About this Recording
8.578081-82 - Easy-Listening Piano Classics: Romantic Expressions

Naxos’ Easy-Listening Piano Classics presents a delightful range of music from Baroque masterpieces to beautiful works of the Classic and Romantic eras, specially selected for discerning listeners to enjoy at home or work, while relaxing, entertaining or travelling.


‘Romantic’ is a term with several meanings. With a capital ‘R’, it usually refers to a period roughly from the 1820s until around 1900 during which the work of artists, musicians, writers, including philosophical, political and social thinkers, of the late eighteenth and early to mid nineteenth centuries became highly influential. However, music which could still be regarded as ‘Romantic’ continued to be composed until and even beyond the Second World War, a situation further complicated by the resurgence of ‘Neo-romanticism’ since the mid 1970s. With a lower case ‘r’, the situation is only slightly less ambiguous: ‘romantic’ can mean ‘loving’, ‘idealistic’, ‘passionate’, ‘impractical’, ‘chivalrous’, ‘unrealistic’, ‘adventurous’, ‘amorous’, ‘deluded’, and more besides!

As early as 1810, E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776–1822) dubbed Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven the three ‘Romantic Composers’, while Ludwig Spohr (1784–1859) described parts of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as examples of ‘good Romantic style’. By the early 1900s the entire 19th Century was regarded by many as ‘The Romantic Era’, although this all-encompassing retrospective view smoothes over many differences between the aesthetic and political trends that affected Europe in the wake of the French Revolution (1789–1799), those that arose mid-century around 1848 (sometimes referred to as the ‘Spring of Nations’ or the ‘Year of Revolution’) and later developments that would culminate in the cataclysm of the Great War (1914–18).

The great French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), himself a harbinger of Modernism, wrote in 1846 that ‘Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling.’ And, though ‘the way of feeling’ certainly changes—perhaps it’s easier to hear the differences between, say, the music of Franz Schubert (1797–1828) and Richard Strauss (1864–1949) than the similarities between Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) and Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)—it’s not hard to grasp why the idea of ‘Romanticism’ has remained so elusive, since it has constantly redefined itself. Indeed, the difficulty with settling on a definition is inherent to a style that often exalts the individual over the collective (while nonetheless evoking ‘national spirit’), encourages freedom of individual expression and experimentation rather than conformity to existing models and norms, emphasises emotion and imagination, and revels in both virtuosic display and intimate revelation…

The music on this album, appropriately titled Romantic Expressions, brings together a delightfully diverse selection of piano music by composers from across Europe whose lives span the broadest period mentioned above: from Hungarian Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837), Russians Anton Rubinstein (1829–1894) and César Cui (1835–1918) to Englishman Edward Elgar (1857–1934), Finnish Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), Spaniard Enrique Granados (1867–1916) and Russian Sergei Rachmaninov (1873–1943). The latter’s remark that ‘The new kind of music [what we call ‘Modernism’] seems to create not from the heart but from the head. Its composers think rather than feel. They have not the capacity to make their works exalt—they meditate, protest, analyze, reason, calculate and brood, but they do not exalt’ suggests the persistent power of the Romantic aesthetic. Whatever fine distinctions may be drawn, the ‘Romantic’ will always remain a heartfelt matter.

If you’ve enjoyed this album, why not try these titles as well?

8.555557 CUI: 25 Preludes, Op. 64
8.570166 ELGAR: Piano Music
8.554628 GRANADOS: Piano Music, Vol. 3 - Escenas Romanticas / Allegro de concierto / Capricho espanol
8.554629 GRANADOS: Piano Music, Vol. 4 - Romantic Waltzes / Poetic Waltzes / Aragonese Rhapsody
8.557141 GRANADOS: Piano Music, Vol. 7 - Sentimental Waltzes / 6 Expressive Studies
8.557836 HUMMEL: Fantasies (Complete)
8.550141 Romantic Piano Favourites, Vol. 4
8.223177 RUBINSTEIN: Soirees Musicales, Op. 109
8.553661 SIBELIUS: Piano Music (Selection)
8.553899 SIBELIUS: Piano Music, Vol. 1
8.554808 SIBELIUS: Piano Music, Vol. 2
8.555363 SIBELIUS: Piano Music, Vol. 4

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