Taking the end of the First World War as a starting point and the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Composition Competition as a meeting point, this study discusses three major works for viola of 1919: the Sonata for Viola and Piano by Rebecca Clarke, the Sonata Op. 11, No. 4 by Paul Hindemith, and the Suite for Viola and Piano by Ernest Bloch. The thesis places each work within the context of its composer's career and compositional development, focusing on key stylistic and historical features.
The study consists of five sections. First is a section establishing the historical background and cultural surroundings experienced by the composers and setting the stage for their work in 1919. In the three subsequent sections, particular attention is given to the stylistic features of each work in turn as well as to the influences that shaped them. Where possible, detailed biographical information about the compositional process is supplied; I then show how exotic influences and the heritage of the French style (through Debussy and Ravel) are present in each work. Other stylistic aspects are discussed on a piece-specific basis, namely the influence of Jewish traditional music in Bloch, English modality in Clarke, and Expressionism in Hindemith. Musical examples are given to illustrate the analyses. To end, a concluding section traces parallels between the composers' lives, the factors of greatest impact on their compositional identity, and the outcomes of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge's composition competition, where the works by Bloch and Clarke took first and second places, respectively. (The work by Hindemith was not entered.)
The overarching goal of this study is to provide violists with a single comprehensive resource on these works and their shared history. To my knowledge, such a study is not currently available, and will be of use to performers wishing to learn more about these pieces, which are at the core of violists' repertoire today.