Ravel in a new key : harmony in the chamber works, 1914-1927




Beavers, Jennifer Putt

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This dissertation analyzes the first movements of three chamber works -- the Piano trio (1914), the Duo for violin and cello (1920-22), and the Sonata for violin and piano (1923-27) -- and situates their harmonic procedures in relation to important developments within Parisian musical culture. Chapter 1 explores Ravel's early harmonic style, in particular, how he blends nontonal harmonic procedures and tonality within the framework of the sonata as seen in the first movements of his String quartet and Sonatine. Chapter 2 analyzes the Piano trio, which culminates the early phase of Ravel's career with a sophisticated amalgamation of pre-war musical trends, such as extended harmonies and formal inventiveness, with an early wartime emphasis on reduced textures and melodic primacy. In the post-war years, Ravel was forced to adjust to a new role, in which he was no longer at the forefront of musical developments, but rather the follower of a group of young, avant-garde composers. His two post-war compositions, the Duo for violin and cello and the Violin sonata, articulate the struggles he faced with composition in the 1920s. Criticized for having an out-moded aesthetic, he modified his compositional style by incorporating and adapting new harmonic techniques. Drawing on Peter Kaminsky's theory of monotonality and dual pitch organization, chapter 3 examines Ravel's harmonic language in the Duo through linear analysis. Ravel's attempt to incorporate contemporary harmonic procedures however was not sufficient to compete with the more progressive works of Les Six or Stravinsky's burgeoning neoclassicism. As a result, Ravel re-evaluated his craft by rethinking his engagements with the musical avant-garde. The analysis of the Violin sonata in chapter 4 reveals that harmonically, deeper levels of dissonance require pitch prioritization intimately bound to formal function. Unlike the Duo, Ravel presents a more innovative formal design in the Violin sonata, where boundaries are blurred and formal functions are juxtaposed. Chapter 5 concludes with a comparative analysis of the first movements of Ravel's Piano trio, Duo and Violin sonata and their evolving harmonic practices.




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