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The Radical Romantics:Chopin, Schumann, Berlioz, and Liszt

  • Graham School Gleacher Center Chicago, IL (map)

From fragmentary piano character sketches to massive oratorios, this course will analyze and contextualize the most dramatic era of change in western music history. Four composers, born at the outset of the 19th century, will lead us on this musical hero’s journey; the grandiose, ambitious, eccentric Berlioz; the poignantly intimate Schumann; the subtle and perfect Chopin; and the superhumanly energectic Liszt: pianist, composer, conductor, and promoter.

Download Syllabus

Week 1: The Artist as Virtuoso

  • Piano Concerti by Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt
  • Liszt: Transcendental Etudes

Week 2: The Artist as Faust

  • Berlioz: The Damnation of Faust
  • Liszt: Sonata in b minor and "Faust" Symphony
  • Schumann: Scenes from Goethe's "Faust"

Week 3: The Artist as Poet

  • Berlioz: "Summer Nights"
  • Schumann: "Dichterliebe"
  • Liszt: Petrarch Sonnets
  • Chopin: Ballades

Week 4: The Artist as Shakespearean Hero

  • Berlioz: Romeo and Juliet Symphony, King Lear Overture, Beatrice and Benedict
  • Liszt: Hamlet

Week 5: The Artist as Nationalist Icon

  • Chopin: Many pieces, including mazurkas and polonaises
  • Liszt: Many pieces, including Hungarian Rhapsodies
  • Berlioz: Funeral and Triumphant Symphony
  • Schumann: Forest Scenes

Week 6: The Artist Contemplates the Divine

  • Berlioz: Requiem
  • Liszt: Various Choral Works (including "Stations of the Cross") and "Religious
  •  and Poetic Harmonies"
  • Schumann: Mass

Week 7: The Artist Contemplates Nature

  • Liszt: Years of Pilgrimage
  • Berlioz: Selections from opera, overture, and Harold in Italy
  • Chopin: Selected Nocturnes
  • Schumann: "Rhenish" Symphony

Week 8: The Artist as Anti-Hero

  • Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique and Harold in Italy
  • Liszt: Dante Sonata and Symphony
  • Chopin and Schumann: Selected (short) piano pieces

Recommended Reading:  

Jacues Barzun, Berlioz and the Romantic Symphony

Hector Berlioz, Memoirs

Alfred Brendel, Music Sounded Out

Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts

David Cairns, Berlioz biography (2 vol.)

Carl Dalhaus, 19th Century Musical Romanticism

Charles Rosen, The Romantic Generation

Alan Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years (vol. 1)

Liszt: The Weimar Years (vol. 2)

Liszt: the Late Years (vol. 3)

Franz Liszt, Chopin

Hugh Macdonald, Berlioz biography (Master Musicians series)

Leon Plantinga, Music in the Romantic Era

Jim Sampson, Chopin (Master Musicians series)

George Sand, Lettres di un voyagerA Season in Majorca

Ronald Taylor, Liszt


Earlier Event: May 31
8 Operas That Changed The World
Later Event: June 22
French and Spanish Masters