"Romantic miniature" is the term given to the considerable number of single-movement works—usually for solo piano—produced by composers in the Romantic period. Quite apart from the extravagance of much of the period's music, the miniature was very much a small-scale work, lacking any kind of grand symphonic aspirations.
Often through the chromaticism and lyrical melodies typical of the period, the miniature tends to express a particular mood or idea: sometimes aptly and succinctly described in its title, as in Edward MacDowell's To a Wild Rose. More commonly encountered, and perhaps employed by composers who believed that to place too descriptive a title on their work would lessen its effect in some way, were general titles, some suggesting a vague form, some not: the bagatelle, impromptu, album leaf, nocturne, scherzo, and various dance forms are commonplace, among many others.
Though predominantly piano pieces, Romantic miniatures are sometimes found in the form of solo instrument (flute, 'cello, &c.) with a distinctive piano accompaniment—the purpose of the extra instrument being often little more than to extend the 'vocal' line of the piano. Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Wörte (Songs without Words) gracefully remind us, simply through their title, of the miniature's link with the German lied or art-song, in form and content.
Exemplary works include Schumann's piano cycles Carnaval, Phantasiestucke and Kinderszenen; Chopin's preludes, nocturnes and dances; and Grieg's Lyric Pieces.