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An analysis of selected piano solo works inspired by Biblical references: William Bergsma and Louis Weingarden

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Biblical references play an important role in traditional programmatic music. Composers such as Kuhnau, Haydn, Liszt, Messiaen, and Bolcom produced considerable amounts of piano repertoire with biblical allusions: Musical Presentations of Some Biblical Stories in 6 Sonatas (1700) by Kuhnau,

Biblical references play an important role in traditional programmatic music. Composers such as Kuhnau, Haydn, Liszt, Messiaen, and Bolcom produced considerable amounts of piano repertoire with biblical allusions: Musical Presentations of Some Biblical Stories in 6 Sonatas (1700) by Kuhnau, The Seven Last Words from Our Saviour on the Cross (1787) by Haydn, The Way of Cross (1878-1879) by Liszt, Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus (1944) by Messiaen, and The Garden of Eden: Four Rags for Piano (1969) by Bolcom. The twentieth century American composers William Bergsma and Louis Weingarden participated in this tradition by producing piano pieces that contain direct biblical quotations. These works, which have received little attention, include two movements from Tangents (1951) by Bergsma and Triptych: Three Pieces for Piano (1969) by Weingarden.

This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of these piano works, considering structural, rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic elements. In particular, the paper examines Bergsma and Weingarden’s work through the technique of word painting in order to illuminate the relationship between the biblical text and music. Key findings include that Bergsma’s Tangents contains dissonant harmonies and irregular rhythms to reflect the agony of people on the biblical Judgement day, while the use of tonality reflects God’s love in other parts. Similarly, Weingarden uses an illustrative style of word painting in Triptych to closely reflect this biblical narrative and scene through the combination of some twelve-tone techniques with chromaticism. These works present a high degree of pianistic and musical elaboration that incorporates twentieth-century compositional techniques, and this paper argues that they merit more attention for recitals by college-level and professional pianists. This paper begins with an introduction which provides the methodological approach used in the paper and a biography of each composer. It then progresses to an analysis of Bergsma’s Tangents, followed by an analysis of Weingarden’s Triptych.

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Date Created
2015

Concert of soloists finalists auditions: Symphony orchestra program

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Date Created
2008-11-20