Interpretations


Kennith during the Brahms

MOSAIC, HOUSTON, KENNITH

I would like to imbibe you in a dissertation on the likeness and difference between a technical performance and a romantic performance.

In a recent performance in Houston, Texas, I worked with a pianist and we had a pleasant discourse on the various interpretations of a work by Johannes Brahms.  This particular set of pieces is the Brahms, Opus 120 written originally for Viola and Piano and transcribed by Brahms for clarinet also.  The suggested tempo markings came up in discussions before we actually met and we both seem to agree on the premise that these are not necessarily etched in stone, but are merely guidelines for an accurate modern day performance of various works.

A brief history of metronomic markings can be found here and here.  As you can probably see from these articles, the metronome did not really take off until the mid 19th century and then was only to give a steady beat to practice by and help rhythms fit more precisely together.

The opening of the Brahms Sonata in F minor is set as Allegro Amabile and to me that is an interpretive statement more than a metronomic influence of the time.  Johannes Brahms works fall in the romantic period of musical styles as well as art form, possibly influenced by those during the “Age of Enlightenment”.   

Kennith and I decided to have our leeway with our interpretation and took this particular piece on as two musicians performing a great work as an ensemble and not as two virtuoso performers.  In the Allegro Amabile, we took the necessary liberties to make things work and sound the way we felt was best for the performance, studying the score diligently and interjecting personal experiences within the piece itself.  Hence, the Allegro was full of many romantic perceptions that allowed emotions to be expressed feely and coherently providing a great experience for the listener and a superb dual involvement in the performance.

The Second Movement, a wonderful waltz movement, we took to a different level of sonority and intensity with a single interpretation, mutually agreed up by both of us and staying in context with the score itself. 

The Third Movement with its  sweet grazioso in the middle, was light and airy, denoting a difference in the contrasting heaviness and lightness of Brahms. 

All in all, a wonderful performance by two professional musicians willing to place all other matters aside and develop as an ensemble.

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2 comments

  1. I am looking back at my preparation for this performance and there is one thing I really did not concentrate on, counting. As I look forward to possibly recording some of these works, I am coming at my personal practice as well as performance in a much improved way. Basically, really engaging the brain from here on with active counting, counting without playing and blowing without playing. All these are valid concepts I learned in detail from Leon and Alan.

  2. What happens when an accompanist is not just an accompanist?
    I am involved in a wonderful discussion about the role of the soloist and the accompanist in the creation of musical works. Dr. Kennith Freeman and I are engaged in an internet discussion about a recent experience in Houston, Texas when we performed together for the first time. The event was called “Mosaic” and we collaborated across the miles in the United States before we met, each with different ideas and ideologies about how a performance should go.
    When we first got together, there was a meeting of the minds and personalities, each from different backgrounds and yet very similar. Kennith was used to just being in a subordinate role as an accompanist on the piano, not an integral part of the performance (my take on the situation) where I was of a different mindset, both the pianist and the clarinetist are integral parts of any performance and presentation. What evolved was very satisfying for both of us and began to open new doors of performance communication.
    We began working on the Brahms, opus 120 and the initial read through was good, but was lacking. We were coming together with accuracy and noting each rhythmic complexity with an eye to individualistic comparisons. This soon changed as we began working the first movement with definitions developing about how we believed an Allegro Amabile should be performed. Suggested metronome markings were discussed and the supposed validity of the markings themselves as related to the music and the performers. The brief discussion opened new ways of interpretation as we began again in earnest to put this piece together.
    In the opening statement, we both relaxed and allowed the piece to find it’s natural “friendly” tempo between the two of us, becoming a small ensemble instead of two accomplished players in this field. As the music came to life, nuances began to appear without being discussed verbally, instead each of us contributed and the notes began to leap off the page with a vibrancy neither of us realized at the time.
    On the second day of rehearsal, we began with the first movement and both of us stopped, together I might add, as we were taken aback at what had just happened. Musically, the expression of the piece came out, with little conscious effort on our parts, just allowing it to flow and follow it’s natural course.
    More later, keep checking back!

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