Beethoven’s late works (and evolving cultural tastes) inspired younger composers to write music that was more dramatic. Composers began to focus less on form and structure, delivering music that utilized the colors of the orchestra to create lush, evocative textures and sweeping melodies of unabashed emotion. Music also drew inspiration from other art forms, especially literature, and “program music” sought to depict natural wonders and literary narratives through music.
The Romantic Period—lasting from roughly 1820-1900—also saw the rise of nationalism across Europe as centuries-old empires ruled by monarchical dynasties gave way to modern nation-states.
In Germany, Brahms’ and Wagner’s fans disputed which was the true heir to Beethoven. In France, Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, and Fauré created lyrical masterpieces. Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky helped the Russians claim their place on concert programs. Minority groups across Europe championed their composers as a way to celebrate their cultural independence from imperial identity: the Czechs had Dvořák, the Italians Verdi, the Poles Chopin, the Finns Sibelius.