The twentieth century piano sonata
Wolf, Henry Samuel
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Since in the twentieth century the piano is no longer the important instrument that it had been in the nineteenth century, composers write less for it in any form, especially the sonata-form. The most prolific composers have been the Americans and the Russians with Scriabin, Prokofieff, Medtner and Miaskowski extremely active. Prokofieff, for example, wrote nine sonatas. Many of the most important artists of the century have completely ignored the form; Sibelius, Schoenberg, Debussy writing no piano sonatas whatsoever, and Strauss and Berg writing sonatas only in their youth. Bartok, Stravinsky and Ravel have each written only one work in this form. There is, nevertheless, a sizeable group of sonatas to be investigated as many composers have published works in this form. Sonatas from the following countries were examined: Germany, Austria, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Russia, France, Italy, Spain, Latin America, Great Britain, and the United States. In considering each country, a brief historical background of those composers writing piano sonatas was included. The sonatas were analyzed according to: (1) musical form, (2) melodic content, (3) rhythmic elements, (4) harmonic characteristics, (5) contrapuntal devices, (6) pianistic styles and devices, and (7) general characteristics and trends. Contrasts, similarities, influences were noted and an effort was made to ascertain the directions the sonata style was following in each of the countries. From the individual countries works of the following composers were examined: (Germany) Boris Blacher, Ferruccio Busoni, Helmut Degen, Wolfgang Fortner, Harald Genzmer, Paul Hindemith, Karel Husa, Phillip Jarnach, the Swiss Rolf Liebermann and the Finn Yrjo Kilpinen; (Austria) Alban Berg, Gottfried Einem, Berthold Goldschmidt, Otto Jokl, Ernst Krenek, Franz Salmhofer, Leopold Spinner, and Ernst Toch; (Poland) Alexander Transman; (Roumania) Karol Rathaus; (Czechoslovakia) Alois Haba, Emil Axman and Erwin Schulhoff; (Hungary) Bela Bartok and Alexander Jemnitz; (Russia) Anatol Alexandrov, V. Belyi, B. Bogdanov-Berezovsky, Oleg Eiges, Jerzy Fitelberg, Markian Frolov, Alexander Glazounoff, Eugen Golubev, Alexander Gretchaninoff, Dmitri Kabalevsky, Alexander Krein, Nicholas Lopatnikoff, Nicholas Medtner, Nicholas Miaskowski, Leonid Polovinkin, Serge Prokofieff, Serge Rachmaninoff, Yuri Schaporin, Anatol Schenschin, Alexander Scriabin, Dmitri Slostakovitch, and Igor Stravinsky; (France) Georges Auric, Ernst Bloch, Paul Dukas, Henri Dutilleux, Vincent D'Indy; Darius Milhaud, Marcel Poot, Maurice Ravel and Daniel Ruyneman; (Italy) Ziannotto Bastianelli, Valentino Bucchi, Mario Castlenuovo-Tedesco, Luigi Dallapiccola, Enrico Mainardi, Ennio Porrino, and Guilio Cesare Sonzogno; (Spain) Ernesto Halffter, C. Halffter, and Joaquin Turina; (Latin America) Jose Ardevol, Jose Maria Castro, Carlos Olavez, Roque Cordero, and Juan Carlos Paz; (Great Britain) Arnold Bax, Lawrence Collingliood, Benjamin Dale, Howard Ferguson, John Ireland, H. V. Jarvis-Read, Constant Lambert, Kaikhosru Sorabji, and Michael Tippett; (United States) George Antheil, Samuel Barber, Hans Barth, John Becker, Paul Bowles, Louis Campbell-Tipton, Elliott Carter, Frederick Converse, Aaron Copland, Norman Dello Joio, Jacques De Menasce, David Diamond, Lehman Engel, Ross Lee Finney, Isadore Freed, Anis Fuleihan, Charles Griffes, Elliot Griffis, Roy Harris, Lou Harrison, Walter Helfer, Alan Hovhaness, Charles Ives, Werner Josten, Gail Kubik, Quinto Maganini, Alexander MacFadyen, Edward MacDowell, Leo Ornstein, Vincent Persichetti, John Powell, Roger Sessions, Harold Shapero, Arthur Shepherd, Timothy Spelman, Alexander Steinert, Walter Stockhoff, Alfred Swann, Virgil Thomson, and Godfrey Turner. It was found that most of the composers have followed the traditional sonata-form. Usually, a sonata-allegro serves as first movement followed by a slow movement and one or more rapid movements. The fugue appears often enough to be a significant device in the modern sonata. The most noteworthy examples are the fugues by Barber, Hindemith, Carter and Dutilleux. There are fine sets of variations in the Sonatas of Fuleihan and Dutilleux (Choral and Variations). The later Sonatas (6-10) of Scriabin are exceptions to the usual form, consisting of but one movement with different metrical sections. There are distinguished one-movement Sonatas by Bax, Berg, Krein, Prokofieff in his First and Third, but the form, as devised by Liszt, has not attracted a wide following. Instances of this form among American composers are the works of Barth, Harrison, Josten, Turner and Steinert. Some few works are loosely constructed formally and suggest fantasies or rhapsodies rather than a traditional sonata-form. Such a work is the Sonata of Hovhaness which abounds in cadenzas and improvisatory effects. The Sonatas of Sorabji are likewise nebulous in structure and content. Greatest experimenting with rhythms is noticeable in works of the following composers: Scriabin who created