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Salon music was a popular music genre in Europe during the 19th century. It was usually written for solo piano in the romantic style, and often performed by the composer at events known as "Salons". Salon compositions are usually fairly short and often focus on virtuoso pianistic display or emotional expression of a sentimental character. Common sub-genres of salon music are the operatic paraphrase or fantasia, in which multiple themes from a popular opera are the basis of the composition, and the musical character-piece, which portrays in music a particular situation or narrative.
Many popular composers wrote at least a few pieces which fall into the category of salon music. Some pianists composed only salon music, but many of these specialists have become highly obscure.
- Sigismond Thalberg specialized in operatic paraphrases, often featuring a "three-handed" technique that was his trademark. Often regarded as the greatest of the "salon only" pianists.
- John Field composed a series of nocturnes that greatly influenced Chopin.
- Frédéric Chopin was influenced by Field and elements of salon style appear in many of his works.
- Franz Liszt, like Chopin, transcends the genre. Only a few of his compositions (the Galop Chromatique, or some of the operatic fantasies) can be said to lie entirely within the salon tradition.
- Louis Moreau Gottschalk is notable as the first American pianist to achieve success in Europe.
- Henri Herz
- Gustav Lange
- Cecile Chaminade
- Ignaz Moscheles
- Benjamin Godard
- Giselle Galos, until 2010 known only by the pseudonym "C. Galos" and originally believed to be male, composed two pieces of popular salon music in the form of easy nocturnes.
- Désiré Magnus
- Jules Massenet
- Julius Schulhoff
- Martinus Sieveking
- Erik Satie
- Francesco Paolo Tosti
- Georges Boulanger (violinist)
- Franz Behr