Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Music Unbound: The Rise of Romanticism from Schubert to Berlioz

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Roberta Kozinn 


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

10-Week Course

Feb. 26 - May 6. No Class April 22.


Isaiah Berlin called Romanticism “the greatest transformation of Western consciousness in our time.” What socio-political, philosophical, and aesthetic developments generated the wave of Romantic thought that flooded the cultural watersheds of Europe around 1800? How did the role of the arts in general and music in particular reflect these dramatic changes? For centuries music had been closely tied to life’s religious, public, and private occasions. In the Romantic era, liberated from these practical concerns and the constraints of established practices, music became primarily a personal statement for the expression and communication of feelings and the revelation of each composer’s unique imagination. Both the goals and the means of musical expression were transformed, reflecting newfound artistic freedom.

Together we will explore works by four first generation Romantic composers, situating them in their broader cultural context. The songs of Schubert and Schumann will reveal the intimate connection between poetry and music, kinship with nature, and sense of longing that are hallmarks of Romanticism.  Chopin’s exquisitely crafted piano pieces and Schumann’s impetuous keyboard works will allow us to study the period’s new approaches to harmonic language and virtuosity. We will also investigate the fascinating tension between innovation and tradition as composers transformed the established genres of symphony, sonata, and chamber music. Finally, new expressive realms will beckon in the evocative works of Berlioz. We will refer to scores during class discussions, making the ability to read music helpful but not required.  

Group Leadership Style

Roughly the same amount of lecture and discussion.

Course Materials

YouTube performances and students’ own recordings. Biographies, background articles, translations of all vocal texts, theme sheets, explanations of musical terms, and links to scores will be provided on an extensive class website.    

Preparation Time

 2-3 hours each week of intensive guided listening to specific works, with occasional supplementary readings.  


Roberta Kozinn majored in music at Barnard College and received a master’s degree in musicology from Columbia. For twelve years she led study groups for the Brandeis National Women’s Committee on a wide range of musical subjects including opera, the symphony and 20th century music.  Combining her academic training with a desire to communicate her passion for music, she worked for two decades in New York as a publicist for internationally renowned soloists, ensembles, and institutions. She has been an avid choral singer since her teens and is a lifelong opera buff.