Romantic Period Classical Music Playlist

Great Classical Music from the Romantic Period

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New to classical music? Are you already a classical music listener, but would like to expand your musical horizons? Look no further! The romantic period boasts thousands of classical works, but I've narrowed down that list into a small (and manageable) group of songs that everyone should have. If you can think of more romantic period pieces that are not on this list, please recommend your choices at the end of the list!

Ralph Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending
Written first for violin and piano, Ralph Vaughan Williams completed The Lark Ascending in 1914. After going over concerns with the violinist, changes were made to the piece. The Lark Ascending was first performed in 1920. A year later, Williams' orchestral score was completed and performed in the Queen's Hall concert in London. This is a wonderful piece to have - it's calm, tranquil, and highly introspective.

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 9
Mahler wrote this symphony knowing that the end of his life was near, and some believe the fourth movement represents the five psychological stages of death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Mahler undoubtedly fits the romantic style to the "t"; heart-wrenching tension followed by ever-so-sweet resolve.

Franz Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody
This is such an amazing piece of music. This famous piece of music is like a great story teller - the story is so well told you don't even need to use your imagination. Liszt wrote the Hungarian Rhapsody in 1847, originally for the solo piano. However, after its initial performances, it so quickly became a crowd favorite that Liszt composed an orchestral version.

Sergey Prokofiev - Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet
Sergey Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights is one of my favorite pieces from his ballet, Romeo and Juliet. There's no denying that Dance of the Knights is definitely an emotionally charged piece of music. With the strong horns and bass on the bottom and a powerful and electric melodic line played by unison strings, Prokofiev's dark and brooding passages can send chills up your spine and set your heart racing.

Giuseppe Verdi - Dies Irae - from Verdi's Requiem
If you look up "powerful music" in the dictionary I have no doubt you'd find Verdi's Dies Irae as its only definition. Composed in 1869, in honor of the death of Gioachino Rossini, Verdi's Requiem has only grown ever more popular. The requiem as a whole is a marvelous work, but the Dies Irae truly shines like a beacon in the night.

Robert Schumann - Symphony No. 4
There is a bit of minor controversy regarding Schumann's Symphony No. 4, as Clara Schumann (his widow) claimed to have completed the symphony herself. However, Johannes Brahms and many music scholars afterward believe it to have been totally composed by Robert. This is a rather unique symphony in that Schumann composed it to have little or no breaks in between each movement.

Claude Debussy - La Cathedral Engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)
Here's a magical piece of music from the romantic period. Debussy paints a picture of a mythical sunken cathedral with impressionist sound as if he were the famous impressionist artist, Monet. There are no hard edges, no flashy chords or orchestrations. It's absolutely brilliant. Debussy composed La Cathédrale Engloutie in 1910.

Gabriel Faure - Requiem
Unlike the Requiem's by Brahms, Mozart, and Verdi, Faure's Requiem is intimate, enveloping, and highly intoxicating. It's almost too easy for me to get lost within its passages. Faure's Requiem was composed in the late 1880s and is rightfully his most popular work.

Johannes Brahms - Symphony No. 2
Brahms was heavily influenced by Beethoven. Its richness in orchestration lies between Beethoven and Mahler. In the first movement, Brahms presents three different motifs simultaneously as the main theme. The fourth movement has a flavor of the final movement in Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Maurice Ravel - Bolero
Here's a piece that many people know, and rightfully so! This famous classical piece from the romantic period is one of those pieces that has the ability to make anyone feel happy. Composed in the 1920s, for a ballet, the piece was an instant success.