Aspects of modernism in Russian piano music, 1910-1929

Roberts, Peter Deane (1988) Aspects of modernism in Russian piano music, 1910-1929. (PhD thesis), Kingston Polytechnic,


The purpose of this thesis is to examine some of the techniques employed by Russian composers during the Modernist period from around 1910 to the imposition of State control of the Arts which began in 1929. Because many important musicians left Russia it has been necessary to include the works of some of those who lived abroad. It was decided to approach the subject of Modernism through the medium of piano music, partly to keep the project within manageable bounds and also because composers tended to use the piano for their more experimental works. The thesis offers a more detailed analytical approach to the music than is found in Leonid Sabaneyev's Modern Russian Composers published in 1927, which is the only major work on the period so far to have appeared in the English language. The study has not been restricted to the comparatively narrow limits of set-theory analysis, as has tended to be the case in recent years with articles on Russian music of this period written in the U.S.A. A variety of techniques have been employed with a view to placing this music in its Russian context as well as examining its relationship to developments in the West. The study progresses from detailed aspects of technique towards the consideration of large-scale structures and, so far as possible, from familiar points of style towards the more unfamiliar. It falls broadly into three sections. The first begins with two major figures - Scriabin and Prokofiev - and continues with other lesser-known Russian composers of the period. The second, Chapters 7-10, deals with tonality and the attempts made to find alternatives to tonality as a basis of structure. The third is concerned with constructional methods, both tonal and non-tonal, and concludes with a summing-up and general assessment.

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