Great Composers in the 19th Century

“Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of a woman.” -Ludwig van Beethoven

Throughout all of history, there has been one thing that was so unbelievably special to everyone, that unified those who didn’t want to be unified, and brought everyone closer as a result: music. Music has been around since neanderthals were roaming the Earth, but since then there have been many changes. There was music in Asia in the early millennia, jazz music in the early 20th century, rock and roll in the late 20th century, and even in the early 21st century with rap and pop music having a large hold on society. The music in the 19th century, however, is seen as by many to be the most influential music in the history of music. Music couldn’t be made without composers, however, and there were lots of them in this era. From the widely renowned Ludwig van Beethoven to the incredible Peter Illich Tchaikovsky, these composers of the 19th century have made wondrous impacts in the history of music and greatly changed the way music was made, listened to, and even appreciated by all people across the globe.

Ludwig van Beethoven

One of the first composers in the nineteenth century to make a name for themself is a composer that very few people have heard of in today’s society: Ludwig van Beethoven. Ludwig van Beethoven was born on December 16 1770 in Bonn, Germany. He was a gigantic success throughout all of Europe, and even in places outside of Europe. Beethoven “established the template” of the entire Romantic Era, which is the gigantic musical revolution that happened in the nineteenth century. Beethoven was a fantastic pianist, a phenomenal conductor, and an incredible composer. What makes all of that even more inconceivable is that Beethoven became deaf in his later years and continued his career with wild success. Beethoven was such a wild success in the nineteenth century that the basic idea of the piano needed to be drastically changed due to his original and creative ideas in music writing and composition, and was described by many as a milestone for all classical musicians. One sad thing about the life of Beethoven is that when he was growing up, his family life wasn’t the best that was offered at the time. His father wanted a fantastic musician, so he forced Beethoven to play since he was five years old. If Beethoven made the slightest mistake, his father would flog him and lock him in his cellar for long periods of time. Despite this being a terrible strategy for fostering a loving and sweet familial relationship, Beethoven did end up becoming the most famous composer in the nineteenth century. This strategy would lead Beethoven in his 52 years of practicing music to create some of the most famous pieces ever composed. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, arguably his most famous piece, made the opening 4 notes into a worldwide phenomenon. Anyone who can turn four simple notes into something that any person in the entire world can recognize is definitely someone who has had an impact on the history of music. Sadly, Beethoven passed away on March 26, 1827, just as the Romantic Era had started to gain steam, but not before he had changed the way music was created and experienced in an immense way.

Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt was a composer born on October 22, 1822, in Raiding, Hungary, and, like many composers in this era, started his career in the ripe old age of 8. Liszt grew up to be a wonderful composer, as well as an extremely talented musician, especially for the piano. Unlike Beethoven, Liszt grew up with a loving father who encouraged him to follow his passion, which helped him grow up to be a powerful musician. According to The Musical World, a journal written in the nineteenth century about musical composers, described Liszt as the “Aurora Borealis” of “musical effulgence”, showing his beauty in regard to music composition. The Aurora Borealis is a phenomenon of blue and green lights throughout the sky in the North, and being compared to that shows his excellence in this profession. In his prime, from 1839 to 1849, Franz Liszt’s music was performed at least a thousand times, and the audiences never got tired of his compositions. This shows the genius of his work, as typically music gets old very quickly. Liszt’s music, however, was played for a long time, which shows just how good his compositions were. People could tell that Liszt was the “foremost piano virtuoso” of his entire generation. Besides Liszt’s incredible musical talent, he was a very generous person in regard to young musicians. Liszt was not one to hog the spotlight, so he poured lots of time, energy, and money into “promoting and supporting” young musicians and their careers. What Liszt did to the world of music by supporting musicians and their entire careers is immeasurable; it has allowed for many music enhancements in that century and even in the future since all of those musicians wouldn’t be allowed the opportunities that were given to them. This, in addition to the musical talent that Liszt had, makes his effects on the nineteenth century, gigantic.

