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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000086.txt from 2002/02

From: "Robert" <>
Subj: [kl] Brahms 4 Interpretation
Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 14:00:55 -0500

Since this is an absolutely wonderful example of how a list like this can be
a great tool, I wanted to add a couple other things to the discussion of
this passage. The measures in question were posited Tue, 05 Feb by
Alexander Brash: "We're playing the first movement of Brahms 4 in orchestra.
At the begining, and several times later, the winds have a figure of quarter
note rest quarter note, quarter note , quarter note rest, quarter note. The
Notes are marked staccato, but there is a phrasing marking OVER the rest
connected the two notes."

1. I get the feeling that Brahms knew what he was doing and that a dot
above a note (staccato) in the 19th century implied some kind of
"separation" or a "shortening" of the note as it implies today.

2. It may also be possible that Brahms is using the curved line over the
notes not so much as a "slur" in the manner we wind players sometimes seem
to require it to mean, but rather as a phrase marking or a way to group the
notes in melodic ideas. Maybe a combination of both?

3. There ARE quarter-note rests. Rests imply silence. Correct?

(I do not have my music in front of me, but are not these notes interspersed
with notes in the other winds (Flutes?) or strings, back and forth?)

I think AGalper makes a fine comment. And if I am interpreting it wrong I
apologize, but it speaks to a manner of the physical performance, not
necessarily the strict continuance of sound emanating from the instrument.
For example, "Hi, I think it means :tongue the notes but keep the air going
all the time. No breaks." When I play a marking like what appears in this
example, this is exactly how I perform it physically. I tongue the notes
AND separate them while the space is filled with moving air and the next
note is brought in and out of that moving air and as a repsonse to the other
group's note. Each note that comes in under the slur (phrase) builds or
declines as the line moves between the two groups of instruments. But since
the line is broken between groups, we must breath together and the air must
move together as if one person were playing a line that grew or lessened as
it moved-as if it were one series of notes without secco staccato.

I think AGalper's description is exactly right. I think it risky and
artificial to stop the breath from moving between the notes just because we
cause the reed to stop vibrating. The continually moving breath allows us
to stay "in touch" with the line as it moves between the groups. [This is
where a live example would be appropriate in a lesson or presentation.
Everyone look real close at the screen while I show you what I mean. ;-) ]

Sean Osborn said, "I think it means to play them long but separated. Like
long quarter notes with short rests. The important thing is to keep the line
going through the rests, and that's why I think Brahms wrote it that way, so
he wouldn't get a very vertical accompaniment like an Um-Pah band."

This makes me think I am remembering it wrong. Please keep in mind that I
do not get to play with the symphony as much anymore and we did not perform
the Brahms every year. Sorry. But even if the line is singular and there
are spaces in the line itself, the idea above works. I agree with Sean that
the line is the point of the slur (phrase) markings. I do think Brahms
wants to refrain from any kind of secco staccato. And I do believe it is
directly related to what the other instruments are doing.

Ron Klump said, "A string-playing friend of mine confirms that what Sean and
John describe applies to bowed music, but can the same musical notation mean
different things for different classes of instrument?"

I think there may be a slight misunderstanding here as to what string
players are really doing in "spiccato" and "slurred staccato" passages like
these are marked. Physically, they are continuously moving the bow in
"spiccato" passages, and the bow literally comes off the string and then
back to the string. In "slurred-staccato" the bow does NOT leave the string
but literally stops on the string, creating a more dry ending to the sound.
Quite often the reason for marking something either "slurred-staccato" or
"spiccato" is the line itself. It is, in my experience, almost always
accompanied by a concern with WHICH DIRECTION the bow is thrown/pulled. A
down bow for a line that declines in intensity. An up-bow for lines that
increase in intensity. The reason is because of the natural tendency of the
player to increase in intensity of sound as they move from the tip of the
bow to the frog. And the opposite is true of course.

Of course professional players can do many wonderful "inbetweens" for nuance
and the sort. Generally though, a slurred-staccato can allow a more
dramatic chance in intensity because the bow stays on the string.

Now if you want to compare what they are doing in the strings with our
breathing and how that affects the line, be sure to look closely at what
they are doing. ;-) And btw, the concertmaster, along with the director
(sometimes) decides whether to mark these as spiccato or slurred-staccato
many of the times. Just seeing the markings in the part for a string player
(as we are talking about) does not always give an immediate "play it this
way" answer.

These are, of course, my musings. So I suggest from these things that if
you are playing this line back and forth with the strings, that you either
ask the principal player or look and see if they are playing spiccato
(lifting the bow off the string between notes) or slurred-staccato (bow
stays on the string between notes). If spiccato, follow the line with them,
but do not expect great change of intensity through the line. If
slurred-staccato, then there may be a more marked change in intensity
through the line. In either case, I think AGalper's remark is right on
concerning "how" to make the line have this intensity. Keep the air moving
between the notes.

Food for thought, anyone? ;-)



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