Romantic Music Composers

The Romantic Period marked a significant change in the status of musicians; they became more respected and valued. As a result, many Romantic composers were inspired to create large volumes of works that continue to enthrall us to this day. Here are several notable composers of this period or those whose works represent Romantic music:

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Isaac Albéniz

A piano prodigy who made his debut at age 4, went on a concert tour at age 8 and entered the Madrid Conservatory at age 9. He is known for his virtuoso piano music, most notable of which is a collection of piano pieces called "Iberia."
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Mily Balakirev

The leader of a group of Russian composers called "The Mighty Five." He composed, among others, songs, symphonic poems, piano pieces and orchestral music.
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Amy Beach

Known as the foremost American woman composer who successfully transcended social barriers during her time. She has composed some of the most beautiful and captivating music for the piano.
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Vincenzo Bellini

Bellini
Public Domain Image of Vincenzo Bellini. from Wikimedia Commons

An Italian composer of the early 19th century whose specialty was writing bel canto operas. In all he wrote 9 operas including "La sonnambula," "Norma" and "I puritani di Scozia."

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Louis-Hector Berlioz

Unlike his contemporaries, Berlioz' wasn't as easily accepted by the public. It might be said that his manner of instrumentation and orchestration was too advanced for his time. He wrote operas, symphonies, choral music, overtures, songs and cantatas.

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Georges Bizet

A French composer who influenced the verismo school of opera. He wrote operas, orchestral works, incidental music, compositions for piano and songs.
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Aleksandr Borodin

One of the members of "The Mighty Five;" he wrote songs, string quartets and symphonies. His most famous work is the opera "Prince Igor" which was left unfinished when he died in 1887. The said opera was completed by Aleksandr Glazunov and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.

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Johannes Brahms

Brahms
Johannes Brahms. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons
At seven years old, Brahms learned how to play the piano under the instruction of Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel. He furthered his studies of theory and composition under Eduard Marxen.
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Bruch
Max Bruch Photo from "What We Hear in Music", Anne S. Faulkner, Victor Talking Machine Co. Public Domain Image in the US (from Wikimedia Commons)
A German Romantic composer notable for his violin concerti. He was also a conductor of orchestral and choral societies and became a professor at the Berlin Academy of Arts. More »
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Anton Bruckner

An Austrian organist, teacher and composer especially noted for his symphonies. In all he wrote 9 symphonies; his "Symphony No. 7 in E Major," which premiered in Leipzig in 1884, was a huge success and marked a turning point in his career.

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Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin

Chopin
Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

He was a child prodigy and music genius. Among his most famous compositions are: "Polonaises in G minor and B flat major 9" (which he composed when he was 7 years old), "Variations, op. 2 on a theme from Don Juan by Mozart," "Ballade in F major" and "Sonata in C minor."

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Perhaps the least known member of "The Mighty Five" but was also one of the staunch supporters of Russian nationalist music. He was a composer most notably known for his songs and piano pieces, a music critic and professor of fortifications at a military academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. More »
Debussy
Claude Debussy Photo by Félix Nadar. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons
French Romantic composer who formulated the 21-note scale; he changed how instruments were used for orchestration. Claude DeBussy studied composition and piano at the Paris Conservatory; he was also influenced by the works of Richard Wagner. More »
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Edmond Dede

One of the famous Creole of color composer; a violin prodigy and Orchestra Conductor at the Alcazar Theatre where he served for 27 years.
Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti Portrait from Museo del Teatro alla Scala, Milano. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

One of the three influential composers of Italian opera during the early 19th century; the other two being Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini. He composed over 70 operas in Italian and French, the most famous of which include "Lucia di Lammermoor" and "Don Pasquale." More »

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Paul Dukas

Paul Abraham Dukas was a French composer, master of orchestration, professor and music critic. His most famous work, ""L’Apprenti sorcier" (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) was based on J.W. von Goethe’s poem Der Zauberlehrling.

