."One must first be a human being. All true art grows out of that which is distinctively human." Edvard Grieg These piano solos are expressions of the mid to late R omantic period in Western culture. The Romantic period began in the early nineteenth century, evolved well into the twentieth century, and clearly left it's stamp on today's culture. The Romantic aesthetic encompassed music and all the arts. It was aptly described by the French poet Charles Baudelaire; "Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject matter nor exact truth but rather in the way of feeling." For the Romantic composers, personal and subjective feeling was far more compelling than all the forms, attitudes and traditions of the past. Their journey, initiated by Beethoven, can be described as the intensive inward exploration of the imagination, intuition and that most powerful of forces, human emotion. They struggled to free themselves from the conventions of society, reaching new heights of individuality and self-expression. The prevailing social sentiment among the Romanticists is poignantly expressed by Chopin's pronouncement: "I am a revolutionary. Money means nothing to me." itted against an increasingly industrial and commercial society, the Romanticists felt that their music was a "peoples" music and a source of personal enlightenment leading the way to a more ideal world. In the words of the early Romantic composer Robert Schumann, "To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist." The Romantic movement was humanist, developing hand-in-hand with the progression of democracy in Europe. Composers of preceding periods were mainly employees of the aristocratic class hired to entertain and empower the elite. In contrast, Romantic composers elevated themselves to the status of independent agent, and were often seen as social heroes - even superstars. They forged the image of the soul searching, free-spirited musician/artist embraced today. It could be said that the entire musical output of the romantic era is one, unfinished song of the human soul. It is a timeless chronicle of our longings, dreams, hopes and aspirations. In our age of faceless technology and unrelenting commercialism, it signifies a never ending search for the beauty and meaning in our world. Romanticism is one of the highest expressions of the greatest treasure we universally possess - the human spirit.