Date Available


Year of Publication


Document Type



Fine Arts


Music Performance

First Advisor

Alan Hersh


Art Music for the acoustic piano has changed tremendously during the twentieth century. Some of the techniques and skills pianists need to master in order to be able to perform successfully twentieth-century art piano music include: a refined ability to discriminate varied layers of sonorities; sophisticated pedal combinations; a sometimes percussive technique; and superior control of complex metric and rhythmic passages. New combinations of patterns that require specific technical preparation pose substantial pianistic challenges. Todays pianist needs to master a variety of glissandi, chords, or single melody textures played directly on the strings inside the piano and to combine such techniques with sounds beyond the traditional piano sonorities. Besides technical preparation, pianists must also acquire sufficient knowledge of twentieth-century compositional techniques and analytical methods, as well as composers individual styles and their contributions to new ways of using the acoustic piano. This document focuses on selected twentieth-century piano compositions by Ravel, Debussy, Prokofiev, Bartk, Cowell, Cage, Holliger, Crumb, Corigliano, and Louie. These composers and their works are discussed with an emphasis on the new expressive, technical, artistic, pedagogical, and performance elements they introduce. The original technical exercises in Appendix A employ twentieth-century scales, harmonies, and progressions. These exercises will facilitate the development of technical skills related to the pieces considered here and to other twentieth-century piano repertoire. The interviews with John Corigliano and Alexina Louie provide uniquely insightful and provocative glimpses of the creative and technical issues involved with two remarkably original artistic conceptions in this repertoire. It is almost a truism to observe that much of the piano music of the twentieth century eschews convention and invents its own vocabulary and syntax. At the beginning of a new century, we are able to gain an historic perspective upon this body of repertoire. This document will lead to an increased awareness and understanding of selected twentieth-century piano repertoire. It suggests that twentieth-century piano compositions should assume an important and equal place with the more traditional music in the pianists repertoire and in the university and conservatoire curricula.



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