Narratives of Irony and Romance in Grieg's Cello Sonata in A Minor: A Performer's Analysis
Abrantes Sicilia, Ana Cristina Barbosa
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This dissertation explores the interaction between structure and meaning in the three movements of Edvard Grieg’s Cello Sonata in A Minor, building a unique interpretation of this work solely based on analysis, rather than enculturation and imitation of those considered to model best practice. This study combines structural analysis with expressive analysis, making connections between analysis and interpretation, while also addressing performance issues. While I primarily use the narratological approach of Byron Almén and the semiotic approach of Robert Hatten, I also use Schenkerian analysis to enhance my narrative reading of each movement. Additionally, I explore the intertextuality between the cello sonata and other works by Grieg to support the narrative trajectory. In the case of the cello sonata, its second movement, for example, quotes the Homage March theme from his incidental music to Sigurd Jorsalfar (Sigurd the Crusader), a historical play written by the Noble prize winner Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. This self-quotation in the cello sonata brings extra-musical meaning to this analysis, emphasizing the fact that representations of landscape in Grieg’s music are not necessarily tied to visual stimuli, but rather tied to literary texts. Almén’s narrative theory proposes a combination of approaches to musical narrative drawing from literary criticism, semiotics, historiography, musicology, and music theory. Therefore, an understanding of the historical context for Grieg’s Cello Sonata combined with the structural analysis of this work fulfill the criteria for narrative. The performance suggestions at the end of each analysis reaffirms the value of narrative analysis by providing an interaction of the melodic and formal structure of the movement with musical interpretation, bringing meaning to the work’s narrative voice in a practical manner.