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.