The musical aesthetic prevailing in German Romanticism goes back to L. Tieck, H. Wackenroder and especially to E. T. A. Hoffmann. With their idea of absolute music, according to which instrumental music could open up deeper areas of consciousness and thus claim priority over vocal music and especially opera, an approach was formulated around the turn of the 19th century that made the symphony dominate (and, in the second place, the opera) Authority, including chamber music) postulated. F. Mendelssohn Bartholdy and R. Schumann took over v. a. by Beethoven the classical form casing (symphony, sonata, etc.), but filled it with new expressions and led to high romanticism in instrumental music and the art of song. In piano music, the song without words or the one-movement lyrical piano piece (character piece) emerged, which, in addition to his great cyclical works, expresses romantic mood content, especially with Schumann.
M. von Weber ushered in the era of romantic opera with ” Freischütz ” (1821), a work that has been considered German since its premiere in Berlin, E. Humperdinck, with his fairy tale opera “Hansel and Gretel” and L. Spohr and H. Marschnercontinue. Soon evolved from her the Biedermeier SpielOper (A. Lortzing, O. Nicolai, F. von Flotow), along with the special form of the Berlin formed operetta out the u. A. was coinedby P. Lincke, E. Künneke and P. Abraham.
With the founding of the Berliner Liedertafel by C. F. Zelter (1809) and the Zürcher Männergesangverein by H. G. Nägeli (1810), male choir singing became a focal point of broad civic music cultivation. The numerous Cäcilienvereine, which arose in the course of historicism and which supported the Catholic church music reform movement of Caecilianism, were primarily dedicated to the revival of older music. The legendary rerun of the “St. Matthew Passion” by J. S. Bach in Berlin in 1829 by the young Mendelssohn Bartholdy was a milestone in this historicist tendency directed. The newly composed oratorios with biblical and secular subjects met the need for bourgeois representation. Not only in the German area did the idea of specifically national music develop.
A notable step in the first half of the 19th century was the division into serious and cheerful music, which became clear for the first time. While dance composition was still quite familiar to the classics, it went its own way as a lower genre, excellently represented in the beginning by J. Lanner and J. Strauss father and son. It is to them that the waltz owes its century-long position as the dominant ballroom dance. In addition to dance music, they include Salon music, pop, chansonsand operetta to the typical forms of popular music.
Typical for the second half of the century is the emergence of individual styles, partly classicistic, partly late-romantic, partly progressive. Inwardly, strongly orientated towards the classical music and at the same time attached to the romantic world of imagination, J. Brahms was with his work encompassing all genres except opera. R. Wagner became the creator of a musical and dramatic total work of art. Not only the new musical facture, but also the ideological content of the Gesamtkunstwerk led to very different interpretations. A. Bruckner on the other hand, in addition to trade fair compositions, v. a. the symphonic too; the structure of his nine symphonies, permeated by church music idioms, shaped a late style of the symphony genre in its monumentality. H. Wolf developed new styles for the art of song. The new German direction of F. Liszt had a strong impact, and with his symphonic poems he created a new type of genre: compositions that sought to realize a poetic idea as a new form of musical language by combining poetic text and music. In Weimar he wanted the classics Goethe and Schiller together with R. Wagner inherit, a claim that both underlined in terms of their compositional maxims in terms of the philosophy of history by naming Bach and Beethoven ancestors whose continuation – as emphatic (new) “German” composers – they wanted to be understood.
Mahler with his symphonic work, which continues and transforms the tradition of his teacher A. Bruckner based on an ethical-subjective attitude, as well as M. Reger, who revived J. S. Bach’s counterpoint, reach into the new century.
Direct descendant of Liszt and Wagner ‘s R. Strauss to see. A fruitful collaboration with H. von Hofmannsthal was reflected in the continuation of the great musical drama and in the lyrical opera beyond Wagner. His opposite pole was H. Pfitzner, in whose main work, the late romantic opera “Palestrina”, the experience of the polyphonic sound of the 16th century entered. The lines that are shown here are historiographical constructions, which, however, certainly correspond to the self-image of the composers of the 19th century, an age of nation states also in music. Influences and interactions that are palpable in many places between the works of “German” composers and the music of neighboring European countries have often enough been ignored by themselves, for the sake of the idea of a dominance of “German” music. J. S. Bach and L. v. Beethoven form the prerequisites in the work of R. Wagner, J. Brahms, F. Liszt or A. Bruckner (in the Hegelian sense): an approach that A. Schönberg still pursued when he proudly claimed that with the invention of the twelve-tone technique he had secured German music dominance for another hundred years.