8. THE ROMANTIC PERIOD With the romantic period comes the development of lyric music in the forms of songs and short pianoforte pieces. Schubert, Weber, Spohr, Mendelssohn and Schumann would be the roman tic composers in this sense, and many contemporaries would have added Cherubini to the list, for they thought of him not as the martinet who directed the Paris Conservatoire but as the corn poser of Les Deux Journees. Romanticism was thrilling and classicism was cold.
But this list traverses another sense of the term which opposes the romantic to the classical. The classical is in this connection identified with both formalism and mastery. Mendelssohn and Spohr chose romantic subjects to no purpose; their mastery was unromantically slick (there is no other word for it) and Spohr's forms were more thoroughly ascertained than anybody else's except those of Mozart's brilliant pupil, J. N. Hummel. Mendels sohn's forms were free; but he never got into difficulties, so how could anybody recognise his freedom? Philipp Emmanuel Bach's vein of sentimental rhetoric was not only typically romantic but enabled him to write some genuinely lyrical songs. J. Schobert is another romantic writer who influenced Mozart at an impression able time of his boyhood. Every thrilling modulation in Bee thoven's music was romantic, and so were the double-bass passages at the beginning of Cherubini's overture to Les Deux Journees.
But the facts are more interesting than this generalization. Mastery is not the line of cleavage that ranges Spohr and Men delssohn on the one side and Schubert, Schumann and Chopin on the other. Beethoven's later tonality and polyphony had made music ready for lyric forms which he himself adumbrated in a few of his bagatelles for pianoforte and some sporadic good things in his songs. Mendelssohn and Spohr took up song-writing and produced in that line masterpieces for the drawing-room. We ought not to despise the drawing-room. Schubert became the supreme master of song, and Schumann achieved greatness there as in his pianoforte lyrics; but you might as well think of Keats and Shelley as writers for the drawing-room.
Another line of cleavage separates Schubert from Schumann and Chopin as fundamentally as it separates him from Men delssohn and Spohr. When Schumann and Chopin handle the large classical forms they show obvious weaknesses. Schumann makes an effective new artificial sonata form out of his stiff antithetic epigrammatic style, as a man might construct a landscape in mosaic. Chopin merely shows that he has taken the sonata forms uncritically from Hummel, though the first two movements of the B flat minor sonata are almost as happy in their classical form as the Ballades are in Chopin's unique way. But Schubert's large forms have only the weaknesses of youth, and their positive qualities and tendencies set him above all schools and indicate that if he had lived we should not so readily have closed a historic chapter with Beethoven. The mastery that Schubert lacks is not
anything that Spohr could have supplied. Younger composers with new worlds to conquer could with some truth accuse Spohr of playing with classical forms as one might play chess; but they could never have so accused the Schubert that died young or the Schubert that might have reached old age.
We do not know what Mendelssohn might have achieved if he had lived longer. His influence on the musicians he knew per sonally was wholly stimulating and good. But he too, seemed able to play chess with symphonies, oratorios and songs with and without words, while other composers were grappling in their music with real life, perhaps confined to one narrow art-medium like Chopin, or, like Schumann, deserting lyrics for larger forms or some artificial hypothesis, or, like young Berlioz, kicking right and left against all teaching and all criticism while dreaming new wonders of orchestral sound, and correctly dreaming the practical means to them also.
Meanwhile a greater than Berlioz was arising, a dreamer of new sense as well as of sound. Mendelssohn and Schumann saw only the beginning of Wagner's development, and could not feel very sure that this voluble and stormy reformer of music-drama was really likely to achieve anything better than the tinsel of the astute Meyerbeer who dominated the world of cosmopolitan opera. The early style of Wagner is incieed an alloy of many metals besides iron and potter's clay; but even in the 'forties his work marks the eclipse of the first romantic period and the dawn of another and greater epoch.
The art-forms peculiar to the Romantic period have no definite names, though composers began to use many literary titles, such as Ballade, Romance (already used by Mozart for slow move ments in sonata-form), Nocturne and the like. Dance-rhythms, especially those of Poland, were brought into prominence in the pianoforte music of Chopin. Mendelssohn's invention of the song without words was very successful, but the notion is too facile to lead far, or always, even in Mendelssohn's hands, to justify its existence. Fantastic titles, used in the 18th century by the French clavecinistes, assumed great prominence in the pianoforte works of Schumann who created a new type of long connected cycles of epigrammatic little pieces. The articles PROGRAMME MUSIC and SONG concern this period vitally. Relevant biograph ical articles are CHOPIN, MENDELSSOHN, SCHUBERT, SCHUMANN, SPOHR, WEBER; while the crowd of pianoforte composers whose brilliance on that instrument obstructed all wider musical pros pects, include the respectable HUMMEL, the less respectable STEIBELT, the flimsy WOELFL and the Irish writer of beautiful pre-Chopin nocturnes, FIELD (John).