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The art of transcription and its impact on the development of the viola as a solo instrument

Justin A Kurys, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Transcription is a tool that has been used throughout history by composers. This document explores the role transcription had in bringing the viola into prominence as a solo instrument during the Twentieth Century. More specifically, it investigates who began this tradition in the viola repertoire, to what end, and finally the methodology that goes into creating a piece for viola that was originally conceived for another medium. This document is divided into three sections. We have an introduction to transcription that investigates briefly the origins of this method in a broad historical context and then moves more explicitly to the viola. In the second section, we investigate the more specific contributions to the viola literature by transcribers divided into 1) composers who borrowed from themselves, 2) composers who borrowed from other composers and 3) instrumentalists who were not composers by profession who took it upon themselves to create works for their instrument through transcription. The final section focuses on the methodology of transcription and what goes into creating a transcription. Transcription influenced extensive changes for the viola in the sphere of performance as part of the art music tradition. This document provides context to the world that the viola existed in throughout its history, and how through the help of transcription it changed its fate to become a sought-after solo instrument. One outcome of transcriptions acting as a sort of stopgap for the violist’s repertoire is that now there are many capable violists for composers to write for. The result of this acceptance of the viola as a solo instrument is an incredibly rich repertoire. Future research into transcriptions for viola can now focus on what impact this compositional technique will have on music making in the twenty first century.

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Recommended Citation

Kurys, Justin A, "The art of transcription and its impact on the development of the viola as a solo instrument" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10099951.