"Life is a shipwreck but must we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats."
These piano solos are expressions of the mid to late R omantic period in Western culture.
The Romantic period began in the early nineteenth century, evolved well into the twentieth
century, and clearly left its stamp on today’s culture. The Romantic aesthetic encompassed
music and all the arts. It was aptly described by the French poet Charles Baudelaire;
“Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject matter nor exact truth but
rather in the way of feeling.”
For the Romantic composers, personal and subjective feeling was far more compelling
than all the forms, attitudes and traditions of the past. Their journey, initiated by Beethoven,
can be described as the intensive inward exploration of the imagination, intuition and
that most powerful of forces, human emotion. They struggled to free themselves from
the conventions of society, reaching new heights of individuality and self-expression. The
prevailing social sentiment among the Romanticists is poignantly expressed by Chopin’s
pronouncement: “I am a revolutionary. Money means nothing to me.” itted against an
increasingly industrial and commercial society, the Romanticists felt that their music was
a “peoples” music and a source of personal enlightenment leading the way to a more ideal
world. In the words of the early Romantic composer Robert Schumann, “To send light into
the darkness of men’s hearts - such is the duty of the artist.” The Romantic movement was
humanist, developing hand-in-hand with the progression of democracy in Europe.
Composers of preceding periods were mainly employees of the aristocratic class hired to
entertain and empower the elite. In contrast, Romantic composers elevated themselves to
the status of independent agent, and were often seen as social heroes — even superstars.
They forged the image of the soul searching, free-spirited musician/artist embraced today.
It could be said that the entire musical output of the romantic era is one, unfinished song
of the human soul. It is a timeless chronicle of our longings, dreams, hopes and aspirations.
In our age of faceless technology and unrelenting commercialism, it signifies a never
ending search for the beauty and meaning in our world. Romanticism is one of the highest
expressions of the greatest treasure we universally possess — the human spirit.