Influences | Genre Pieces | Early Romantic | Classical
At a time when expression was more important than maintaining classical forms, freer structures that enabled the communication of a single mood or idea became particularly popular with pianists as an alternative to sonatas. Schubert, for example, is best revealed in his short lyric pieces in which his melodic expansiveness is not constrained. His Moments Musicaux (‘Musical Moments’, 1828), a series of six intimate pieces, illustrate beautifully his ability to evoke intense emotion. Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte (‘Songs without Words’, 1829–45), 48 miniatures published as six cycles, partly virtuoso, partly lyrical, are similarly exquisite mood pieces. Schumann also wrote on a more intimate scale; his Davidsbündlertänze (‘Dances of the League of David’, i.e. banded against the Philistines, 1837), is a series of 18 character pieces composed around a motto written by his wife Clara, and Kinderszenen (1838) consists of trance-like evocations of the past. Chopin found his own voice in a range of genre pieces. He particularly favoured dance forms from his native country, including the polonaise and the mazurka. He used these small works both to experiment with the modal and rhythmic ambiguities of Polish music, and to conjure up images of his homeland; they range from the melancholic and despairing to the fiery.
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