The orchestral contribution was at least as important as the vocal element.
But Wagner was more than just an operatic reformer.
During the course of the century, Western music, now dominated by German tradition and forms, began to be more and more influenced by the rise of nationalism.
The Romantic period embraces a wide divergence of personal styles and represents a long and rapid period in Western music’s development.
In common with every aspect of life, the art developed at an ever-increasing pace.
It was only in old age that Giuseppe Verdi adopted some of Wagner’s musical ideas.
The Italian represents the culmination of the different school of opera.
Elsewhere in Europe, nationalist schools of music arose: in Bohemia there were Smetana, Dvořák and Janáček; in Scandinavia, Nielsen, Grieg and Sinding; in Finland, Sibelius, whose seven symphonies developed the medium in a highly arresting and individual way; in Spain, Albéniz, Granados and de Falla.
Britain and the United States were slow in developing a nationalist school: Parry and Elgar wrote firmly in the German manner and it was not until the later arrival of Vaughan Williams and Holst that a ‘British’ (or at any rate ‘English’) sound began to emerge. Its first native composer of any note, Gottschalk, used indigenous native rhythms for his (mainly) piano works as early as the 1850s – South American, New Orleans and Cuban elements are boldly to the fore.
Russia was the foremost in the surge of nationalism that now fertilised the Late Romantic era.
Glinka was the first important Russian composer to use Russian subjects and folk tunes in his opera A Life for the Tsar.
(The Gregorian chant melodies sung today date from after the death of Pope Gregory in 604 AD.) Without any accepted written system to denote the pitch or length of a note, the scoring of music was inevitably a haphazard affair.