The Virtuoso Violinist as Composer from the Baroque Period through the 20th Century: Compositional Insights and Innovations

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2007

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Investigation of violin works written by virtuoso violinists reveals ways that extraordinary understanding of the violin may impact composition for that instrument, especially regarding mechanics and tessitura, creation of virtuoso effects, and development of innovative instrumental and compositional techniques. For this dissertation project I studied and performed works spanning the Baroque period through modern times in three recorded recitals with collaborative pianist Llya Sinaisky at the University of Maryland, College Park. One goal was to examine compositional styles and innovations within the context of each of several distinct musical periods. Whereas the compositional language and structure of selected works by Antonio Vivaldi, W. A. Mozart, and T. A. Vitali - representing the Baroque (1600-1750) and Classical (1730-1820) periods - appears straightforward and uncomplicated, in line with the characteristic compositional trends of that time, these compositions have a profound musical effect and are challenging to play. The Romantic (1815-1910) style, represented in this project by composers Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps, is, in contrast, a combination of more complicated technical effects with passionate melodic lines. The compositional language of the 2oth century may incorporate new ideas with those from any of the previous periods. Ernest Bloch's Suite No. 1 for Solo Violin (1958) contains modern compositional elements, while the overall structure of the work is Baroque in style. Selections by Ottorino Respighi and Graiyna Bacewicz also provided representative modem specimens. Surprisingly, Respighi's Six Pieces (1902-1905) did not lie as well on the violin as I had expected. Respighi's highest priority seems to have been overall musical impact versus apt violinistic writing. I was particularly pleased to learn of and present Bacewicz's Partita (1955). While Bacewicz is well-known in Europe, American audiences and performers are less familiar with her work. My interest in the compositions I selected also stemmed from their distinct place in the repertoire. Violinists generally view the works of violinist composers with fond regard due to their unique understanding not only of the technical potential of the instrument but also its expressive qualities. I have relished the opportunity for musical and professional growth in exploring these great compositions intensively.

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