A conductor, teacher and composer whose works reflected different influences; from American folk tunes to Brahms' works. His most famous composition is the Ninth Symphony from the "New World Symphony." More »
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Edward Elgar

An English, Romantic composer, who, according to Richard Strauss, was the "first English progressive musician." Although Elgar was mostly self-taught, his innate gift for music enabled him to reach creative heights only few are able to accomplish.

Faure
Portrait of Gabriel Faure by John Singer Sargent. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

One of the leading French composers of the 19th century. He taught at the Paris Conservatory, having pupils like Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger in his class. More »

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Cesar Franck

An organist and composer who later became a professor at the Paris Conservatory. His teachings inspired a crop of music pupils, among them was composer Vincent d 'Indy.

Wrote orchestral pieces and operas and is acknowledged as the founding father of the Russian nationalist school. His works inspired other composers including several members of "The Mighty Five" namely Balakirev, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. Glinka's influence reverberated well into the 20th century. More »

Louis Moreau Gottschalk was an American composer and virtuoso pianist who pioneered the use of Creole and Latin American songs and dance themes in his compositions. More »
Especially known for his opera, "Faust," Charles Gounod was a French composer during the Romantic period. Other major works include "La redemption," "Mors et vita" and "Romeo et Juliette." He studied philosophy at Lycée Saint-Louis and at one point considered becoming a priest. More »
Born in Spain and became one of the composers who helped promote nationalism in Spanish music during the 19th century. He was a composer, pianist and teacher who wrote piano music inspired by Spanish themes. More »
Grieg
Edvard Grieg. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons
Considered one of the greatest and most prominent Norwegian composers and referred to as "The Chopin of the North." He influenced other composers such as Maurice Ravel and Bela Bartok. More »
Hensel
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel Portrait by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons
She lived at a time when opportunities for women were strictly limited. Although a brilliant composer and pianist, Fanny's father discouraged her from pursuing a career in music. However, she went on to compose lieder, music for piano, choral and instrumental ensemble music. More »
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Joseph Joachim

He founded the Joachim Quartet in 1869 which became a leading quartet in Europe especially known for their performance of Beethoven's works.
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Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

Probably the most prolific composer among "The Mighty Handful." He wrote operas, symphonies, orchestral works and songs. He also became conductor of military bands, director of St. Petersburg's Free Music School from 1874 to 1881 and conducted various concerts in Russia.

Composed mainly operas; also wrote piano, vocal and orchestral works. More »
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Liszt
Franz Liszt Portrait by Henri Lehmann. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso of the Romantic period. Franz Liszt' father taught him how to play the piano. He would later on study under Carl Czerny, an Austrian teacher and pianist. More »

Edward Alexander MacDowell was an American composer, pianist and teacher who was one of the first to incorporate native tunes in his works. Primarily known for his piano pieces, particularly his smaller works; MacDowell became the head of the music department of Columbia University from 1896 to 1904. More »
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Gustav Mahler

Mahler is known for his songs, cantatas and symphonies which he wrote in several keys. Some of his works require a huge orchestra, for example, the "Eighth Symphony in E flat" also called the Symphony of A Thousand.

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Felix Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn Portrait by James Warren Childe. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons
Prolific composer of the Romantic period, He was a piano and violin virtuoso. Some of his most notable compositions are "A Midsummer Night's Dream Opus 21," "Italian Symphony" and "Wedding March."

Composer of the Romantic period known for the "grand operas." A grand opera refers to the type of opera which emerged in Paris during the 19th century. It's an opera of a larger scale, from the flamboyant costumes to the choruses; it also includes ballet. An example of this type is Robert le Diable (Robert the Devil) by Giacomo Meyerbeer. More »

Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky. Public Domain Portrait by Ilya Yefimovich Repin from Wikimedia Commons
Russian composer who served in the military. Although his father wanted him to pursue a military career, it was evident that Mussorgsky's passion was in music. More »
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Jacques Offenbach

One of the composers who helped develop and define the operetta. He composed over 100 stage works among them are "Orphée aux enfers" and "Les Contes d’Hoffmann" which was left unfinished when he died. The "Can-Can" from "Orphée aux enfers" remains very popular; it has been performed many times and used in several films including "Ice Princess" and "Stardust."

