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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Three piano sonatas by Friedrich Kuhlau Dawe, Edmund Noel


Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) ranks as a minor master of the early nineteenth century. As a composer of keyboard music he is perhaps best known for his sets of sonatinas, but the twenty-two sonatas he composed from 1809 to 1831 form a significant part of his extensive output. This study examines three of his sonatas -- Op. 4, Op. 46 No. 2 and Op. 127 -- and places them in historical context through a discussion of the importance of this genre in the repertoire of that era. A survey of contemporary keyboard performance practices is also included, as well as an introductory biographical sketch. Kuhlau's style is undeniably conservative, with phrases of regular and predictable length in evidence throughout, and his music is often derivative of that of earlier composers from C.P.E. Bach through Beethoven. However, his works also reflect numerous traits of early Romanticism. They are melodically rich, widely spaced sonorities are frequently employed, and his textures range from delicate nuances to thickly scored passages. From a purely pianistic point of view, he displays a fondness for scalewise and arpeggiated passages so often used to excess by lesser composers of his era, but he also clearly demonstrates that he was aware of more innovative approaches to keyboard writing. Throughout history, countless minor composers such as Kuhlau were highly respected during their lifetimes; nevertheless, most of their compositions, including those under consideration here, have not survived on the concert stage. Consequently, there exists a vast body of literature of which little or nothing is known. It is both necessary and useful to study such works in order to gain a more complete understanding of music of their period. Moreover, a closer examination of them might well lead to a reassessment of their worth, which in turn may encourage more frequent performances.

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