Voices of the Cello: Speak, Sing, Play; An Aesthetic Examination of Style Periods in the Cello Repertoire and How They Relate to the Viability of Transcription

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This dissertation was produced in conjunction with three cello recitals as part of a Performance Dissertation Project. Each recital focuses on music from style periods ranging from the Baroque to the twenty-first century and seeks to demonstrate how the aesthetic language of a composer or style period affects the viability of transcription. The recitals also highlight the unique qualities of the cello, both when playing music originally for another instrument and when performing music specifically written for it. The first recital includes music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Schubert. Bach’s Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012—performed on a five-string Baroque cello—shows how the spoken quality of the Baroque idiom in Bach’s music allows for transcription between instruments. The Sonata in A minor for Arpeggione and Piano, D. 821 by Schubert offers an opportunity to expose the vocal quality of the ello while exploring the limitations of transcription in this aesthetic language so inspired by song. The second recital focuses on transcriptions within the violin family of instruments by including a transcription of the Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78 by Johannes Brahms, as well as César Franck’s Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano. While the Franck only needs minor adjustments for the cello version (the piano part is untouched), the Brahms is transposed from G major to D major in order to be suitable for the cello. The final recital completes the arc by culminating in music written specifically for the cello—music that would be impossible to imagine on any other instrument. First the Sonata for Solo Cello, Op.8 by Zoltán Kodály develops the unique sound of scordatura by lowering the pitch of two lower strings by one half step (from C and G to B and F-sharp). Similarly, the Sonata for Solo Cello by György Ligeti is so cellistic in its conception that it is essentially unviable on any other instrument. Finally, Crest, Clutter, Clamor by Bradley S. Green was designed specifically for the physical characteristics of the cello, thus making it a quintessential example of cello specific writing. The first recital was performed on November 26, 2018, with Ruth Bright on the piano in Ulrich Recital Hall. The second recital took place on March 6, 2019 in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall with Andrew Welch and Alexei Ulitin on the piano. The final recital was completed on May 5, 2019 in Ulrich Recital Hall.