The Violist as Composer

Thumbnail Image
Hart_umd_0117E_16024.pdf(179.05 KB)
No. of downloads: 1703
No. of downloads:
Publication or External Link
Hart, Sarah
Stern, James
The search for interesting and rewarding repertoire is a lifelong process for the modern violist. Because of the viola's belated acceptance as a solo instrument, only the occasional solo viola piece appears in the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, giving violists special incentive to embrace new sources of repertoire, including transcriptions of works for other instruments, new works by living composers, and rediscovered works by lesser-known composers. This dissertation explores another means by which violists have contributed to the concert repertoire: composing their own music. Music written by violists with performing careers follows in a historical tradition of player-composers, especially pianist-composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, and Sergei Rachmaninov, whose intimate knowledge of their instrument resulted in beloved works of art. In order to highlight music that stems from this intersection of performance and composition, I adopted the following criteria for a violist-composer's inclusion in the project: specialization in the viola over other instruments, including the violin; professional performance career, usually in an ensemble, on recordings, or in a teaching position; particular interest in writing for the viola within the compositional oeuvre; and chronological overlap of performance and compositional undertakings. I crafted, prepared, and performed three recital programs of music by violist-composers, selecting works that appealed to me as a performer and represented a variety of instrumentations, styles, and genres. The chosen pieces highlight themes common to violist-composers, including improvisatory gestures, exploration of tone colors, stylistic crossover from non-classical music, pedagogical goals, technical virtuosity, and chamber music for multiple violas. Featured composers are Alessandro Rolla, L. E. Casimir Ney, Lionel Tertis, Henri Casadesus, Maurice Vieux, Paul Hindemith, Rebecca Clarke, Tibor Serly, Lillian Fuchs, Paul Walther Fürst, Atar Arad, Michael Kugel, Garth Knox, Paul Coletti, Brett Dean, Kenji Bunch, Scott Slapin, and Lev Zhurbin. The dissertation includes live recordings of the three recitals with program notes discussing the composers and their music. A list of violist-composers, including those not featured on the recital programs, appears as an appendix, providing the basis for further exploration by violists seeking engaging new concert repertoire.