Romanticism can be described an international artistic and philosophical movement, flourishing in the late 18th century. This era directly coincides with the age of political, social and economical upheaval. Where the Classical era had balance and order, the Romantic era had freedom and rebellion. The Romantic Era gave life to some of the more beautiful, emotive piano music ever written. However from the late 18th century composers were faced with many obstacles including, the increased interest in personal subjectivity as well as the ongoing legacy of Beethoven and the question of where to go next. In this essay I will discuss how these factors posed problems for composers such as Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt, but how they were able to rise to the challenge and maintain coherence throughout their many works.After writing 32 sonatas and 16 string quartets during his career, Beethoven had fairly mastered the art of sonata form (and multi-movement sonata) leaving not much room for improvement or rendering for composers to follow. The adjoining composers noticed this and so instead of pushing sonata form to new lengths, decided to break away from its strict rules and began to compose music with more fluidity and sensitivity than had ever been written before.This increase of personal subjectivity caused composers of nineteenth-century piano music to write pieces with less structural discipline, straying away from virtuosic tendencies and instead turning their focus to writing pieces that exploded with emotion and could move their audiences or create a specific atmosphere. To do this, composers used more lush harmonies, soulful melodies and much more dissonance than seen in the Classical era.Bridging gap between the Classical and Romantic era was composer, Franz Schubert. He wrote much piano and chamber music within which his strong influence of song-writing on melodic and formal construction is evident.
During Schubert’s short life piano music evolved extremely rapidly making it more and more difficult to keep up. Though he grew up with the dominant presence of Beethoven (1) who was still composing new music at the time, Schubert’s works were notably different. His pieces were sometimes described as floating somewhere between Beethoven and Chopin (2). Schubert never held back in enriching his piano pieces with flourishing, lyrical melodies, even for first subjects. As well as this he incorporated full chords that made the most of the full range of the piano, creating an even more dramatic effect. All these features are evident in his Piano sonata in Bb, D.960 first movement where the melody is expressed through consecutive 5 note chords.