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The Viola Stands Alone: The Rise in Sonatas and Suites for Unaccompanied Viola, 1915-1929


The early twentieth century saw a remarkable boon in the amount of new repertoire being written for the viola as a solo instrument. Specifically, the rise in composing unaccompanied, multi-movement sonatas and suites for viola in these decades was noteworthy. This document came of a desire to probe deeper into the socio-cultural context of fin de siècle and interwar Europe, in order to better understand what factors might have contributed to this prolific output of repertoire for the genre. By exploring the works of several composers - specifically pieces by Max Reger, Paul Hindemith, and Ladislav Vycpálek - a conscious choice was made not to focus on any one composer, style, or individual piece. These solo viola works were not written in a vacuum, but were products of composers who were deeply embedded in the cultural milieu of their time. These composers and this genre needed placing within a larger socio-historical framework. Both the composers and their compositions are considered here as part of the interrelated culture of those heady years, when the emergent aesthetics of a variety of modernist strains - historicist modernism, neoclassicism, neue sachlichkeit to name a few - began to take root. Such an approach allows for unexpected connections and relationships between key figures and aesthetic concepts to materialize more readily, providing a vibrant portrait of the brash and often contradictory age that produced such a wealth of solo repertoire for a long-ignored instrument.

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