The Music Column

The Romantic Revival


The first thing to say about the Romantic Revival is that the phrase itself is a bit ambiguous, though I haven’t meant to be misleading.  Romanticism originally had an aspect of revival of the medieval, as in the Gothic revival and the revival of medieval romance.  And the phrase could also denote the return to tonal composition in contemporary times.  I haven’t meant any such nebulousness, but rather something more specific—the revival in the 1960’s and since of neglected romantic repertory and even performance practices.  But before we address that topic, there are still some contradictions to be posted.

Back in the 1960’s, there were different paths back to the Romantic world.  Presenting neglected (or forgotten or unknown or even scorned) repertory was not the only configuration of the revival, for many reasons.  In the first place, there were those who could not go back to Romanticism, because they had never left it.  Vladimir Horowitz claimed that position, though he had to forget his own young days and anti-Romantic performances to do it.  Earl Wild claimed that position with much truth.  When Erich Leinsdorf called him up to propose a revival of the forgotten Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 32 by...

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