Beethoven was highly influenced by classical artists such as, Franz Joseph Haydn and Mozart,
but still, he went on to adopt the new romantic style that was adopted by many of the composers
of the time. As an example, Beethoven composed in a characteristically classical style but then
changed over the years to adopt the new and highly experimental style that soon characterized all
romantic era composes and the coming eras in music.
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Works Cited
Burkhart, Charles, and Rothstein, William. Anthology for Musical Analysis: The Common-
Practice Period. Seventh Edition. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.
Gamwell, Lynn, and Tyson, Neil deGrasse. Mathematics + art: a cultural history. Princeton,
New Jersey; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016. Print.
Gordon, Stewart. A History of Keyboard Literature. New York: Schirmer Books, 1996. Print.
Newman, William. The Sonata in the Classical Era. New York: W. W. Norton & Company,
INC, 1983. Print.
Stolba, Marie. The Development of Western Music, third edition. Boston, M.A.: McGraw-Hill,
1998. Print.
Van Beethoven, Ludwig, and Gordon, Stewart. Piano Sonatas, Volume 1 (Nos. 1-8). New York:
Alfred publishing Co., Inc, 2002. Print.
Walker, Michael. Romance! Compositions from the 19th Century Romantic Movement in
Tablature and Musical... Notation Transcribed for the Baritone Ukulele. S.I.: Lulu.Com,
2016. Print.
Wallace, Robert. Emily Bronte and Beethoven: Romantic Equilibrium in Fiction and Music.
Athens, Georgia: University Of Georgia Pre, 2009. Print.

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