The Piano Sonatas of Louise Talma: A Stylistic Analysis

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Lois Leventhal

Advisor Department



The chief purpose of this study was to furnish an analysis of each of the piano sonatas by Louise Talma with regard to melody, harmony, tonality, rhythm, form and texture. Observations pertaining to style characteristics and compositional techniques were included, as well as comments on technical and musical difficulties for the performer. A short biography of Louise Talma, a complete listing of her works and a discography were also included. Analysis of these sonatas revealed certain recurring compositional techniques which contribute to Talma's original style. The motives on which the entirety of each of the sonatas are built are introduced in the first movement of each sonata. Further, the general melodic contour of these motives is more important than their specific intervals. Another recurring compositional technique is found in the formal construction of the final movements. Each sonata ends with a movement that combines two forms. In Piano Sonata No. 1 Talma combines rondo form and variation form, where several or all of the episodes are variations of either the refrain or another previously stated theme. In Piano Sonata No. 2 Talma utilizes sonata-rondo form in a traditional manner, with some minor modifications. The most unusual transformations of the form are the use of a binary B section, and the untraditional use of transitional material. The combination of other musical elements was also observed. Frequent use of polymeter, as well as the simultaneous use of a melody in one key with an accompaniment in another key, was discovered. This research project presented the only existing analysis of the piano sonatas by Louise Talma, whose list of awards and honors has established her as a significant twentieth-century American composer.