Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type

Doctoral Essay

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Keyboard Performance (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Naoko Takao

Second Committee Member

Santiago Rodriguez

Third Committee Member

Tian Ying

Fourth Committee Member

Margaret Ann Donaghue


The term, developing variation, was introduced by Arnold Schoenberg to describe one of the fundamental compositional principles of the western music in which the technique of modifying and elaborating the initial idea generates all necessary components for the remainder of the piece. The term is often associated with Johannes Brahms because of Schoenberg’s celebrated essay “Brahms the Progressive,” where the function of developing variation in Brahms’ music was convincingly analyzed as being representative of the most advanced form of this technique. Many scholars have since been drawn to the examination of the thematic connections in various works by Brahms, but curiously excluding the works in the form of Theme and Variations, a medium favored by Brahms throughout his life. The present essay examines the developing variation technique in Brahms’ early variation sets: op. 9; op. 21, no. 1 and op. 21, no. 2. One of the most crucial finding was the prominence of developing variation in the harmonic aspect in forming the fundamental musical structure in Brahms’ music.


developing variation; Brahms; Carl Dahlhaus; Walter Frisch; op. 21, no. 1, op. 21, no. 2, op. 9