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The piano quintet: Influence of medium on genre

Richardson, Joanne (2014). The piano quintet: Influence of medium on genre. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This study examines the historical development of the piano quintet from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century. This development is coloured by the fact that the ensemble combines two discrete constituents, solo piano and string quartet, each with its own separate heritage. The assessment of the genre thus involves consideration of the manner in which its composers, while applying their own compositional aesthetics, have, over these centuries, treated ensemble interaction and texture. In the twentieth century, in particular, the rise of concern with timbre affected attitudes towards integration of the ensemble.

The introduction to this dissertation argues for the identification of the piano quintet as a genre in its own right, based on its fixed scoring (of piano and string quartet) and the substantial body of works written for the ensemble since the 1770s. Chapters 1-5 consider aspects of ‘ensemble conversation’ within the quintet up to the present, for which a broadly chronological approach is adopted. Early examples by Soler, Giordani and Boccherini are all considered; thereafter, the canonical works of Robert Schumann, Brahms, Franck and Dvořák are viewed in the context of contemporaneous works by, among others, Saint-Saëns, Bruch and Coleridge-Taylor. The study then draws on significant twentieth-century examples by Shostakovich, Schnittke, Ginastera, Xenakis and Feldman, as well as more recent works, by Messiaen, Carter, Goehr and Adès. As will be shown, a surprisingly limited number of models for new works have been utilised, earlier exemplars inspiring later compositions.

Chapter 6 applies some of the observations made to three specific case studies by women composers, two Piano Quintets by Grażyna Bacewicz and one by Sofia Gubaidulina, which are examined in detail and evaluated for their significance both to their own time and ours. The conclusion offers an evaluation of the differing forms of textural and timbral interaction and concludes that the piano quintet, for all its professed links with the Romantic Period, has emerged as an ensemble valued by contemporary composers for its capacity for timbral conversation.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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