Innovative Use Of Technique In Benjamin Britten's Cello Works: The Inspiration Of Mstislav Rostropovich

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2003-12-10

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Abstract

Benjamin Britten was one of the most prolific and well-known English composers of the mid-twentieth century. During his life, he was widely recognized for his unique creative spirit, which, through his music, enriched people throughout the world. Britten was constantly looking for new possibilities for unique sounds and highly contrasted moods and rhythms. Thus, even today, his music remains riveting.

Britten introduced challenging cello techniques in his compositions inspired by Mstislav Rostropovich. Rostropovich's natural physical attributes including his large hands, long fingers, and especially his great strength and stamina all contributed to his astounding ability on the cello. Study of previous composers' works for Rostropovich, combined with Britten's first-hand understanding of the cellist's amazing capabilities, assisted Britten in writing his stunning cello compositions. After careful study of all of Britten's cello works, I have categorized six important techniques: multiple stops, drone, unique use of pizzicato, harmonics, separation of voices, and moto perpetuo. Each of the six categories will be identified and examined in this dissertation within the context of the compositions in which they appear.

I have chosen the performance option for this dissertation. In support of my dissertation, two recitals were presented in two public recitals in Gildenhorn Recital Hall of University of Maryland on September 14, 2002, and March 8, 2003. For the purpose of contrast in style and sound, Suite No. 1 for Cello in G Major, Op. 72 and the Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 65 comprised the first recital. The second recital included Suite No. 3 for Cello in C Major, Op. 87 along with the Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 68.

This dissertation is divided into four chapters. A brief history of Britten's life is included in the first chapter. His compositions written prior to the cello works inspired by Rostropovich are the focus of the second chapter. The third chapter features a discussion of Rostropovich's influence on Britten. Chapter Four is an in-depth examination of the characteristic techniques found in Britten's intriguing compositions for cello.

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