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A pedagogical analysis of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104 Bian, Zhuojun

Abstract

I first heard Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104 when I was 13 years old. It was a memorable experience for me, and I was struck by the melodies, the power, and the emotion in the work. As I became more familiar with the piece I came to understand that it holds a significant position in the cello repertory. It has been praised extensively by cellists, conductors, composers, and audiences, and is one of the most frequently performed cello concertos since it was premiered by the English cellist Leo Stern in London on March 19th, 1896, with Dvorak himself conducting the Philharmonic Society Orchestra. In this document I provide a pedagogical method as a practical guide for students and cello teachers who are planning on learning this concerto. Using a variety of historical sources, I provide a comprehensive understanding of some of the technical challenges presented by this work and I propose creative and effective methods for conquering these challenges. Most current studies of Dvorak’s concerto are devoted to the analysis of its structure, melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, instrumentation, and orchestration. Unlike those studies, this thesis investigates etudes and student concertos that were both precursors to – and contemporary with – Dvorak’s concerto. Through an understanding of those works I present an approach that will assist players in achieving high technical and artistic standards for their own performances of the concerto. To do this, I focus on the methodological and technical aspects of cello playing in the concerto, exploring the history of cello techniques up to Dvorak’s time, and examining the contribution of Hanus Wihan to the composition of the concerto. I also explain the methodological and pedagogical value of cello exercises and repertoire that existed before and during Dvorak’s time, and show how those contributed to the development of techniques required for the performance of the concerto. Specific excepts are analyzed with reference to left- and right-hand cello techniques as found in the concerto, and strategies and explicit repertoire for developing these techniques are discussed.

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