Music of Colors: A Survey of French Music for Keyboard from Rameau through Dutilleux
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For my dissertation project, I chose to learn and perform selections from solo piano repertoire and piano/vocal chamber music by French composers. What attracted me to this project was the enormous variety of styles amongst composers from the late Baroque period to the mid-twentieth century. The earliest of these composers was Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), who composed Le rappel des oiseaux, La poule and Gavotte avec six Doubles during the first portion of his compositional life, from 1724-1730. In these compositions, he employed the suite form, as well as explored new compositional devices that imitated sound of animals commonly found in nature. The next group of compositions: Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894): Improvisation (from Pieces pittoresques); Gabriel Faure (1845-1924): Nocturne No.6 in D-jlat major, Op. 63 and Theme et variations, Op.73; Claude Debussy (1862-1918): L'Isle joyeuse, Images II and Pour les agreements (from Douze Etudes pour piano); Erik Satie (1866-1925): Sonatine bureaucratique; Charles Krechlin (1867-1950): Nouvelles sonatines, Op.87, No.1; Maurice Ravel (1875-1937): Gaspard de Ia Nuit and Piano Concerto in G,• range stylistically between the early Impressionism ofChabrier, the late Romanticism of Faure and the full-blown Impressionism ofDebussy and Ravel. Satie and Kcechlin exhibit a style that is not as easily classifiable. The former used wry irony, the latter, a mixture of Romanticism and Impressionism. The last compositions that I included were Olivier Messiaen's (1908- 1992) Poemes pour Mi (for voice and piano) and Henri Dutilleux's (1916) Piano Sonata. These compositions were written during the mid-twentieth century. Their connections to the late French School are evidenced in their use of less rhythmic restriction, atonal and tonal melodies and harmonic modality. It is important to note that Debussy and Ravel also used pedal points and unresolved chord progressions: compositional features which are, most noticeably, in the works ofMessiaen. These three piano recitals were presented in Gildenhorn Recital Hall, at the University of Maryland, College Park. My first recital, assisted by pianist Grace Juang, was performed on April25, 2007. With Professor Carmen Balthrop (Soprano), I presented my second recital on March 5, 2008. The third solo recital was performed on March 7, 2009.