The Emergence of Viola as a Solo Instrument: Twentieth Century Viola Repertoire
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The viola did not truly rise to its position as a solo instrument before the twentieth century. Solo and sonata repertoire for the instrument was very limited, and in orchestral music, the viola part was often used to fill in harmonies with little melodic material. There were also very few viola concertos compared to those written for the violin or the cello before the twentieth century. After 1900, more composers began to write for the viola, encouraged by the emergence of virtuosic soloists such as Lionel Tertis and William Primrose. There were also important contributions to the viola repertoire by several composers who were themselves violists, most notably Rebecca Clarke, Frank Bridge, and Paul Hindemith. Viola players of today cannot possess a well-rounded solo repertoire without playing twentieth-century works. There are currently many new works being written and played for the instrument, and it is evident that composers have persevered in writing substantial repertoire for the viola. The works included in my programs are heard frequently on viola recitals, in addition to being historically significant. As I did this project, I was eager to make my first public performance of these nine pieces, all of which have been written in the twentieth century. I hope this will demonstrate the emergence of the viola from what Tertis called the "Cinderella" of instruments to a beautiful and viable solo vehicle. My first recital consisted of Sonata for Viola and Piano by Rebecca Clarke, Sonata, Op. 11 No.4 by Paul Hindemith, and Suite for Viola and Piano by Ernest Bloch. The second recital included Sonata for Viola and Piano by Arnold Bax, Sonata for Viola and Piano by George Rochberg, and Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 18 by York Bowen. The third consisted of Sonata for Viola and Piano by Dmitri Shostakovich, Concert Piece by George Enescu, and Sonata 1939 by Paul Hindemith. These recitals were performed at the Gildenhorn and Ulrich recital hal1s at the University of Maryland; they are recorded on compact discs, which can be found in the Digital Repository at the University of Maryland (DRUM).