complicated patterns involving binary and ternary rythms in unusual combinations, Stravinsky, Krein, Harris, Bartok, Antheil, Becker, Chavez, and Blacher, all of whom employ frequent metrical changes within a comparatively brief section. Ives and Sorabji, both highly daring, dispense with bar lines or metrical indications. Harmonically, there are a number of sonatas written in a conservative manner, even some of the more recent works. Instances of this conservatism are found in works of Campbell-Tipton, Maganini, MacFadyen, MacDowell, Converse, Powell, Shepherd, Steinert, Stockhoff, Collingwood, Jarvis-Read, Dukas, D'Indy, Genzmer, Degen, Raphael, Rathaus Axman, Schulhoff, Gretchaninoff, Alexandrov, Glazounoff, Medtner, E. Halffter, Turina, Bastianelli, Castlenuovo-Tedesco, Bucchi, Mainardi, and J. M. Castro. Highly individual are the harmonic idioms of Copland, Griffes, Ives, Milhaud, Ravel, Hindemith, Einem, Krenek, Husa, Bartok, Prokofieff, Kabalevsky, Scriabin, Slostakovitch, and Stravinsky. Free contrapuntal writing is responsible for some highly dissonant passages as, for example, a canon of three voices in the Bartok Sonata in which the three voices move at an interval of a ninth. Charles Griffes also achieved original effects from his use of dissonant contrapuntal voices. Stravinsky creates curious effects by the unusual contrapuntal arrangements of his voices. Likewise, Scriabin with his use of the chord built upon fourths and the manner in which the voices are arranged is responsible for unorthodox harmonies. The counterpoint of Milhaud forms unexpected harmonies. Atonality is the basis for the Sonatas of Ardevol, Chavez, Dallapiccola, Liebermann and Spinner vith Spinner being the only one to adopt the twelve-tone technique. Such composers as Rachmaninoff, Lopatnikoff, Miaskowski, Golubev, Frolov employ a form of contrapuntal writing which is more pianistic than intellectual. It is designed to bring out the richest possible sonorities from the piano. While there is considerable ingenuine and originality of style, the traditional idioms of Chopin, Schumann, Brahms appear in many of the works, even up to the present. In 1943, Lopatnikoff imitates the style of Chopin while at the same time Prokofieff in his Eighth Sonata writes in the manner of Schumann. Brahms' influence is selt in Arthur Shepherd, Medtner, Rathaus and Goldschmidt. The techniques of impressionism do not lend themselves to the formality of the classic sonata-form although Ravel, Ruyneman and Auric have composed sonatas in the idiom. There are instances of slow movements which are influenced by some of the impressionistic devices as, for example, the slow movement of the Elliot Griffis Sonata. Likewise, there appear brief passages which are reminiscent of impressionistic tone-painting in a number of different sonatas. The style of Scriabin is unique and may be termed a considerable contribution to piano technique. He employs widely-spaced figurations which cover the keyboard with their complexity. He seems to have had few imitators besides his immediate pupils, Polovinkin, Pavlov, Sabeneiev, Shapashinko, and Melkikh. Highly original styles occur in the writing of Charles Ives vho creates massive chords in complicated rhythmical patterns, in John Becker who experiments with percussive sounds in involved figurations often without any semblance to usual melodic lines. The Liebermann Sonata abounds in unusual effects. Bartok has utilized percussive chords as well as dissonant counterpoint and qy such unusual devices as broken chords in contrary motion, octave passages at the interval of a ninth has achieved unique sounds. Antheil attempts to depict the sounds of an airplane in his "Airplane" Sonata which he achieves qy a very free counterpoint and highly unorthodox harmonies. Among individual composers, Dutilleux, Medtner, Miaskowski, Rachmaninoff, Bax, Fuleihan, stravinsky have written distinguished works. Those sonatas that seem most successful are those of Charles Griffes, Bartok, Barber, Dukas, Hindemith, the mature works of Scriabin, Kabalevsky, and the later works of Prokofieff with particular emphasis upon his Seventh Sonata. The debt of the United States composers to European models is everywhere apparent from the works of the German-trained MacDowell to the present composers. MacDowell follows faithfully the traditional forms choosing, however, themes of a nationalistic nature which identity him with American folklore in the manner Grieg is identified with Norwegian idioms. Arthur Shepherd, John Powell and Roy Harris are strongly influenced by native American themes. With the advent of the 1920's, however, composers adopted the cosmopolitan style of the neo-classicists and the nationalistic element faded. The Sonata of Copland, for example, does not reflect an American idiom even though he has used such themes to great success in such works as his ballets. In the distinguished and recent Sonata of Barber, there is no hint of any American influence insofar as melodic line is concerned.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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