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‘Middle fiddle no more’: British viola concerti and the rise of viola virtuosity (1880 to 1910)

Bernath, Victoria Marthe (2015) ‘Middle fiddle no more’: British viola concerti and the rise of viola virtuosity (1880 to 1910). PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This study investigates the viola as a solo instrument in Britain during the period 1880 to 1910. Current scholarship attributes the increased recognition of the viola and its burgeoning status as a solo instrument to British violist Lionel Tertis from 1910 onwards, disregarding the efforts of foreign-born contemporaries. The lack of scholarship investigating the socio-cultural contexts of the viola in Britain before 1910 perpetuates the notion that violists were, at best, second-rate violinists. However, the late nineteenth century saw a surge of interest in the viola with an awareness of how the middle fiddle’s unique timbral properties might be married with virtuosic technique. Many works featuring the viola as a solo instrument were composed in Britain between 1880 and 1910 and are presented here for the first time. This includes four viola concerti, chamber works for viola-piano, musical novelties, and ten method books, all of which bolstered the technical standard and fledgling profession of violists in Britain. This investigation initially uses archival research to situate the viola in socio-cultural contexts of British music-making. Chapter One reveals examples of viola practitioners and their careers in Victorian concert society (1820 to 1880). Chapter Two uncovers training provision for violists in London conservatoires (1880 to 1910), and Chapter Three illustrates solo violists and their careers in British concert culture (1880 to 1910). The second component of the study is practice-led. Chapter Four considers technical advancements in viola technique. Chapter Five presents a case study which initially investigates aspects of performance practice at the turn of the century relevant to Emil Kreuz’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra Op.20 (1892) and Cecil Forsyth’s Viola Concerto in G minor (1903). The case study then questions the craft of historically informing the concerti through a comparison of critical and performative interpretations in recorded examples. Concluding statements connect these components to reveal a thriving period in the viola’s history, clarifying misconstrued notions of the instrument’s supposedly impoverished status in British concert culture. Through my original analysis, live and recorded performance, I seek to demonstrate the importance, and to establish a precedent, for performance-based research. By example, I hope to offer new insights for performing these selected viola concerti, and to provide an academic platform to promote performance-based studies at the core of contemporary research methods.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Music (York)
Depositing User: Victoria Marthe Bernath
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2018 11:57
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2018 11:57
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20540

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