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Rakhmaninov's "Corelli" variations : new directions

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Title: Rakhmaninov's "Corelli" variations : new directions
Author: McLean, Florence Anne
Degree Doctor of Musical Arts - DMA
Program Music
Copyright Date: 1990
Subject Keywords Rachmaninoff, Sergei, 1873-1943. Variations sur un thème de Corelli; Rachmaninoff, Sergei, 1873-1943. Rapsodie sur un thème de Paganini; Rachmaninoff, Sergei, 1873-1943 -- Criticism and interpretation
Abstract: Only a few of RakJimaninov's compositions were popular with audiences during the lifetime of this Titan of the piano. Such youthful works as the Prelude in c# minor, op. 3, no. 2 and the Piano Concerto no. 2, op. 18 demonstrated only one facet of a creative process that evolved throughout his life. The purpose of this thesis, therefore, is to consider the extent of Rakhmaninov's stylistic evolution, especially the changes embodied in the large scale piano solo, Variations on a Theme of Corelli, written in the last decade of the composer's life. In the discussion of Rakhmaninov's lifelong stylistic development the author considers three distinct stages in his life as important landmarks. The first stage shows certain early influences upon the composer's creative powers, whether conscious, such as his acknowledged sensitivity to melody, or unconscious, such as medieval chant (Dies Irae), the sound of church bells, poetry and painting. The second addresses the question of the mixed legacy of Rakhmaninov's break with the past, when he left Russia in 1917 to re-settle in the United States the next year. On the one hand he never entirely broke his links with "Mother Russia," his fascination with the sounds of bells and chants, in his last decade of musical composition. For example, a comparison of the ancient Dies Irae theme with the La Folia tune that Corelli had used reveals striking similarities that Rakhmaninov undoubtedly found attractive, albeit unconsciously. On the other hand, he was inspired to seek a new conciseness of style and form in composition. The third stage relates to trends nurtured perhaps by his friendship with eminent string players and performers in America such as Fritz Kreisler. It is not surprising that Rakhmaninov's last two important works owe their themes to famous violin pieces: the Folia tune used by Arcangelo Corelli in the Corelli Variations and Paganini's well known 24th Caprice in the Paganini Rhapsody. These new directions in Rakhmaninov's music are most clearly present in the Corelli Variations, which are examined in terms of: (a) a new keyboard style; (b) string influenced variations; (c) elements of American jazz; and (d) a new clarity of structure. Finally, the writer examines similarities between the Corelli Variations and the Paganini Rhapsody that writers have sometimes touched upon.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/31115
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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