A Semiotic Approach to the Clarinet Quintet of Johannes Brahms



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This paper will provide a comprehensive look at Brahms’s clarinet quintet by providing a semiotic approach to the musical analysis. The quintet contains deformations regarding its form, according to James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s study of sonata cycle and sonata form. Furthermore, musical gestures introduced in the initial movement occur sporadically throughout the rest of the piece, creating connections between movements through their reoccurrence. Normative and non-normative events in the form of individual movements and the work as a whole give rise to oppositions that shape elements of conflict in musical narrative.

Eero Tarasti’s semiotic analysis along with James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s sonata theory and Edward Klorman’s idea of social interaction in the music will provide methodological approaches in examining the Brahms’s clarinet quintet. The combination of these approaches helps in identifying a narrative that spans the entirety of the piece. Structural points in musical narrative are identified by applying concepts associated with sonata form and sonata cycle, while plot developments in the narrative are correlated with recurring motives and themes.



Brahms Clarinet Quintet, Semiotic Analysis, Musical Narrative