A Survey of the Unaccompanied Violin Repertoire, Centering on Works by J. S. Bach and Eugene Ysaÿe

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2005-07-31

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Unaccompanied works provide a great challenge for violinists. The violin was originally designed to be performed with the support of other instruments. In addition, composers have developed various advanced techniques to enrich their solo violin compositions, for example to create polyphonic effects or to showcase the instrument's capabilities or a performer's virtuosity. Thereby, these works have become known for their technical challenges. A violinist thus faces unusual demands and stresses when performing solo violin works alone on the concert stage and may also use these pieces for musically gratifying and rigorous personal study. For this dissertation project, a selected series of unaccompanied violin works ranging from the Baroque period to the twentieth century have been performed in two recitals, recorded for archival purposes, and discussed in this written document. I have primarily chosen solo violin pieces written by the German composer J. S. Bach (1685-1750) and the Belgian composer Eugene Ysaÿe (1858-1931). I have also chosen to study works by Heinrich Biber (1644-1704) and Bright Sheng (b. 1955) as Biber exemplifies a predecessor of J. S. Bach's and Sheng serves as one of Eugene Ysaÿe's followers. The first recital, performed on May 8, 2002 in the Ulrich Recital Hall at the University of Maryland, College Park, included Passacaglia in G Minor (1676) by Heinrich Biber; Partita No. 3 in E Major (1720) by J.S. Bach; and Sonata no. 2, op. 27 (1923) by Eugene Ysaÿe. The second recital, performed on May 11, 2003 in the Main Chapel of the Memorial Chapel at the University of Maryland, College Park, included Sonata in G Minor (1720) by J.S. Bach; Sonata no. 4, op. 27 (1923) by Eugene Ysaÿe; and The Stream Flows (1990) by Bright Sheng. The written portion of this project presents a history of the solo violin genre, an overview of each composer's life, and a discussion of connections and influences among the composers and their works through time. I also suggest fingerings, bowings, technical solutions, and musical interpretations of these pieces based upon my experiences in their study and performance.

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