The Development of the Piano Intermezzo from the Nineteenth to Twenty-First Centuries



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The piano intermezzos of Brahms are well known in piano repertoire; frequently taught, performed, and analyzed. Despite interest in these works, the reasons the title intermezzo would have appealed to Brahms as the name for the majority of his late piano character pieces remains obscure. This dissertation explores the use of the title intermezzo in piano repertoire from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, with the goals of defining the genre and tracing the use of these pieces throughout history. An introductory section provides the background of the word intermezzo and relevant literature. The first chapter explores the use of piano intermezzos during the nineteenth century, to show that Brahms was not original in his choice of title, as the term was flexibly used by many composers during this century. Schumann was perhaps the first piano composer to use this title in piano music, and subsequently many other composers used intermezzos as a substitute for scherzo movements, inner movements of piano sets, or entire piano cycles. The second chapter analyzes how intermezzos were adapted into twentieth century classical and entertainment music, using a wider geographical sphere of composers. The third chapter explores twentieth to twenty-first century intermezzos, many of which are uniquely original works and quite progressive. Some intermezzos fall within the style periods in this century, being influenced by neoclassicism, serialism, and neoromanticism; others stand out as being specifically influenced by Brahms and his intermezzos. The collection and analysis of these works provides the first comprehensive survey of intermezzos as a genre in piano music, to clarify the origins and development of these works from the nineteenth century to today.



Brahms, Character Piece, Intermezzi, Intermezzo, Piano Cycle, Piano Intermezzo