The musical forms of the Romantic period (c.1800-1910) were marked by a shift away from classical forms of the earlier periods. Instead of relying on rigid structures of sonata, rondo and variation forms, composers of this era sought to capture emotions and express personal feelings. This led to forms such as the song cycle, symphonic poem, and extended works of opera.
Romanticism is generally marked by a focus on the individual over the collective, the awareness of emotional power in music, the influence of literature, and a quest for a departure from the standard forms. Generally speaking, composers of the Romantic period sought to create new forms to express their own individual feelings and emotions.
The use of program music was popular during this era, as composers looked to convey stories and emotions through their music. Program music was often used in concert pieces, opera, cantatas, and other large-scale works. This music relied on extra-musical elements such as stories or literature to develop its narrative. Program music was used to paint vivid musical landscapes and create a lasting emotional impact.
The most enduring form of the Romantic period was the song cycle. This form involved a collection of related songs, often composed as a single entity and usually based around a specific theme. Romantic composers made effective use of this form, taking advantage of its flexibility to create scores of individual emotion.
The Romantic period also saw a rise in nationalistic works. Nationalistic works sought to express the unique character of a composer’s homeland through score and choice of instruments. These works often featured traditional folk melodies and instruments, combined in a way that was unique to that composer’s style.
In conclusion, the best statement that describes musical form in the Romantic period is that composers often sought to capture emotions and express personal feelings, while making use of program music and a variety of forms such as song cycles and nationalistic works.