Research Specialities and Interests:
Higher Education; Curriculum Design; 19th-Century Russian Music; Tchaikovsky; Balakirev; Byron; Realism; Programme Music; Women in Russian Music; Shakespeare in Music; Philosophical Hermeneutics; Musical Hermeneutics; 17th-Century Anglican Church Music; Editing of Early Music; Classical Music in Ireland; and Piano Pedagogy.
This thesis seeks to reinterpret Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (1869, rev. 1870 and 1880) through a series of four hermeneutic windows. The first, ‘historical context’, presents an overview of the work’s reception since the end of the nineteenth century. In doing so, certain ambiguities in our knowledge of the composition’s protracted genesis become clear. The second, ‘understandings of programme music’, explores Tchaikovsky’s perception of the genre. Fundamental to this investigation is an assessment of the aesthetics of a select group of Russian figures central to the developing arts of the nineteenth century. I propose a correlation between their views on realism and death and Tchaikovsky’s treatment of these ideas in Romeo and Juliet. The third hermeneutic window, ‘the correspondence between Tchaikovsky and Balakirev’, serves as the foundation for my later discussions on ‘self’ and ‘otherness’. Here, a comprehensive detailing of ‘Romeo and Juliet’s’ genesis from conception to completion is provided. Through this examination, insight is offered into previously unexplored aspects of the work’s composition, and the developing relationship between both composers during this period is critiqued anew. The final hermeneutic window takes the form of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Manfred Symphony’ (1885). In my comparative analysis of this orchestral titan with the fantasy-overture, a shared representation of three figures becomes apparent: 1) the ‘persona’; 2) the ‘anima’; and 3) death. This thesis concludes that ‘Romeo and Juliet’s’ programme may be interpreted as a romance between the individual and death, more so than the traditionally accepted romance between Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers.
‘Tchaikovsky’s Lake of Swans: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Death through the Lens of the Feminine’ (6–8 June 2014, SMI Conference, University College Dublin)
‘Interpreting Byron: Defining ‘the Self’ in ‘the Other’ in Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony’ (November 2013, The Byron Centre, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester)
‘‘A Foule Evill Favoured Noyse’: 17th-Century Irish Perspectives on the Role of Music within the Anglican Church’ (June 2013, SMI 10th Anniversary Conference, National Univerity of Ireland, Maynooth)
‘A Nightingale in the Pomegranate Tree: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Duet for Soprano and Tenor’ (June 2011, SMI Conference, Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin)
‘A Programme of Love’ (June 2008, 15th Biennial Internationl Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music, University College Dublin)
‘Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet: A Schleiermacherian Reading’ (May 2007, SMI Conference, Conservatoire of Music, Dublin Institute of Technology)
‘Tchaikovsky and Balakirev: A Programme of Division’ (May 2006, SMI Conference, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick)
‘Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet: A Comparative Study of the 1869 and 1880 Versions’ (March 2006, University Colloquim, National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
‘Dualism within Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet’ (March 2005, University Colloquim, National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
Chaired Conference Sessions:
‘Russian Music in Theory and Practice’ (January 2008, SMI Postgraduate Conference, University College Dublin)