Jean Coulthard's Sonata for cello and piano : a confluence of stylistic tendencies
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Jean Coulthard (1908-2000) was a Canadian composer who played an integral role in establishing the early musical scene in Vancouver and the rest of Canada. Her Sonata for Cello and Piano (1947) was composed in Jean Coulthard’s characteristic style: a combination of traditional forms with lush harmonies formed by the blending of different keys and rich chromaticism. The purpose of this treatise is to determine how Jean Coulthard’s Sonata for Cello and Piano conforms or diverges from what is generally the understood use of the sonata form in cello compositions. Additionally, an examination is made of Coulthard’s overall compositional characteristics and how aspects of those are manifested in her Sonata for Cello and Piano. This treatise is written in seven chapters; the first chapter contains biographical information on Jean Coulthard and how different influences in her life affected her composing. The second and third chapters examine the history of sonata form in compositions for the cello, and where Coulthard’s Sonata for Cello and Piano fits into the cello sonata genre. Chapters four through six is an analysis of each movement of her sonata, concentrating on elements of form, harmony, melody, and rhythm. The final chapter is a summary and conclusion based on the analyses. The compositional style Coulthard established after her studies with Bernard Wagenaar remained with Coulthard throughout her life. All her compositions for cello support and demonstrate her aesthetic of form and harmony. The form in her sonata ranges from an almost textbook example of sonata form in the first movement, to a subtle presence in the second and third movements. Coulthard’s harmonic language is unique in the haphazard way she moves between key areas; however, after hearing a performance of this sonata, it becomes apparent that the rapid shifts between key areas contribute to the well planned-out expressiveness of this music. Jean Coulthard created a unique harmonic language based on generating sound colours, as opposed to adhering to a particular system of voice leading or preexisting composing techniques. The manner in which she manipulates these traditional forms and harmonies creates the unique “Coulthardian style” demonstrated in her Sonata for Cello and Piano.