RUSSIAN THREADS: THE PRESENCE OF RUSSIAN INFLUENCES IN TWENTIETH CENTURY ENGLISH CELLO MUSIC
Meszaros, Elizabeth Anna
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A cursory glance at cello works by English composers during the twentieth- century yields an unexpected relationship to Russian musicians, history, culture, and religion. One must wonder how this connection or "Russian thread" came to be. When considering the working relationship of Benjamin Britten and Mstislav Rostropovich, the likelihood of such a connection is tangible, since their deeply personal friendship influenced Britten's music for cello. However, what is perhaps more interesting is the emergence of connections to Russia in the works of other English composers of the twentieth-century, featuring works from 1913-1996. This project was conceived after close study and analysis of Benjamin Britten's Third Suite for Solo Cello, Op. 87 (1971). Britten's inclusion of Russian folk tunes and an Orthodox Church hymn signaled the penetrating presence of Russian elements in his works. Britten's First Suite for Solo Cello, Op. 72, Third Suite for Cello, Op. 87, and Sonata for Piano and Cello in C, Op. 65 are presented in this project. Further exploration of works for cello by English composers unveiled similar connections to Russia. The Sonata for Cello and Piano of Frank Bridge is likened to Russian romanticism and the Cello Sonata of Sergei Rachmaninoff. William Walton's Cello Concerto was written for the Russian-American cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Wake Up ...and die is John Tavener's deeply spiritual work, which is rooted in his Russian Orthodoxy. John Ireland, influenced by models of French and Russian Impressionism, contributed works colored with Russian folk influences, of which his Piano Trio No. 2 is an example. Finally, Arnold Bax traveled to Russia as a young man and his Folk Tale and Legend Sonata are imbued with the spirit of Russian folk music and architecture. This dissertation project is comprised of three recitals featuring English works for cello connected by a "Russian Thread." All events took place on the campus of University of Maryland, College Park: Recital #1 on December 4, 2011 in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Recital #2 on February 11,2012, and Recital #3 on April 15, 2012, both in the Ulrich Recital Hall.