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The interpretation of unusual dynamic markings in Beethoven’s string quartet in Bb Major, Op. 130: a study of selected twentieth-century recordings

Cox, Owen 2016. The interpretation of unusual dynamic markings in Beethoven’s string quartet in Bb Major, Op. 130: a study of selected twentieth-century recordings. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This study takes as its stimulus the unusual dynamic markings in Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 130. Presenting an immediate interpretational problem for performers this leads to questions of execution and how this influences the character of the music. Whilst both analysts and performers use evocative metaphors to describe musical character, the explication of how this is achieved through performance has been little explored in academia. The study focuses on the intersection between metaphors found in the literature surrounding Beethoven’s late quartets and the performance choices made in eight renowned string quartet recordings. The ambiguity of Beethoven’s late style and unusual nature of his dynamic indications offer a fascinating case study of this intersection. The methodology uses metaphor as an analytical frame work through which discussions about performance decisions take place, suggesting one metaphor or another, usually in a spectrum of variations. This sees dynamics as a potential stimulus for manipulation of not just volume, but also vibrato, rubato, articulation, portamento and other factors often framed by the choice of tempo. Different treatments of these performance techniques suggest varying metaphorical characterisations. These are summarised through verbal descriptions of the performer’s choices with reference to the score. Chapter 1 focuses on two awkward dynamic markings that dominate the first movement: the hairpin crescendo to piano and rapid alternations of forte and piano in fast music. Chapter 2 focuses on hairpin swells which create not only unusual disruptions in the middle movements but also expansive lyricism in the Cavatina movement. Chapter 3 moves from localised dynamic markings to longer passages which are characterised by unusual dynamic stasis and descriptive terms in the Cavatina. This study shows how these dynamics have been interpreted in many different ways, through the variety and interaction of a number of different performance techniques. Far from establishing fixed definitions for these dynamics, this opens up possibilities for more expressive freedom for performers, not less.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 April 2017
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 09:48

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