Dissertation Index

Author: Thibodeau, Michael A

Title: Performance Approach in the Recorded History of Alban Berg\'s Piano Sonata, Op. 1

Institution: University of Toronto

Begun: April 2013

Completed: December 2017


Growing discomfort with musicology’s ease in viewing the score as synonymous with act has propelled recent work in performance studies. Preoccupation with urtexts has encouraged the singularity of composer’s intent while discouraging inquiry into the mosaic of interpretative approach where performance practice and musicality can be essayed. Research into recordings that reveals performers’ agencies allows problematic assignment of composer’s intent to be eroded, demystifies artists’ aesthetics, underscores the plurality of musical approach, and details the systems used to bring the score into sound. My thesis considers the recording history of Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata, Op. 1. Chapter 1 examines fifteen performers’ approach to the first twelve measures, enabling their categorization according to temporal shape, structural articulation, and score fidelity. Descriptive analysis was joined with empirical data on rubato, facilitated by the application Sonic Visualiser. The resulting classifications reveal performance practice, tradition, and aesthetic. Chapter 2 investigates Glenn Gould’s longtime relationship with the work. Timing, manual asynchrony, and temporal shape are discussed in his eight performances encapsulated on various media; and Gould’s changing aesthetic through three separate decades is analyzed. Chapter 3 explores the intersection of music theory and performance. Music theorists’ motivic, harmonic, and formal analyses are reviewed and juxtaposed against performers’ articulation of motivic and formal structure. The results demonstrate that performers’ and theorists’ segmentation of themes and form often align, with divergences encouraging further points of discussion. My thesis reveals that performing is itself a practice, in constant flux and governed by interpretative methodologies resulting in deviation from the literal execution of the score. If practice evolves, so too must the pieces these systems realize. That works are not fixed entities emphasizes the social construction of musical taste. Ultimately, it is hoped that this research will undermine problematic assignment of composer’s intent and assist in the ontology of practice and musicality.

Keywords: Alban Berg, Glenn Gould, Performance Studies, Performance Theory, Recordings, Second Viennese School, Sonic Visualiser


1. Performance Methodology Demonstrated in Fifteen Recordings of Alban Berg\'s Piano Sonata

2. Changing Aesthetic in Glenn Gould\'s Recordings of Alban Berg\'s Piano Sonata between 1952 and 1974

3. The Intersection of Performance and Analysis as Evidenced in Alban Berg\'s Piano Sonata

4. Anticipating Further Research and Conclusion



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