Romantic Music and Chopin
The romantic period lasted from 1825-1900. Unlike the classical period, which focused mainly on structure, the romantic period focused on conveying emotions and telling stories through the music (called programme music). Composers started to free themselves and develop their own person styles. Virtuoso players, such as Lizst, became celebrities.
Key Features of the Romantic Period of Music
- Music became more expressive and emotional
- Chromatic, dissonant harmonies used. Modulations to remote keys.
- Technical advances in instruments. (Piano had larger range)
- Larger orchestras, rise in virtuoso players.
- Form and Structures became longer.
- Pieces often given descriptive titles.
- Programme music became more common.
Romantic Period (Continued....)
Important composers in the Romantic period include Lizst, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin.
Chopin was a polish composer. Almost all of his music was written for solo piano. Most of his career was spent in Paris, where he taught, composed and gave concerts to small, select gatherings of people. This piece was composed when he was in Majorca.
This prelude is called 'Raindrop' because of the repeated quavers that can be heard throughout (that sound like raindrops). This comes from a collection of preludes - Opus 28 (work no. 28). There are 24 preludes in total, one in each of the 12 major and minor keys.
You are likely to hear this piece performed in a small space, such as in the home, a recital room or a small concert hall.
This piece is in ternary form (ABA)
A - Dflat major: A lyrical melody accompanied by quavers in the bass. This section also has its own ABA structure.
B - Csharp minor: In contrast to the first section, a new melody is now in the bass and the quavers are heard above it. The music is now minor and builds up to ff climaxes.
A - Dflat major: A return of the opening melody. This section A is shorter and finishes with a brief coda.
Rhythm, Metre and Tempo
- The time signature is 4/4
- Septuplet in bars 4 and 23. Seven notes played on one crotchet!!!
- Bar 79 - dectuplet ten notes played on a beat!
- Sostenuto - 'sustained'. Should be played legato and unhurried.
- Rubato is used. Some notes are longer/shorter than written.
- Repeated quavers are a unifying rhythmic feature throughout piece
- Melody begins with a dotted rhythm, which is repeated a number of times, thus giving it a lighter feel than the melody of Section B.
This piece begins with a lyrical melody in the right hand. It's decorated with ornaments. The melody features dotted rhythms and chromaticism. In section B, the melody moves to the bass. It has a narrower range and is made up of longer notes. The prelude is mostly made up of four and eight bar phrases.
The prelude is in Dflat major and uses diatonic harmonies with occasional chromaticism.
The piece modulates from the tonic major (Dflat) to the enharmonic tonic minor (Csharp minor) in Section B. It returns to Dflat major for the repeat of section A.
Sections A and B both end with imperfect cadences, but the piece ends with a perfect cadence.
There is a dominant pedal than can be heard throughout the piece. (The repeated Aflats in Section A and the repeated Gsharps in section B)
Apart from two bars towards the end of the piece, the texture is homophonic.
A - melody in the right hand, supported by broken chords in the left hand.
B - melody passes into the left hand, with repeated quavers (the dominant pedal) in the right hand. Pedal is inverted for much of the section and is doubled in octaves each time the music builds to a climax. This section is more chordal than section A.
A - back to the opening texture.
Chopin uses a lot of crescendos and diminuendos. There is a wide range of dynamics (pp to ff) but no sudden contrasts. Section A is quieter than Section B, which climaxes to ff twice.
Use of piano
- Prelude uses middle and lower ranges of the piano.
- The piano is not virtuoso in character. Chopin concentrates on the piano's ability to produce a legato, singing tone.
- Chopin exploits the piano's wide dynamic range, with use of crescendos and diminuendos.
- The sustaining pedal is used for resonance to help create legato melodies.