Richard Wagner

On May 22, 1813, in Leipzig, Germany, a boy named Richard Wagner was born. Unlike both Beethoven and Liszt, Wagner did not grow up with a father to push him to do better so he pushed himself to do better. Richard Wagner was a good composer, however, he was also considered “the most notorious example” of all Romantic composers in this era. Wagner has a long history of controversy throughout Europe. One controversial issue was his hatred toward Jews. Wagner was a massive anti-semite, which lead to creating yet another stain on his career in the twentieth century. After Wagner passed away in the early 1900s his music and politics were adored by Adolf Hitler, who shared most of his left-wing beliefs. It was even said that Wagner’s music was played in the gas chambers in Dachau and Auschwitz. In fact, all of the controversies in Wagner’s life lead him to be exiled from Germany for 12 years. Despite all of his controversies, Wagner was still an incredible musician. The music that Richard Wagner conducted and composed in the nineteenth century became massively influential. When it comes to the Romantic era music, Wagner helped to “create and foster” the ideas that other musicians came up with in a joint effort to better the music society, which puts him on the top Romantic influencers along with Beethoven and Liszt, as well as “opening up new dimensions” in all of the music society. Despite all of his controversial acts in and after his lifetime, it is impossible to overlook all of Richard Wagner’s wondrous additions to the musical compositions in the Romantic Era.

Clara Wieck Schumann

Clara Wieck Schumann was born in Leipzig, Germany on September 13, 1819. Her father, Friedrich Wieck Schumann, like many others in this time period, helped encourage and foster the ideas in her to become a phenomenal musician. Clara grew up to be a pianist like the other musicians in this era, but unlike other musicians during this time, Clara was a female. At this time, females were a bit of an anomaly, so Clara had the weight of all of the women who weren’t given the opportunity to become a great musicians on her shoulders, and she succeeded. Clara had toured all around Europe, playing the piano for thousands, and even earned the nickname “Queen of the Piano” while traveling about England due to her extraordinary talent. In addition to this, whilst traveling in Austria, she was given the Königliche und Kaiserliche Kammervirtuosin or the Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuosa which is the highest honor that any musician could hold. Not only is this difficult for a normal musician to do, but Clara was also a woman, so her getting this award showed the incredible talent that she demonstrated in this area. In regards to her musical talent, however, Clara did “not have much confidence” in her ability to perform, which is ironic seeing as how just about every other person in her time period loved her musical talent. One act that Clara did often played at concerts in aid of others, supporting the “fund for decayed musicians” which is an organization built upon the actions of helping out musicians who are struggling to get their footing. Clara was also known for fostering confidence in other female musicians, which allowed millions of females to pursue their careers and passion.

Peter Illich Tchaikovsky

Peter Illich Tchaikovsky was born on April 25, 1840, in Votkinsk, Russia, and is one of the most recognized musicians in all of history. Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer but did not follow the traditional Russian style of composing. Unlike the other Russian composers, Tchaikovsky “poured his soul” into his music, and this unique creation process would help his music become widely popular. Tchaikovsky was completely different from any of the other musicians and influenced music in completely different ways. One insanely creative idea that Tchaikovsky had was to take previously written novels, such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and compose a piece that “reflects the plot” of the book. No other person was doing this at the time, and Tchaikovsky got the ball rolling, as more and more people started to do this as well. This idea would eventually give birth to the movie, which is a worldwide phenomenon in today’s society. Tchaikovsky, in his prime, also created some of the most famous ballets in all of history: Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Both are still huge icons, even in today’s society, but at the time they were disliked immensely. According to critics, they lacked depth and weren’t as creative as other ballets. As time went on, though, people grew fonder and fonder of them, and they became loved and cherished by many. One final thing about Tchaikovsky: he was homosexual. Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality was such a big deal in Russia, negatively, and was just piled among the things that Tchaikovsky went away from, in regards to music tradition. Tchaikovsky has lists of musical influences to the Romantic Era in which he has changed everything for the betterment of all musicians in the world.

Throughout the nineteenth century, there has been a long list of musicians to influence the music that happened later on in their lives. What some people don’t know, though, is the extent of which some of the musicians in the nineteenth century have influenced music as a whole. Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Clara Wieck Schumann, and Peter Illich Tchaikovsky, all fabulous composers in their own time, all have made enormous advancements, improvements, and general changes to the way music are made, listened to, and appreciated.  

07 July 2022
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