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Title: Skryabin, Rakhmaninov, and Prokofiev as Composer-Pianists: The Russian Piano Tradition, Aesthetics, and Performance Practices
Authors: Rego, John
Advisors: Morrison, Simon
Contributors: Music Department
Subjects: Music
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: ABSTRACT This study explores the pianism of three of Russia's most significant composers: Skryabin, Rakhmaninov, and Prokofiev. In the process of uncovering performance practices, this study embraces aesthetics, compositional syntax, musical formation, and reception - all of which have a bearing upon the development of each composer's unique brand of pianism. Further, the dissertation uses written documentary sources as an adjunct to sound recordings (its primary source material) upon which to base and support its observations and extrapolate to form its conclusions. The first chapter is an attempt to provide some historical context and a governing framework for this study. The Russian Piano School or Tradition is a term widely used in scholarly discourse on performance. The employment of this term generally recalls more populist usage one might encounter in program notes or through various media which use it to refer to a particular style of performance or pedagogy. The historical implications of the term "Russian Piano School/Tradition" and its connection to a style of performance or pedagogy have yet to be delineated in Western musicological scholarship. This chapter aims firstly to define Russian pianism and pedagogical music traditions and also situate the three subjects of this dissertation within the milieu that shaped and influenced every aspect of their respective artistry. This is a mammoth topic, one that scholars in the former Soviet Union have covered extensively in bits and pieces. Thus, the secondary literature is huge and almost all in the Russian language, but also requires critical reading and evaluation in light of its sometimes obvious agendas or prejudices. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 present the three subjects of this study. The pianism of Aleksandr Skryabin has received virtually no attention in Western musicological scholarship despite evidence of its profound effect on listeners of his time which is explored in the section on reception. The second chapter aims to posit a connection between Skryabin's playing style and his idiosyncratic cosmology. Chapter 3 focuses the spotlight on Rakhmaninov's pianism. In contrast to Skryabin, Rakhmaninov, as one of the most celebrated keyboard virtuosi of the modern age, has received a great deal of attention. This chapter, however, aims to explore the fissure between his compositional syntax and performance style, necessarily considering the myriad influences (pedagogic and aesthetic) which contributed to these unique idioms. The subject of reception is again touched upon briefly, although in the case of such a distinguished master of the piano it does not provide much information due to its fairly constant and consistent observations of exceptional artistry. It does, however, suggest a particular manner, a craft, an idea which when combined with an arsenal of limitless resources could effect a magnanimous musical personality capable of embracing and realizing multiple, even contrasting, musical aesthetics. The subject of Prokofiev as pianist - Chapter 4 -- has received some air-time but is possibly not ascribed the significance it should warrant. In sketching his formation as a musician together with the various primal aesthetic influences which were to have a profound impact on his voice as both composer and pianist, this study subsequently uses reception observations combined with the historical background set up in chapter 1 to advance an argument for the pivotal role Prokofiev's pianism played in the formation of a distinctly Soviet brand of pianism. The fifth chapter, as its title suggests, focuses on performers and performances other than those of Skryabin, Rakhmaninov, or Prokofiev. This section reveals some particularly striking observations. It should be of interest to note that there apparently exists a unique Skryabin performance tradition which has coalesced among those artists exposed to and aware of his philosophical postulations. Also of interest, and perhaps vital to consider, will be the most celebrated interpreter of Rakhmaninov's Op. 30, Vladimir Horowitz. Indeed, Horowitz's interpretation of the said work was praised by Rakhmaninov himself as being ideal, even surpassing the composer's own authority and unparalleled account of the work. Lastly, there is more food for thought provided on Prokofiev's role in updating Russian pianism and leading it into the Soviet era which produced a multitude of illustrious representatives. Finally, a concluding section brings the various threads of this study together. Above all, it again revisits the topic of what constitutes a specifically Russian brand of pianism. In the process many similarities between the three subjects are exposed, although the singularity and uniqueness of the pianism of each subject is never diminished.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Music

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