THE INFLUENCE OF EARLY MUSIC ON THE COMPOSITIONAL STYLE AND PERFORMANCE OF SELECTED WORKS OF RANDALL THOMPSON
Klotz, Kevin M.
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Composer and conductor Randall Thompson (1899–1984) had a significant impact on choral music in America during the twentieth century. While his contemporaries were striking out in more progressive directions, Thompson held true to his core belief that one should write singable music that is accessible to all types of ensembles. Works like Alleluia, The Last Words of David, The Peaceable Kingdom, and Frostiana continue to be cherished by singers and audience members alike. Thompson had a keen interest in and admiration for early music, which influenced his approach to choral composition. This essay investigates Thompson’s connection to Renaissance and Baroque music, beginning with his initial training at Harvard. The study then explores three areas of Renaissance and Baroque composition (sixteenth-century imitative styles, and Baroque fugal counterpoint and polychoral textures) and demonstrates their influence on selected works of Thompson. Primary source material is included from the Randall Thompson Papers at Houghton Library at Harvard University. In the final section, the essay briefly discusses how connections between early music and Thompson might impact the performance of Thompson’s choral works.