Walshaw, Trevor (2013) Roberto Gerhard: explorer and synthesist. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

There is a general perception that Gerhard’s late, modernist, style was due to a radical change of direction around the time of his First Symphony. This thesis argues that in fact several important elements integral to this ’new’ style are traceable in works as early as Dos apunts and Seven Haiku of 1921-22, and that during the intervening years Gerhard was exploring, expanding and accumulating the techniques which eventually enabled him to realise the potential of his sonic imagination.

The first part of the thesis will discuss Gerhard’s origins in early twentieth century Catalonia, during the Catalan revival, with its modernisme and noucentisme, and the way in which these factors are reflected in his attitudes.

In the second section the works selected will be placed in a biographical and musical context and analysed in order to demonstrate three aspects of his works. The first is that Gerhard approached each one as a separate exercise, using different methods in the most appropriate manner and disregarding questions of dogma. The second, that many of these techniques originate in the practices of the preceding generation, particularly Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Pedrell and Bartók, in addition to absorbing and applying significant elements from Catalan and Spanish traditional music. Comparators will be cited to demonstrate these facts. The final intent is to show that as the methods are applied they are explored and expanded to meet his own particular requirements and the resulting synthesis equipped him to realise their potential in his late style, fully exploited for the first time in the first movement of the First Symphony.

This thesis deals with compositions preceding this work in order to demonstrate that despite the apparently disparate nature of Gerhard’s output between 1921 and 1953 there is a consistent attitude in his approach extending into the later stages of his life.

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