Tracing a lineage of the mazurka genre: influences of Chopin and Szymanowski on Thomas Adès' Mazurkas for Piano, OP. 27
Maxwell, Jennifer A
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British composer Thomas Adès is one of the most celebrated musicians of our time. His career evidences extraordinary early success, followed by unusually rapid rise to international prominence, countless invitations to conduct and perform, top soloists and ensembles eager to premiere his music, adulation from critics, and audiences in thrall. In short, Adès has secured his status as a phenomenon on the current musical scene. Given that Ades' Mazurkas for Piano, Op. 27, published by Faber Music Ltd. in 2009, represent one of the most significant contributions to the genre since the publication of Karol Szymanowski's 20 Mazurkas, Op. 50 (1924-1926) and Two Mazurkas, Op. 62 (1933-1934), which appeared nearly one hundred years after the fifty-eight Mazurkas (1830-1847) of Frederic Chopin, the question arises: why the mazurka? What interest would a young Englishman have in a Polish dance of which there had been no fresh musical development for long periods of time? Perhaps the more pertinent question is: what makes Adès' pieces mazurkas, and what makes them Adès? A thorough analysis of the music, the cultural environments, and the compositional styles of the three main figures in the history of the piano mazurka will allow a lineage to be traced through the genre, thereby placing the mazurkas of today into proper context. Chapter 1 provides background on Ades and his music, including general characteristics of his work, and incorporating the composer's own words to explain his ideas. The mazurka heritage is outlined in the next two chapters. Chapter 2 covers Chopin's transformation of the mazurka into an elegant art form far removed from its primitive roots, as well as one emblematic of the enduring spirit of the erstwhile Polish state. Chapter 3 describes Szymanowski's rougher, more forthright manifestation of the mazurka, in which he sought to retain the style of the original folk impetus to create his own symbol of Polish nationalism. Specific aspects of the mazurkas of both composers are illustrated at length. Adès' contribution to the genre is presented in Chapter 4. An analysis of the three mazurkas investigates his musical language, evaluating it according to his own criteria, locating processes within the works, and distilling the sum into small, recognizable components. Chapter 5 addresses the primary question: from Chopin to Szymanowski to Adès, what did today's composer learn from those of the past? Parallels with the earlier models are identified, and not just those necessitated by a common genre. Adès' work is shown to pay homage to his predecessors in many ways, yet to diverge radically in other ways. Connections are evidenced as various stylistic traits are traced through the mazurkas of the three composers, bringing to light compelling associations. Ultimately, Adès' personal voice is seen to assert itself, transforming the mazurka genre into something altogether new, effectively ushering it into the 21st century.
Thesis (D.M.A.)--Boston University