Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


School of Music


Gabriel Dobner

Eric Ruple

John Peterson



Recognizing how to present a narrative while performing the music of Schumann and Chopin helps the performer to transmit the spirit of the music and convey expression in the music. In the music-making process, what we cannot discount is that the performer plays a crucial role in conveying musical expression to the listeners, which tremendously affects the quality of the entire musical experience. In this document, I argue that there is a qualitative difference between the ways in which performers should express the central story conveyed in the music of Robert Schumann compared with the story conveyed in the music of Frédéric Chopin, two composers whose music has often been the subject of narrative analyses. In performing Schumann’s music, the performer experiences the narrative from a first-person perspective while playing the music. In Chopin, by contrast, the performer is more distanced from the story, acting as a kind of narrator in the position of telling a story within a narrative frame, something akin to a third-person perspective. In this document, I discuss these two perspectives in the piano music of Schumann and Chopin. I begin with an overview of musical narrative, followed by an exploration of the elements of narrative in these composers’ music. I then proceed to provide analyses of their piano music in terms of form and structure. In the last chapter, I suggest some performance interpretations for the pianist that reinforce the different narratological perspectives I identify in the music of both Schumann and Chopin. I conclude by arguing how the result of my analysis can benefit a pianist’s interpretation, and how that interpretation in turn can affect the audience’s musical experience.



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