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The purpose of this document is to trace the stylistic development in the piano works of the Czech composer, violinist, and pedagogue, Josef Suk (1874-1935). Suk’s piano music is largely unknown in the United States and, unfortunately, neglected in his homeland. Because the majority of research about Josef Suk is in the Czech language, this work is intended to be the first English language document pertaining to Suk’s piano works. The three chapters synthesize information from both primary and secondary sources, including the composer’s first biography, collection of his letters and speeches, musical scores, dissertations, thematic catalogue of his works, articles from music periodicals, and analytical studies on Suk’s piano music.
The maturation of Suk’s compositional style, from conservative salon miniatures to more progressive works that employ twentieth-century techniques, is explored through the examination of representative pieces from Suk’s four piano cycles: Moods, Op. 10; Spring, Op. 22a; About Mother, Op. 28; and Things Lived and Dreamed, Op. 30. Because Suk’s piano music is extremely personal, one chapter is dedicated to the composer’s life, illuminating the importance of his recurring “Love” and “Death” motives. Elements essential to Czech music heritage, such as the nationalistic tendencies, inspiration in nature and folk song, and the long-standing tradition of autobiographical character pieces, are discussed in connection to the works of Suk’s predecessors and contemporaries. In addition, comparisons with other Romantic and early twentieth-century composers enhance the reader’s understanding of Suk’s place in the context of the musical world of his time. The document concludes with an appendix of Suk’s published works for solo and chamber piano, followed by a discography.
Adviser: Mark K. Clinton