This work arises from the long and passionate research the author has been conducting through the years as member of a professional piano duo (the Dirac PIano Duo). It aims firstly to understand why the piano four-hands repertoire has been for long time stigmatized as an “inferior
genre” despite its unquestionable value, and it also seeks to shed light on the contemporary repertoire for this medium, which is at present almost unknown, unperformed and undiscussed although it embodies masterpieces of undoubted artistic quality.
To do so, this thesis will first focus on the technical challenges, the distinctive features, the possibilities of expression as well as the limitations that characterize the piano four-hand repertoire, explaining why they are of a completely unique order and why they make the medium itself so distinctive and so controversial at the same time.
It will then explore the medium also from a more historical point of view, setting it into the social- cultural-musical context of the various periods and deeply investigating the process that has brought it from being considered one of the most fascinating socio-cultural phenomena of the nineteenth century to its almost complete extinction at the beginning of the twentieth century, with the ultimate scope of analyzing what is left of it nowadays and which is its role in the current musical scenario.
The results of the investigation point out that once the historical and sociological factors that have allowed for the extreme popularity of the medium fell short, the latter could finally assume a completely new value and be a site of compositional and performance innovation that absolutely deserves to be discovered, performed and analyzed.
The output of this dissertation have also inspired the young Chinese composer Ching-Fang Teng to write “Entanglement”, a proper homage to the medium and to its endless compositional potential.