THE SOLOISTIC VIOLA: SELECTED TWENTIETH CENTURY VIOLA WORKS BY EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN COMPOSERS
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Considered a magnificent instrument for chamber music since the eighteenth century, the viola nevertheless had difficulty establishing itself as a solo instrument. Its rich, sandy tone and middle range, indeed the very qualities that make it an ideal chamber music partner, historically deterred composers from placing the viola in the spotlight. Early violas were constructed with short necks in proportion to their size, making position playing extremely difficult, if not impossible. Further, oversized violas of the day greatly restricted the player's technical dexterity and limited the composer's efforts to exploit the instrument's resources. During the second half of the 18th Century, some violin virtuosos wanted to demonstrate their skills on viola, so violinmakers started making smaller violas. This resulted in a number of viola concertos written by viola player/composers. Stamitz, Mozart, Dittersdorf, and Hoffmeister provided the violist with masterworks in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Solo compositions by Brahms, Berlioz, and Schumann represent the nineteenth century and bring the violist to more fertile fields, musically and technically. It has only been in the twentieth century, however, that the viola has come into its own as a solo instrument. The three dissertation recitals for this project present eleven works written by selected American & European composers in the twentieth century who made major contributions viola solo literature. In each case, they had close relationships with virtuoso violists and were influenced by them. Recital repertoire choices represent 201 Century Viola repertoire in 3 primary ways: 1. Media: The selections include representative works for A. Solo Viola B. Viola with Piano C. Viola with other instruments 2. Musical styles: The selections present a variety of musical styles and languages 3. Composers of varying degree of prominence. From a large number of possible works under initial consideration (over 300 sonatas, 650 solo pieces, etc.), recital programs were constructed to include the above features while also considering each work's length, character, key, comparative difficulty, and how the works appealed to the author/performer.