Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Variations on a Theme by Paganini: Narrative archetypes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century theme-and-variation sets
by Robertson, Gillian, Ph.D., The Florida State University, 2015, 194; 3705915
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the applicability of musical narrative models to the genre of theme and variations focusing on large-scale structural transformations in nineteenth- and twentieth-century theme-and-variation sets. Narrative archetypes proposed by Byron Almén (2008) are useful frameworks for understanding and interpreting the types of transformations that are typical in this genre, despite the paratactic and repetitive nature of the variations. My analysis focuses on three variation sets all based on the same theme (Paganini's Twenty-Four Caprices, Op. 1, No. 24): Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35 Book I; Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, and Rochberg's Caprice Variations . This invariant theme enables me to demonstrate not only the possibility of diverse narrative readings of these works, but also how each composer treated the theme in his own setting.

Chapter one provides a review of literature on the genre of variations and the sub-discipline of musical narrative. I discuss my eclectic methodological approach, one that includes Almén's theory of musical narrative in conjunction with musical agency, Schenkerian analysis, musical borrowing, topic theory, and integration models. A short analysis of Paganini's Caprice no. 24 from Op. 1 provides context for the remaining works and demonstrates a simple narrative interpretation as a preview of the analysis in the remaining chapters. Chapters two through four offer detailed analyses of the variations by Brahms and Rachmaninoff. The second chapter explores the application of a single narrative archetype to the first book of Brahms's variations, while chapters three and four expand the narrative model to include interpretations of multiple narrative archetypes within Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody. These two chapters focus on intra- and extra-musical narratives and present the notion of embedded narrative models, which provide nuance to an analytical interpretation. Chapter five summarizes my findings from chapters two to four and includes a sample analysis of Rochberg's Caprice Variations in order to demonstrate analytical questions pertinent to a post-modernist theme-and-variation set as well as the narrative or "anti-narrative" possibilities in twentieth-century Western art music.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kraus, Joseph C., Shaftel, Matthew R.
Commitee: Gainsford, Read, Mathes, James
School: The Florida State University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Brahms, Johannes, Musical narratives, Paganini, Nicolo, Rachmaninoff, Sergei, Rochberg, George, Theme and variation
Publication Number: 3705915
ISBN: 978-1-321-79310-9
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