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Thesis open access


This thesis is, in general terms, an examination of the need for nationalism as a defining characteristic in music. Specifically, it deals with a term, ‘Englishness’, which is thrown lightly about in criticism and biographies by English writers with greater frequency throughout the twentieth century up until the Second World War. Through three quartets written near the end of that war by three vastly different composers, each representing a different variant of ‘Englishness’ (though all connected back to Purcell) this phenomenon will be dissected. Of particular consideration are the political and cultural atmosphere of England in the 1940s, the overall effects of the war, and a general national anxiety towards a domineering Austro-Germanic tradition. Vaughan Williams’ String Quartet in A Minor, Tippett’s String Quartet No. 3, and Britten’s Quartet No. 2 in C represent three diverse sounds, styles, and forms of a twentieth century quartet which all bear the stamp of ‘Englishness’. In contextualizing and analyzing these works and the men who wrote them, a wider picture of English music, the appropriateness of labeling, and trends in the collective British psyche will be explored.

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