Evolution of the Sonatas of Dame Ethel Smyth
Dr. Katharina Uhde
Arts and Sciences
My research investigates stylistic evolution in a range of instrumental sonatas by Ethel Smyth, one of the most important women composers of the 19th century. Smyth was born in England but spent a significant amount of her early adult years in Germany, where she was immersed in a network of musicians close of Brahms. Observing Smyth's time as a student in Leipzig provides insight as to how her style emerged. Between 1877 and 1887, Smyth composed six sonatas. She composed three piano sonatas in 1877, a sonata for piano and cello in 1880, and two sonatas in 1887: a sonata for cello and piano and a sonata for violin and piano. Using established musicological approaches to sonata form analysis, including Hepokoski &Darcy's theory proposed in Elements of Sonata Theory (2006), my research investigates how Smyth's sonatas respond to traditional formal "events," including specific details found within most sonata form expositions (for example, primary theme; caesura before the secondary theme; and others). By providing a close reading of these events and comparing them with earlier classical and late-Romantic norms, Smyth's sonata style crystallizes in more detail, showcasing her mastery at the old but right classical form.
Howe, Julie, "Evolution of the Sonatas of Dame Ethel Smyth" (2019). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 813.