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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000616.txt from 2000/07

From: "Edwin V. Lacy" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] enthused musings upon Mozart Concerto
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 08:43:39 -0400

On Wed, 19 Jul 2000, Kim Parsons wrote:

> ..... I couldn't help but feel that I really just didn't get the
> piece. There was something important and crucial missing from my
> performance. Even though, my teacher tried very hard to explain to me
> the emotional content of Brahms I just could not communicate it
> through my playing.

You are far from the first who has found it hard to come to grips with the
inner musical meaning of the music of Brahms. I congratulate you for
being able to recognize the difficulties in doing so. I can see how the
teacher would have found it difficult to communicate this to you, and how
you would have had trouble in understanding what he was trying to convey.

In my opinion, each composer (at least among the great ones) tends to
strike some kind of balance between the emotional aspects and the
intellectual aspects of music. Each tends to be to some degree on one
side or the other of that question. We can think of composers who tend
very much toward the intellectual side, such as perhaps Schoenberg and
other serialists. Some people used to feel this way about Hindemith, too,
although now that the harmonic content of his music is better understood
or at least accepted, its emotional content is more widely acknowledged.
It is also not too difficult to name composers who tend toward the
emotional qualities of the music. In this category, we could name any one
of several composers of so-called late-19th century salon pieces. One
such work that is sometimes discussed on this list is the Trio Pathetique
by Mikail Glinka.

However, in the case of Brahms, the situation is different. To me, he
perhaps better than any other composer illustrates an almost ideal balance
between the emotional and intellectual characteristics of his music. To
say that isn't difficult, but to thoroughly understand it to the extent
that it is communicated through a performance is a very much greater

This also extends to the pianist. The piano parts to the Brahms sonatas
are quite difficult from a technical standpoint, but they also require a
certain depth of musical understanding. Finding such a person with whom
to collaborate can be quite a challenge.

I'll go even further out on a limb here, and say something that no doubt
will be regarded as politically incorrect. To me, the music of Brahms
tends to exhibit essentially masculine character, rather than feminine.
That's certainly not to say that female musicians can't play Brahms,
because many do, and the good ones do so extrememly well.

We are dealing with very intangible qualities here, and the assertions I
have made are not capable of direct proof, as far as I know. These are
merely my reactions and interpretations of the music of Brahms. Perhaps
one of the signs of greatness in a composer is that they can be
interpreted in very different ways by different performers, and the
results can still be satisfying.

Ed Lacy
Dr. Edwin Lacy University of Evansville
Professor of Music 1800 Lincoln Avenue
Evansville, IN 47722 (812)479-2754

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