Scordatura literature for unaccompanied violoncello in the 20th century: Historical background, analysis of works, and practical considerations for composers and performers
Doctor of Musical Arts
The 20th century has seen a flowering of the use of alternate tunings on the cello. Numerous works for string instruments throughout history make use of scordatura, which is a term that refers to any tuning that is not the standard one for an instrument. The focus of this research has been the use of scordatura in unaccompanied works for cello in the 20th century. Significant discussions of historical practices on the lyra viol, an instrument that used more than 60 different tunings, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber's Mystery Sonatas for violin, and Zoltan Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8 lay the historical background for the use of scordatura in unaccompanied works for cello later in the 20th century. The analyses of works by Peter Sculthorpe (Requiem for 'cello alone'), Laszlo Borsody (Alone), Ralph Shapey (Krosnick Soli), Alfred Schnittke (Klingende Buchstaben), Kaija Saariaho (Spins and Spells), and Henri Dutilleux ( Trois Strophes sur le nom de SACHER) focus on how scordatura is used and to what effect. These investigations allow for a detailed classification of the various rationales behind the use of scordatura techniques as (1) feasibility scordaturas, tunings that make the otherwise unplayable possible, (2) timbral scordaturas, tunings that affect a change in the color of sound the instrument produces, and (3) special effects scordaturas, tunings that are used primarily for glissando or other special effects. These discussions also offer performance suggestions. A final chapter includes considerations about practical concerns for both composers and performers of scordatura works. A significant discussion of as-fingered, at-pitch, and hybrid notational practices along with suggestions for performers regarding dynamic scordatura performance aids and instrument care appear in this last chapter. One appendix contains a catalogue of 20th century solo cello works that use scordatura, and another presents the results of a preliminary comparison between the sound spectrum of the cello's A string when the instrument is tuned normally versus when it is tuned B'-F♯-d-a as in Kodaly's Solo Sonata, Op. 8. Graphs of the relative strengths of the overtones present in the sound of the cello's A string are given.