Classical music recommendations (especially Romantic era)

I somehow spent my life mostly unaware of the music of the Romantic era. Well, not so much unaware as deliberately ignoring. Stupid, I know, but that’s the reality (I can tell you why but that’s another thread.)

A while ago I stumbled onto Schubert’s Trio in E-flat major. And that led me to more, much more, of Schubert as well as (unsurprisingly) Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and of course Beethoven.

I am partial to non-symphonic, non-choral stuff like concertos and sonatas. I assume that’s because it requires the least-trained ear to appreciate. To give you a sense of what I’m looking for, some of my particular favourites are Schubert’s late piano sonatas (D958, 959, 960), Mendelssohn D-minor trio, and Schumann’s piano concerto in A-minor.

Any suggestions for 2020?



Clarinet quintet
Piano pieces opp. 116-119 (especially 118/2 and 6, then 116/2, all of 117, 118/3 as well as 119/1)
Clarinet trio
Piano sonata n°3
Piano concerto n°1
Cello sonata n°1
Varitions on a theme by Paganini

That would be an essential starter kit.

And I know that you mentioned “non-symphonic” but his symphony n°4 is one of the towering achievements of the genre, an absolute must-have.

I don’t know about that. I would have thought that people with “less-trained ears” gravitate to symphonies and other orchestral music over solo piano and chamber music, because they like the lush orchestration or the varieties of tone color.

In addition to Brahms (as recommended by Les Espaces Du Sommeil), make sure you check out Dvorak. He wrote a lot of good chamber music (the “American” string quartet and the piano quintet are good starting places) as well as orchestral music (his “New World Symphony” may be his most popular and accessible work).

Liszt’s Sonata for Piano in B minor is one of my favorites. I actually wrote a form analysis paper on it for my music theory class back in the day.
Richard Strauss wrote a couple French horn concertos which are highly regarded (and fun to play).
Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor is a favorite.

Technically speaking, Scott Joplin is a romantic composer, but I doubt that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for.

Ditto John Philip Sousa.

Schubert and Schumann both wrote piano trios, I’d give them a listen. I happen to love the piano trio genre. Beethoven’s piano trios are also outstanding as a bridge between classical and Romantic.

Among other chamber music pieces, I love Romantic-era piano quintets:

Brahms’ in F minor
Dvorak’s in A Major
Schumann’s in E-flat Major
Borodin’s in C minor

Also wonderful are these piano trios:
Clara Schumann’s in G minor
Fanny Mendelssohn’s in D Major

(No, I’m not virtue signaling by mentioning these works composed by women. They are truly a delight. Fanny’s oozes with great melodies…listen for when the first movement’s main theme recurs in the last measures of the last movement).

Here’s a link to Borodin’s piano quintet. Delightful melodies, from start to finish. Note the Russian folk dance colorings.

Here’s the Fanny Mendelssohn piano trio I mentioned in the previous post.

Outstanding. Thank you all. I will be kept busy for a while (which is good because I’m off work for the next two weeks).

I will try (to remember) to come back to this thread with some ‘feedback’.

(As an aside, I love, absolutely love, Dvorak’s American quartet.)

Thanks again!

Sonata in B minor an excellent choice. I believe the OP would also enjoy Liszt’s Piano Concerto #2. It’s an often overlooked piece that has always mesmerized me with its beauty and dynamic contrast of opposite emotions. It runs counter to many people’s misconception that Liszt only wrote bombastic, virtuoso music that no one can play but him (which he did, and I love all that, too).

Check out Georgi Cherkin’s performance of #2, it’s quite good. And, of course, Martha Argerichnails it, too!

How about Chopin and Rachmaninoff? Almost everything they wrote, including a lot of solo piano works.

And if you don’t like symphonies, there are shorter orchestral works, like Brahms’ Hungarian Dances (either orchestral or solo piano) or Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances.

I’d add to the list the Brahms Sextets and Piano Quintets, Mendelssohn’s and Schubert’s Octets, Schubert"s Arpeggione Sonata.

And perhaps you could push the envelope a bit to include Puccini’s Crisantemi, Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata, and some Ravel -:the String Quartet, the Introduction and Allegro, and Le Tombeau de Couperin.

Alfred Brendel famously said, “there is so much good music, why would anyone ever play Rachmaninoff?”

I like the piano quartets of both Faure and Widor.

And how could I have forgotten the Franck Violin Sonata (sometimes also played on the cello)?

There are so many good pianists, why would anyone ever listen to Brendel?

And Fauré’s pieces for cello and piano, and violin and piano, including the famous Berceuse.

For late Romantic, I love Ravel’s piano trio.

For early Romantic, I love Schubert’s piano sonata in B-flat Major.

For mid-Romantic, hard to beat Brahms’ Rhapsody in G minor.

These names might be a late for the romatic period, but nobody’s mentioned Tchaikovsky or Debussy. About Rachmaninoff, there are several versions of a story about him coinciding in a hotel with his Prelude in C-sharp minor and Harpo Marx. The Wikiversion, for those who haven’t heard the story:

The information in the last sentence appears to come from Harpo’s autobiography. In other versions of the story, it’s claimed that Rachmaninoff hated the prelude and Harpo knew it.

You beat me to it.


Just two more, I promise. These are about as Romantic as you can get:

Robert Fuchs’ six fantasies for viola and piano

Edward MacDowell’sTo a Wild Rose