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A More Sincere Brahms: An Exploration of Widening Expressive Possibilities in the Opus 120 Clarinet Sonatas.

Name: Raissa Fahlman Main Subject: Classical Clarinet Research Coach: Anna Scott Title of Research: A More Sincere Brahms: An Exploration of Widening Expressive Possibilities in the Opus 120 Clarinet Sonatas. Research Question: What might documentary and sounding evidence of the performing styles of Johannes Brahms and his contemporaries reveal to modern performers about amplifying expression via increased tempo flexibility in Brahms’s Opus 120 Clarinet Sonatas. Given this evidence, what ideological and practical factors might inhibit modern performers from incorporating this evidence in their own interpretations today? Summary of Results: The exploration of documentary and sounding evidence relating to the performance style of Johannes Brahms and his contemporaries reveals much to modern performers about the difference in performance styles between the nineteenth century and our own. The documentary and sounding evidence examined in this research project demonstrates that Brahms and his contemporaries played within a much wider spectrum of expressive possibilities, revealing more accelerandi, ritardandi, and independence between voices, than our controlled modern interpretation of Brahms would allow. Ideological and practical factors however discourage modern performers from implementing this evidence into their own performances: pressures of fidelity, authenticity, text-centricity, and the diminished role of performers as compared to composers have all contributed to the constant scrutiny of performers' interpretative choices, and have increased the risks associated with performances viewed as expressively licentious.  Practical application of this research via documented performance experiments however shows that modern performers can, when aware of the above historical evidence as well as the ideological pressures they face, implement stylistic tools from the past into modern interpretations of Brahms's works. For my own performances of the Brahms Opus 120 Sonatas, this research project has informed my interpretation, resulting in recordings of increased fluidity of phrasing, a more expansive range of expressive freedom, and an overall stylistic shift towards greater artistic freedom and a natural interpretive flow that is less hindered by societal pressures. My recordings also demonstrate that this research is not only relevant within the Opus 120 Sonatas, but transferrable across all of Brahms’s music. The goal of this research is not only to expand expressivity in my own performances, but to offer this evidence to other performers who may struggle with the question of expressivity when performing Brahms as well.  Biography: Raissa Fahlman is a devoted clarinet soloist, chamber and orchestral musician. She has participated in several world premieres as a member of chamber ensembles, large ensembles and as a featured soloist. Recent musical commitments have included two Long Term Creative Music Residencies at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, where she was an Artist in Residence. Raissa is an alumni of the University of Calgary where she graduated with distinction with a Bachelor of Music degree, and was awarded for excellence in her musical study by twice receiving the XL 103.1 Newcap Award in Music, as well as numerous scholarships for academic excellence. She is currently a masters student at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague. 

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