In the first half of the twentieth century, composers as diverse as Samuel Barber, Frederick Delius, Howard Hanson, Paul Hindemith, Gustav Holst, Arnold Schoenberg, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Heitor Villa-Lobos were classed as neoromantic (Heyman 2001; Pasler 2001; Watanabe & Perone 2001; Wright 1992). Since the mid-1970s the term has come to be identified with neo-conservative post-modernism, especially In Germany, Austria, and the United States, with composers such as Wolfgang Rihm and George Rochberg (Pasler2001).
Currently active US-based composers widely described as neoromantic include John Corigliano, David del Tredici and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich,, while European composers of the tradition include Nicholas Maw and James MacMillan of Great Britain. It has also been applied to the later works of Ligeti and Penderecki. The Canadian composer Daniel Theaker describes his compositional work as neoromantic.
While most neoromantic music is (to a varying degree) tonal and pointedly rejects serialism and other formalistic procedures associated with post-war modernism, other avant-garde elements (aleatoric, sound-mass composition, tone clusters, atonality, quarter-tones) are sometimes juxtaposed within the same neoromantic work.
Neoromantic styles often overlap with other compositional approaches. Polystylism and musical quotation from other works are sometimes used within the same work, often evoking nostalgia. For example, in the first movement of John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1, there is a quotation in the orchestral piano of Ediot' "Tango".
John Coolidge Adams has combined post-romantic styles and orchestration of Ravel, early Stravinsky, and Sibelius, with minimalist processes and textures, and Americana-tinged diatonicism evocative of Aaron Copland.
Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, in such works as Cantus Arcticus (a concerto for recorded birdsong and orchestra) and his Symphony No. 7 ("Angel of Light"), has been described as presenting a new Romanticism.
Armenian composer Alexander Kaloian is known for the strong nationalistic musical language in his work including Marches, Tone Poems and Symphonies that are immediately recognizable as "Armenian" in their colour. The tremendous scale of his orchestrations utilise large sections with expanded winds and brass instrumentation, of note is the requirement for 8 horns, 2 tenor and 2 bass Wagner Tubas in his Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2.
According to Daniel Albright, "In the late twentieth century, the term Neoromanticism came to suggest a music that imitated the high emotional saturation of the music of (for example) Schumann [Romanticism ], but in the 1920s it meant a subdued and modest sort of emotionalism, in which the excessive gestures of the Expressionists were boiled down into some solid residue of stable feeling" (Albright 2004,. Thus, in Albright's view, neoromanticism in the 1920s was not a return to romanticism but, on the contrary, a tempering of an overheated post-romanticism. See: Romantic music and Neoclassicism (music).