Selected Piano Works by Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms Incorporating or Based on Pre-existing Music
University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
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This dissertation shows how Schumann, Liszt and Brahms composed piano works based in a variety of ways on other music that already existed. My idea to do this project came through my fascination with Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini, which was the first piece selected. Brahms composed six sets of variations for solo piano, and I also chose Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. Besides the variations, I included Brahms’s Ballade in D minor, Op. 10 No. 1, based on the Scottish ballad “Edward”. This piece demonstrates that Brahms applied pre-existing music not only in the form of variations, but also in other genres. Among Romantic composers, Schumann and Liszt are two others besides Brahms whose music frequently quotes pre-existing materials. In Schumann’s output, the inspiration from Clara Wieck is significant. The best examples may be the Impromptus Op. 5 and the third movement of the Grand Sonata No. 3, Op. 14, in which Schumann quotes the music by Clara Wieck as the theme of the variations and in the other movements as well to unify the entire piece. In addition, Schumann quotes the old German folk song “Grossvater Tanz” (Grandfather Dance) in the finale of Papillons. The same tune also appears in Carnaval for a programmatic purpose. These two pieces are a clear illustration that Schumann applies pre-existing music, and in addition they represent the spirit of literary reference. Liszt is well known for his superb transformations of other composers’ works into glorious piano compositions. Liszt drew his inspirations from different genres, including both vocal and instrumental music. His ability to turn earlier musical materials into virtuosic solo piano pieces that demonstrate his brilliance in creating imaginative keyboard sounds is remarkable. Among those pieces composed by Liszt, terms such paraphrase, reminiscence, or fantasy frequently appear as titles. I selected two such pieces: Rigoletto: Paraphrase de concert, S. 434 and Rondeau fantastique sur un thème espagnol, S. 252. In addition, Liszt also uses variation form to explore the possibilities of pre-existing themes. The piece I chose to represent this is Variations on the Theme “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” and Crucifixus from the Mass in B minor by J.S Bach, S.180. This dissertation comprises three piano recitals that were performed in 2010 and 2011 in Ulrich Recital Hall and Gildenhorn Recital Hall of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center of the University of Maryland. The recordings are documented on compact discs that are housed within the University of Maryland Library System.