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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000647.txt from 2000/09

From: "Lacy, Edwin" <>
Subj: [kl] more about Brahms
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 16:31:20 -0400

> The "allegro appassionato" puts it beyond my reach, probably
> for several years at least; but music is a long term pursuit and I may
> as well start thinking about it.

Many such instructions in Brahms' scores have to be taken with several
grains of salt. Musicians often have been amused at Brahms' notorious use
of seemingly contradictory character indications. For example, in the
symphonies, one can read:

"Un poco allegretto e grazioso" (allegretto, but only a little bit so, and

"Allegro non troppo, ma con brio" (fast, but not too much, but with fire)

"Presto, ma non assai" (very fast, but not too fast)

And the most confusing one of all:

"Allegretto grazioso (Quasi Andantino)" (moderately fast, but like a
moderately slow tempo)

However, I would like to mention another passage in the Brahms clarinet
sonata #1 (F Minor), which to my ears is usually poorly played. And, this
is in the piano accompaniment rather than the clarinet part. In the
Schirmer edition, at rehearsal letter D and again at letter H, there is a
two measure passage for the piano alone which is marked in a very confusing
way. It is marked forte, legato, with a crescendo to another forte. This
obviously is impossible, so the music has to be interpreted in some way.
What is usually done is that the entire two measures is played in a kind of
nondescript forte, and without much expression. On the few occasions when I
have heard it played really effectively, the pianist begins piano rather
than forte, and makes a crescendo to the forte at the end of the passage.
This goes along with the texture, which expands gradually outward over the
two measures. I really think that Brahms probably intended to write piano
rather than forte at the beginning of both statements of this passage.

I would like to know if anyone else hears it the same way I do, or if there
are opposing viewpoints. But, the next time you play this, ask the pianist
to begin much softer at those two points, so that the music seems to begin
at almost nothing and expand to a really full sound, and see if you like it
that way.

Ed Lacy
University of Evansville

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