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Niccolò Paganini

An Italian composer and virtuoso violinist during the 19th century. His most famous work is the "24 Caprices" for the unaccompanied violin. His works, violin techniques and flamboyant performances impressed many composers and critics of his time. However, his fame also incited a lot of rumors.
An Italian composer of the Romantic period who comes from a family of church musicians. Puccini's La Bohème is considered by many as his masterpiece. More »
Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff. Photo from the Library of Congress
Russian piano virtuoso and composer. Under the advice of his cousin, a concert pianist by the name of Aleksandr Siloti, Sergey was sent to study at the Moscow Conservatory under Nikolay Zverev. Aside from ""Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," Rachmaninoff's other works include "Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 3 no. 2" and "Piano Concerto no. 2 in C minor." More »
Rossini
Gioacchino Rossini. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

Italian composer known for his operas, specifically his opera buffa. He created over 30 operas among them are "The Barber of Seville" which premiered in 1816 and "William Tell" which premiered in 1829. Aside from playing different musical instruments such as the harpsichord, horn and violin, Rossini could also sing and loved to cook. More »

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Camille Saint-Saëns

Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saëns. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons
Wrote symphonies, piano and violin concertos, suites, opera and tone poem. One of his famous works is "The Swan," a soothing piece from his ensemble suite "Carnival of the Animals."
Schubert
Franz Schubert Image by Josef Kriehuber. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

Referred to as the "master of song;" of which he wrote more than 200. Some of his well known works are: "Serenade," "Ave Maria," "Who is Sylvia?" and "C Major symphony." More »

Schumann
Clara Wieck Schumann. Public Domain Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Known as the premier female composer of the Romantic period. Her compositions for the piano and her interpretation of works by other great composers are much appreciated to this day. She was the wife of composer Robert Schumann. More »
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Jean Sibelius

Finnish composer, conductor and teacher especially known for his orchestral works and symphonies. He composed "Finlandia" in 1899; a very powerful composition that made Sibelius a national figure.
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Bedrich Smetana

Composer of operas and symphonic poems; he founded the Czech national school of music.
German Romantic composer and conductor most notable for his operas and tone poems. If you're a fellow sci-fi movie fan, you'll probably remember one of his tone poems titled "Also sprach Zarathustra" which was used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. More »
British conductor, teacher and prolific composer whose successful collaborations with librettist William Schwenk Gilbert, known as "The Savoy Operas," helped establish the English operetta. More »
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Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

Considered the greatest Russian composer of his time. Among his most famous works are his musical scores for ballet such as "Swan Lake," "The Nutcracker" and "Sleeping Beauty."

Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi. Public Domai Image from Wikimedia Commons
Another influential composer of the 19th century was the highly-expressive Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi is most known for his operas that revolve around themes of love, heroism and revenge. Among his famous works are "Rigoletto," "Il trovatore," "La traviata," "Otello" and "Falstaff;" the last two operas were written when he was already in his 70s. More »
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Carl Maria von Weber

Composer, piano virtuoso, orchestrator, music critic and opera director who helped establish the German Romantic and nationalist movements. His most famous work is the opera "Der Freischütz" (The Free Shooter) which opened on June 8, 1821 in Berlin.
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Richard Wagner

Wagner
Richard Wagner. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons
German chorus master, opera conductor, writer, librettist, critic, skilled debater and composer especially noted for his Romantic operas. His operas, such as "Tristan und Isolde," demand vocal strength and endurance from vocalists.