Franco Donatoni: endless transformation in the Françoise Variationen
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This dissertation presents an analysis of Franco Donatoni’s Françoise Variationen for solo piano. The Françoise Variationen (1983–1996), a collection of forty-nine variations organized into seven sets of seven variations each, are an extraordinary example of Donatoni’s renewed inspiration and creative output during his so-called “joyous period” (1977–2000). The analysis presented in this dissertation has three main objectives. Firstly, it investigates the history of the piece, situating it in Donatoni’s life and mature compositional language. Secondly, it explains the algorithmic relationships between each variation, focusing on the first two sets of the work. Lastly, it discusses the pianistic and interpretative challenges found in the Françoise Variationen. The dissertation is divided into four chapters. The first chapter features a brief biography of Franco Donatoni. The second chapter discusses the history of the piece in the context of Donatoni’s compositional style, life, and personality. The Françoise Variationen stand out from Donatoni’s other compositional output; they are page-long variations that he composed only when he had free time. The variations provide insight into the composer’s newfound joy in writing music, offering an opportunity to examine the reasoning behind his use of variation techniques as the core of his mature language, as well as illustrate his distinctive compositional procedure using “panels” and his interest in alchemy. The third chapter presents a musical analysis of the first two sets of the Françoise Variationen. The analysis describes the overall structure of each set and analyzes every variation individually, highlighting the algorithmic relationships that link all of the variations together. The analysis is based on the Ricordi edition published in 1991. The fourth chapter offers a commentary on performance practice and concert programming choices. It includes observations shared by concert pianist Dr. Jeffrey Swann in an interview conducted by the author on March 16, 2019. The ultimate goal of this dissertation is to foster a deeper understanding of the Françoise Variationen and to promote their inclusion in piano literature and concert repertoire.
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