UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sergei Lyapunov's Douze études d'exécution transcendante, op. 11 : a performer's perspective Saratovsky, Sergei Nikolaevich


The music of the Russian composer, Sergei Lyapunov (1859-1924), remains largely unknown today. The Douze études d’exécution transcendante, Op. 11, to which this document is devoted, continues to be neglected in both writings and performances. I contend that one reason for this lies in a lack of appreciation of the music’s cultural significance, whereby it is regarded as a second-rate copy of Liszt’s work of the same name. In this thesis, I present some sources that are generally unknown to musicians. By examining these sources, I attempt to uncover some of what these études are about. On this basis, I provide interpretive suggestions that can add to the authenticity of a performance and its artistic effect. Chapter One provides a cursory introduction to Lyapunov and the Douze études, and reviews the literature on the composer. Here, too, I trace Liszt’s influence on Lyapunov. Chapter Two is devoted to examining programmatic references in three of the études. I explain the meaning of an enigmatic asterisk sign in Carillon, which points to a major hymn of the Russian Orthodox Church; and I show how features of Chant épique arise from the text of a folk song that Lyapunov collected during an 1893 expedition and quoted in this étude. Although the program to Térek is explicit — the étude is prefaced by an excerpt from a poem by Lermontov — I argue that one cannot properly interpret its music based just on the lines found in the score, but must rather take into account the implications of the entire poem. One of Lyapunov’s students orally transmitted the composer’s interpretive remarks about this cycle to Mikhail Shifman, who published them in Russia. In Chapter Three, I translate them and offer my interpretive elaborations. I also discuss a little known historical recording featuring Lyapunov’s performance of the final étude. Chapter Four concludes by suggesting possible implications this study might have within a broader context. The ways in which I have examined this cycle could be applied not only to compositions by lesser-known Russian composers, but also to the celebrated pieces by the Russian masters.

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