From the 1920s to the early 20th century is the romantic period of music history (Treitler, 1998). The focus of artistic creation in this period was to emphasize individual emotional expression, it used partial fantasy and exaggeration methods, breaking the classical program of conformist and no longer paying attention to the balance and beauty to be in favor of using personal language to express individual thoughts and feelings, as well as artistic experience (Schonberg, 1997). The music of this period has an important position in the history of world music development (Palisca, 1996), for people engaged in music research and study today, to study the music of this period is very valuable. This essay will use a comparative research method, by comparison with the Classical period, it is from music theme, structure of the musical form, melody and harmony to understand the characteristics of compositional techniques and methods of the Romantic period.
2.1 Music theme音樂主題
Music theme the soul and the core to expand an idea for a song, by a brief musical theme, it allows people to understand the basic preliminary image and emotional expression of music (Plantinga, 1984). Since musical theme is crucial in a work, then it is also very necessary to study it carefully, in the following content, it is mainly by comparison to study the difference between classical musical form and Romantic musical form in terms of music theme (Grout and Palisca, 1996).
Considering classical music composers, it can be found that Theme of music in classical period is mostly motivational, the works are developed progressively on the basis of core themes established, the musical works are gradually developed with contradiction and unity (Plantinga, 1984). However, the theme of romantic music is completely different from the classical style of writing, the development of theme of the works uses more variation technique (Palisca, 1996). In the beginning of musical composition, it shows a complete and distinct basic image (it is lyric or other), the subsequent developments maintain the original image and the integrity of the music theme to the largest extent, by digging deep musical theme to improve and develop music theme from different aspects (Grout and Palisca, 1996).
Since the era of romanticism is the best era to express feelings, works of most musicians have an extremely strong lyrical nature, composers need to express their strong feelings at the beginning of starting musical composition, which is not suitable for classical motives (Cairns, 1969), so the development of their work is unlike the situation in the classical period that the development of works is often based on short core themes with great potential, but it is worth noting that the variations of a theme was not just found in the era of romanticism, it has also been applied in the classical period, but the frequency of use was not as high as in the era of romanticism (Grout and Palisca, 1996).
Theme of classical sonata form has a dynamic nature, which refers to the lurking inner tension and explosive force in musical theme, it is rising with high and violent music emotions (Grout and Palisca, 1996). Dynamic nature of theme of Beethoven's works is often found in his works of early and mid periods (Cairns, 1969). In his sonata allegro movement, the music theme is positive, or warm and full of deep or strong emotions, showing appropriate mood in a particular situation, the dynamic nature of the theme is more fully expanded in order to better show himself (Grout and Palisca, 1996).
Beethoven was actually a bridge figure who achieved the culmination of music in the Classical period and made a beginning for the Romantic period (Schonberg, 1997). His later works have romantic tendencies and features, creation of his theme uses smooth and beautiful song-like melody to strengthen musical lyricism to fully express his deep introspection and otherworldly spiritual ideals of his late stage (Schonberg, 1997). The lyric nature of the theme of Beethoven's late works has been greatly improved, it was significantly different from the dynamic nature (pathos, enthusiasm) in his early and middle stages, there was no dynamic nature in the romantic theme, which was determined by the emphasis on the expression of emotions in romantic music (Grout and Palisca, 1996). Advocating freedom, the pursuit of fantasy, focusing on perceptual concept and expression of subjective emotion, personal thoughts was a clear sign of this period.
All in all, the characteristics of creation of the theme in the Romantic period were that the approach used for development of theme was variations, and lyrical themes have been greatly improved, and the dynamic nature was weakened.
2.2 Structure of musical form
The structure of musical form means that musical works meet certain logical structure form. There were quite different structures of musical form in the Classical period and the Romantic period. In the following contents, it takes the structure of musical form of sonata to discuss the differences. Sonata consists of three main parts: exposition-development-recapiulation (Plantinga, 1984). Exposition of sonata is the starting point and the basis for the entire music development; the main task of development is to make the tension and conflicts established in the exposition further profound sharpened; recapiulation has recapitulate meaning. Classicalism took works of ancient Greece as the standard to improve and took rigorous forms and unity as the highest state of the art, therefore, the music of this period pursued the pure music with a unified thought and form. In the Classical period, it was dominated by rational thought, development and movement of all things took regulations as the principle, balance and symmetry was the focus of music creation of this period: such as balance in structure, balance in content, form and other aspects (Palisca, 1996). Therefore, classical music is rigorous and standardized, which is prominently reflected in structure of sonata.
With the evolution of music history, new generations of composers appeared, they walked along the road of music predecessors to open up their own new path in the future (Treitler, 1998). From the early romantic composers Schubert, some principles of classical musical form had gradually disappeared, different composers revealed their own unique personality in classical sonata-style basis. Schubert’s Schumann’s, Liszt’s, Chopin’s and other great composers’ sonatas and sonata forms were more free and flexible (Grout and Palisca, 1996). For example, in the OP. 35 first movement of Chopin’s "Sonata for Piano in B minor", this sonata was written in 1839, which was one of his most representative works, the music reflected his grief feelings what his motherland was suffering and his deeply cherish the memory of the motherland, showing a strong fight against the enemy and mourning for heroes’ sacrifice for the motherland. The first movement of the Chopin's piano sonata saves the lead-in portion of development, and in recapitulation, it cuts the first tonal area and directly introduces the second tonal area, which is rare in music in the Classical period (Treitler, 1998). These fully reflect the freedom and flexibility of romanticism sonata to reflect the personalized distinctive characteristics of music in the Romantic era.
However, it is worth noting that even romantic composers’ sonata form also includes the three main parts: exposition- development - recapiulation of the exposition (Treitler, 1998). In other words, the fundamental principle of this musical form has not been changed, either one of three basic parts can not to be omitted.
In sum, the structure of the musical form in the classical period is more rigorous, while the structure in romantic period is more free, which helps composers in romantic period to better express their emotions and personality.
In classical music, homophonic music took an absolute superiority (Schonberg, 1997). In the process of composing, the theme tune of classical music has a very important position, bass is often played repeatedly with tonic or dominate, or by a simple broken chords. During this period, people did not want to listen to heavy music but asked for clearer and lighter music. This can also be said to be an aspect of enlightenment spirit requirement (Cairns, 1969). The melody took smooth, undulating nature, regularly performance as the basis was an important feature of melody of music in the Classical period.