Between Tradition and Modernity : Sergei Vasilenko and His Unknown Works for Viola and Piano.

Artamonova, Elena. 2013. Between Tradition and Modernity : Sergei Vasilenko and His Unknown Works for Viola and Piano.. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Sergei Vasilenko has been perceived as a conformist and inconsequential Soviet composer in post-Soviet Russia. The recent discoveries of unpublished documents reveal Vasilenko to be a talented musician whose search for a niche within the culture of Soviet music forced him to keep his true musical writings secret from the public in a drawer of his desk.

The author of this thesis was fortunate to find a number of his unknown and unpublished compositions for viola and piano. In view of the paucity of music for stringed instruments in Russia in the first decades of the last century, Vasilenko’s seven compositions for viola, which are all different in style, mode and technique, assume especial importance. The analysis of these works shows that Vasilenko equally combined the elements of many diverse and often contradictory musical conceptions of the time, including the Silver Age, Neoclassicism, Romanticism and the Avant-garde. His innovative style – expanding the technical and sonorous potential of the instrument, and the rhythmic and harmonic resources of Russian music – launched new standards in viola performance and expanded its repertoire. This thesis investigates the language, performing issues and the reasons for the neglect of his viola works as well as their stylistic roots that spanned from Vasilenko’s interest in the Baroque to Russian liturgical music.

The aim of this study is to re-evaluate the role of Vasilenko in the enhancement of the viola as a solo instrument in the twentieth century and bring his works to a concert platform. The analysis and discussion of these subjects rely heavily on unpublished and little-explored materials on Vasilenko from the archives in Moscow. This PhD submission has practical and written components that consist of the written thesis, edited musical scores and the first complete recording of Vasilenko’s compositions for viola and piano released by Toccata Classics.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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This version has some copyright material redacted.


Sergei Vasilenko, Russian music, Soviet music

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Centre for Russian Music



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Date Deposited:

04 Mar 2014 13:01

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2022 22:07


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