Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


The School of Music

Document Type



This research aims to examine how French music progressed from the Baroque era to the 20th-century through the cello repertoire. This document will be a useful tool for people who are interested specifically in French cello compositions. The researcher will discuss fifteen composers and seventeen cello works. Through reading composers’ biographies and examining the selected cello compositions from these French composers, the researcher will better comprehend and attempt to describe the composers’ musical styles and their musical legacies within the canon of music for the cello.

From the Baroque era, François Couperin, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, and Martin Berteau are the primary composers explored in this paper. They not only represented authentic French characteristics in their works but also revealed the influence of Italian music.

As examples of the Classical era, Jean-Louis Duport’s and Jean-Baptiste Bréval’s styles differ entirely, but their works are equally engaged as teaching material universally. Duport’s renowned cello virtuosity made his 21 Etudes widely respected and popular teaching material even his own lifetime. In contrast, the simplicity of Bréval’s sonatas make them ideal material for teaching beginners.

From the Romantic era, Édouard Lalo, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Gabriel Fauré are explored in this paper. They all developed their unique styles and left behind many profound compositions, several for the cello. Lalo and Saint-Saëns’s cello concertos are performed extensively throughout the world, and they are often the first Romantic cello concertos that young students attempt to play. Fauré’s innovative harmonies set his music apart.

In the 20th-century, classical music developed and diverged branches, exemplified by the following composers: Claude Debussy is one of the great pioneers of the 20th-century. His harmonies, used as colors, make his music easily distinctive from his predecessors. Nadia Boulanger will be examined, as she was one of the influential teachers in France from 1903-1979. Members of Les Six, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Arthur Honegger presented new concepts ranging from ecstatic simplicity to extremely complex and adventurous experimentation while each all develop their own musical styles. Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux’s music is more harmonically complicated and increases the range and scope of what a cello had been asked to do in France. Intriguingly, many of the above composers were also influential teachers. In this thesis, the relationship among these composers will be pointed out as well.

This research will employ qualitative and historical methodology to gather information and integrate sources. Musical examples will be provided to support and clarify the ideas demonstrated by the writer.



Committee Chair

Parker, Dennis