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In North American classical music and European classical music, neoromanticism is a style identified by the extended tonality that flourished during the late Romantic era, as well as a frank expression of emotional sentiment equally evocative of the period. In England the term is used to describe the revival of interest in their native folk music by British composers of the early twentieth century.



In the first half of the twentieth century, composers as diverse as Samuel Barber, Frederick Delius, Howard Hanson, Paul Hindemith, Gustav Holst, Arnold Schoenberg, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Heitor Villa-Lobos were classed as neoromantic (Heyman 2001; Pasler 2001; Schloezer 1923; Watanabe & Perone 2001; Wright 1992). Neoromanticism was originally primarily a French movement: Francis Poulenc and Henri Sauguet were considered neoromantic (Thomson 2002, 268), and the composers of La Jeune France described themselves as neoromantic to suggest a rupture with modernist tendencies. Neoromanticism tempered the severe neo-Classicism of Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, and Henry Barraud (Thomson 2002, 268). Virgil Thomson, Nicolas Nabokov, and Douglas Moore were other American neoromantic composers (Thomson 2002, 268). However, La Jeune France, including Manuel Rosenthal, may be considered neo-Impressionist (Thomson 2002, 268). Merton Brown, Lou Harrison, and other "neo-contrapuntalists" influenced by Carl Ruggles are involved with, "rounded material," but not so much with, "personalized sentiment," as described below while the opening to Sergei Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony involves both (Thomson 2002, 268). Since the mid-1970s the term has come to be identified with neo-conservative post-modernism, especially in Germany, Austria, and the United States, with composers such as Wolfgang Rihm and George Rochberg (Pasler 2001).

Currently active US-based composers widely described as neoromantic include John Corigliano, David Del Tredici and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, while European composers of the tradition include Nicholas Maw and James MacMillan of Great Britain. It has also been applied to the later works of György Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki. The Canadian composer Daniel Theaker describes his compositional work as neoromantic.


Neoromanticism in music is used in two senses: (1) a return (at any of several points in the twentieth century) to the emotional expression associated with nineteenth-century Romanticism, and (2) to describe the revival of folk culture in England from the early to the mid-twentieth century, in the work of composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Frederick Delius, and, later, Michael Tippett (Pasler 2001). Virgil Thomson proclaimed himself to be "most easily-labeled practitioner [of Neo-Romanticism] in America," (Thomson 2002, 268):

Neo-Romanticism involves rounded melodic material (the neo-Classicists affected angular themes) and the frank expression of personal sentiments. . . . That position is an esthetic one purely, because technically we are eclectic. Our contribution to contemporary esthetics has been to pose the problems of sincerity in a new way. We are not out to impress, and we dislike inflated emotions. The feelings we really have are the only ones we think worthy of expression. . . . Sentiment is our subject and sometimes landscape, but preferably a landscape with figures. (Hoover and Cage 1959, 250; Thomson 2002, 268–69)

According to Daniel Albright, "In the late twentieth century, the term Neoromanticism came to suggest a music that imitated the high emotional saturation of the music of (for example) Schumann [ Romanticism ], but in the 1920s it meant a subdued and modest sort of emotionalism, in which the excessive gestures of the Expressionists were boiled down into some solid residue of stable feeling" (Albright 2004, 278-79). Thus, in Albright's view, neoromanticism in the 1920s was not a return to romanticism but, on the contrary, a tempering of an overheated post-romanticism. See: Romantic music and Neoclassicism (music).

See also


  • Albright, Daniel. 2004. Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-01267-0.
  • Heyman, Barbara B. 2001. "Barber, Samuel." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music.
  • Hoover, Kathleen, and John Cage. 1959. Virgil Thompson: His Life and Music. New York: Thomas Yoseloff.
  • Pasler, Jann. 2001. “Neo-romantic". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music.
  • Schloezer, Boris de. 1923. "La musique". Revue contemporaine (1 February).
  • Thomson, Virgil. Possibilities 1:1. Cited in Hoover and Cage 1959, 250 and Albright 2004, 278n54.
  • Thomson, Virgil. 2002. Virgil Thomson: A Reader: Selected Writings, 1924-1984, edited by Richard Kostelanetz. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415937957.
  • Watanabe, Ruth T., and James Perone. 2001. "Hanson, Howard." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J.Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  • Wright, Simon. 1992. "Villa-Lobos, Heitor". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J.Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.

External links



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