Influences | Beethoven’s Music | Early Romantic | Classical
The years 1826–28 saw the deaths of the three greatest composers of their respective generations, Weber, Beethoven and Schubert. Only in the years that followed could early Romanticism really forge its own identity. The 1830s saw the flowering of a new generation of great composers, including Chopin, Schumann, Berlioz, Liszt and Mendelssohn, and for each of these musicians the influence of their forebears, especially Beethoven, was enormous. When Beethoven died many of his works, especially from his last period, were little-known, barely understood and very difficult to play. Disseminating his works throughout Europe required performers of an enlightened and adventurous outlook; live performance was, of course, the only way of getting to know new music. So when François-Antoine Habeneck performed Beethoven’s symphonies in Paris, including the first performances there of the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies (1828 and 1831 respectively), the sense of musical shock was tangible. Berlioz was inspired to compose his Symphonie Fantastique, while Liszt sketched the beginnings of a ‘Revolutionary’ Symphony (1830) and went on to become the leading exponent during the nineteenth century of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. Other works of Beethoven remained mysterious for far longer, and the late string quartets in particular were rarely taken on board by early nineteenth-century composers (excepting perhaps Mendelssohn), and not until the quartets of Béla Bartók (1881–1945) was their influence thoroughly absorbed.
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