Why aren't Romantic composers more well known for their chamber work?
...Aside from Brahms, who is a very "Classical" romanticist, there are fewer romantic chamber works that are canonized and oftenly played than the vastly more common Classical, Modern, and last but not least, Baroque works.
Asides from Sonatas for Piano + solo instrument, you rarely see chamber works being mentioned as Romanticists masterpieces alongside the endless Concertos and Symphonies etc.
I know there are great works by them, cause I've listened to a bunch, I wonder why they are fewer than other epochs, and less regarded as well.
Bonus question: What is your favorite Romantic string quartet?
Isn't Mendelssohn also best known for his chamber music? I think one big reason is that a number of major Romantic composers wrote little or no chamber music. I'm thinking of Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Rachmaninoff in particular. I do think the chamber music of Tchaikovsky and Grieg is underplayed, especially in comparison to their own other works.
True! But funnily enough Mendelssohn is also considered "old school"!
I think you are overstating the situation; there are also Schumann, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, all of whom have written several to many chamber pieces. Some of those are generally seen as "masterpieces". The romantic repertoire is in fact so large that it is hard to come up with ONE favorite string quartet from the era.
As Albrecht says, those romantic composers who fell on the Brahms side of the great Wagner/Brahms divide (i.e. those who espoused "pure" as distinct from programmatic music) wrote a huge quantity of chamber music. I counted more than 700 composers who published string quartets in the 100 years following Beethoven. Most, of course, are now unjustly or justly neglected but plenty are well worth hearing and playing, e.g. those by Draeseke, Gernsheim, Brandts Buys, Straesser, Reinecke, Godard, Wetz, Berger (his piano quintet). My favourite "unsung" work from this period, which I think definitely ranks alongside enduring masterpieces by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvorak, Smetana, Verdi is the string octet by Herman Graedener. Epic!
In a number of chamber music competitions, the division between classical and romantic periods is by year, 1810, which technically includes some of Beethoven's late chamber music. So much chamber music written after 1810.
Don't overlook the chamber music written by Rossini!
I would classify most of Janacek, Martinu, Smetana, Franck, and Suk as romantic. I believe they all wrote some things for chamber ensembles.
Probably Brahms 1. The Verdi quartet and Dvorak 10
Are you comparing the ratio of well-known chamber vs. symphonic works between eras, or are you comparing the total number of well-known chamber works between eras?
Chamber music, in general, is a niche market, with a much smaller paying audience compared to symphonies and operas. I'll probably provoke someone, but my opinion about much of 19th cent., romantic era quartets is that the composers were trying to imitate the big sound of a string orchestra. Instead of just adding a bass, they added a lot of double stops to the mix, which gives a muddled, thick sound. Mozart and Beethoven and the moderns, have a greater clarity.
Joel - not my feeling at all! Maybe you could cite some examples. In my view one deficiency of many early romantic composers is that they slavishly follow the "rules" of sonata-form structure. Melodic invention is also sometimes in short supply. Occasionally textures do get too dense (some of Dvorak's quartets can be criticised on this point) but I'm frequently impressed by the ingenuity of the part-writing. These works were usually intended for performance by amateurs or in small venues, and I regret that there's currently a tendency to inflate them to concert-hall dimensions.
We've had good audiences locally for the St. Lawrence Quartet and the Emersons but the local (regional) orchestra's Holiday Pops concert sells out months in advance. Joel has a point.
Wow! So many great responses, so in order...
Since nobody has mentioned them yet, I might add that my favourite romantic string quartets are those by Ravel, Debussy and Elgar. And @Ivo's last post, I think the main disadvantage of playing romantic chamber music in large venues isn't that they are unflattering but that it discourages the intimacy and tenderness that should be vital elements of the performance. But I know I'm swimming against a strong tide here.
I'm currently working on the Brahms Op. 114 Trio (viola, cello, piano), and while it's a very unusual instrumentation, it's beautiful in an understated, dark way.
Emma, I know you may not love me for this, but have you worked out yet which limerick to fit to the third movement?
Since no one has mentioned it, I do rather like the Bruckner string quintet.
"From Paganini's and Sarasate's violin works to Chopin's and Liszt's piano work etc et al"