Exploring historical Russian pianism in Sergei Lyapunov’s Twelve Transcendental Études, Op. 11: The development of a performance edition

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (Performing Arts)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Dr Stuart James

Second Advisor

Professor Geoffrey Lancaster

Third Advisor

Mrs Anna Sleptsova

Field of Research Code



The genre of the Étude emerged with the increased popularity of the piano in the nineteenth century. It was often composed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular performance technique. Frederic Chopin (1819 – 1849) and Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) are among the earliest composers whose Études are well established in the canon of concert piano repertory. Later emerged the new genre of Études that are considered worthy of the concert platform – the Concert Étude.

Born in 1859 in Yaroslavl, Russia, Sergei Mikhailovich Lyapunov (1859 – 1924) was a highly regarded composer, pianist, conductor, editor, and teacher of his time. Lyapunov’s ‘Douze Études d’Execution Transcendantes’, Op. 11, was composed by between 1897 and 1905, in the memory of Franz Liszt, and is considered to be one of Lyapunov’s most significant compositional achievements. The influence of Liszt and composers of the Russian Mighty Five are evidently present in Op. 11. Overshadowed by his younger contemporaries whom experimented with new styles and techniques, Lyapunov and his music are largely forgotten today.

This research project explores the performance practice of three Russian pianists – with a focus on pianists associated with the Moscow Conservatory at the turn of the twentieth century – with an aim to quantify aspects of style of Russian pianism of the time. The methodology employed in this research includes both qualitative discourse of literary sources, and a series of systematic computational tempo analyses of reproducing piano roll recordings by pianists that fit the research criteria. Results revealed a number of stylistic aspects such as unnotated arpeggiation, notes inégales, and other aspects of rubato. These aspects of style, alongside historiographical findings, are both corroborated, reconsidered through reflexive pratice, and finally compiled in a performance edition of Lyapunov’s ‘Douze Études d’Execution Transcendantes’, Op. 11.

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