Selected duo-piano compositions by American composers: Performance and pedagogy

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Performance

First Committee Member

Kenon D. Renfrow, Committee Chair


Keyboard teachers are often looking for well-written twentieth-century American solo and duo-piano music for their students. Until now, only pieces by composers such as Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and George Gershwin have been able to find a place in the repertoire of many piano students. However, there are other contemporary American composers who have written for the piano, but whose music is not well-known by many piano teachers. Therefore, this paper focuses on two American duo-piano works written since 1990. By making this information more easily available, it is hoped that more attention will be given to this vital musical genre as it has evolved in modern America.The works selected for this study were not chosen solely for their suitability as teaching pieces. The style and musical language of each composition were also taken into consideration. The intention is to help teachers become better acquainted with the wide variety of styles and performance techniques with which American composers have chosen to work.Two pieces are discussed in depth: Recuerdos for Two Pianos by William Bolcom and Six Variations for Two Pianos by Ned Rorem. The pieces are discussed in terms of their musical language and ways the composers approached the performing medium of two pianos. Pedagogical approaches are discussed as they pertain to each work and each composer. There also is discussion of how new performance approaches have influenced the music of other composers. The discussion includes a structural analysis of each piece considered, biographical information on its composer, and a description of the general style characteristics of each composer's music.The final chapter provides a list of compositions for duo-piano, four-hands by this century's American composers. A prerequisite is that the music be original with the composer. An appendix also includes publishers' information.


Music; Education, Music

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