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Postgraduate research

Completed PhD thesis on Alun Hoddinott

16 January 2014

Serialism, modality and poetic rhetoric in Alun Hoddinott’s Five Poems of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Op. 152 no. 2 (1994)

Jeremy Huw Williams completed his PhD thesis at the School of Music in 2013 under the supervision of Professor Robin Stowell and Dr Charles Wilson. The full text of his thesis – Serialism, modality and poetic rhetoric in Alun Hoddinott’s Five Poems of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Op. 152 no. 2 (1994) – is available from ORCA, Cardiff University’s online research repository.


Alun Hoddinott

The last fifteen years of Alun Hoddinott’s life witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of works for solo voice, which seemed to coincide with a notable change of style – towards simpler textures, melodic lyricism and a greater concision of musical thought. This thesis examines the context and nature of this apparent change of style, focusing on text setting, poetic rhetoric, and harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary, with particular reference to the song cycle Five Poems of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Op. 152 no. 2 (1994).

Chapter 1 contextualizes the vocal music since 1994 within Hoddinott’s oeuvre, considering whether the later songs mark a genuine ‘late style’ or merely a shift of emphasis within an already established compositional approach.

Chapter 2 examines in detail the rhetoric and structure of the poetry chosen by Hoddinott and the reflection of these poetic devices in the musical settings.

Chapter 3 investigates the combination of modality and serialism in Hoddinott’s harmonic language, concluding with an analysis of the opening Andante of the Trio for violin, cello and piano, Op. 77 (1970). This chapter assesses his acknowledged debt to the modal writing of Bartók and the serial practices of Berg, manifested in Hoddinott’s use of whole-tone and octatonic scales as a basis for hexachordal structure.

All these elements are then brought together in Chapter 4, an analysis of the Bécquer settings, which assesses the interaction of text and music. While the underlying structure of Hoddinott’s later music remains serial, its reduced rate of chromatic circulation means that the modal elements long present in his note rows now come clearly to the fore, contributing to the songs’ often striking changes of colour and texture.

The appendices contain translations of the texts for the late solo baritone works (with original punctuation restored), along with a full works list, bibliography and discography.

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