Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


College of Music and Dramatic Arts

Document Type



The viola came to prominence as a solo instrument relatively late compared to the violin and cello. As a result, the standard repertoire is more recent, consisting largely of twentieth century works. The standard repertoire continues to expand as new works are written and embraced by performers. One such work is the Hungarian composer György Kurtág's open ended collection of pieces for solo viola Signs, Games and Messages (1987-). Kurtág, born in 1926, is one of the most important composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His music is characterized by its brevity, fragmentation, ambiguity, and intertextuality. The painstaking scrutiny Kurtág applies to his own compositions results in a dense web of musical and extramusical references. Although Kurtág only achieved international acclaim late in his career, he has since been recognized as a profound and influential voice in Hungarian music and in contemporary music more broadly. Signs, Games, and Messages, an important contribution to the literature for unaccompanied viola, is a collection of short pieces that exemplifies many of Kurtág's stylistic traits. This paper will examine eight of these works that represent a cross-section of the composer's tendencies: Jelek II, Perpetuum mobile, Panaszos nóta, The Carenza Jig, Hommage à John Cage, In memoriam Blum Tamás, Kroó György in memoriam, and Samuel Beckett: le nain. Due in part to the brevity of these pieces, their full context and meaning are not readily apparent, requiring close examination on the part of the performer. Through comparison with Kurtág's other works, biographical study, and musical analysis, these pieces can be better understood and performed.



Committee Chair

Lilleslåtten, Espen