The Analysis and Comparison of the Clarinet and Viola Versions of the Two Sonatas by Brahms Name Institutional Affiliation






The Analysis and Comparison of the Clarinet and Viola Versions of the Two Sonatas by Brahms


Institutional Affiliation



The violist literature has only registered a few works of notable ingenuity. In 1894, Johannes Brahms went ahead to occupy a central position in the history of music as the most prominent composer of the time, by composing two Sonatas. The two Sonatas were Op. 120, 1 and Op. 120, 2, which were written for the clarinet and the piano respectively. The frequent performance of the two compositions a few years after their initial publication attests to their importance in the history of music. The two compositions also represent some of the earliest viola work recordings. Prior to the publication of the two sonatas, Brahms had dedicated the Clarinet Quintet and the Clarinet Trio to Richard Muhlfeld, who was his clarinetist friend. The Op.120, 1, and Op. 120, 2 were both composed as a dedication to the same friend; Richard Muhlfeld. However, Simrock, who was Brahms publisher, requested the composer to create a version for piano and viola. After examining the two versions for viola and piano, Brahms developed a keen awareness of the potential differences between each instrument. The composer decided to pursue different affected for the two instruments, which resulted in an outstanding work of art.

Brahms employed transcription techniques to compose the sonatas for the violin and piano. The composer adjusted any change in the piano concurrently whenever there was a need for octave (change of register) in the violin part. The romantic composer frequently corrected any resulting problems of voice leading. Brahms perfected the technique and frequently used the technique in his numerous efforts of transcribing his own music. This technique was effectively used not only in the transcription of the violin and piano parts of the Op. 120, 1 and Op. 120, 2, but also in the transcription of earlier works including the Trio Op. 114, as well as Quintet Op. 115, which were transcribed for viola. These cases present an interesting transcription as Brahms used an alternative approach. The approach involved leaving all the clarinet parts of the Quintet Op. 115 and Trio Op. 114 in the same manner they had been and calling them viola parts. Brahms did not make and substantial changes in the registers of the clarinet parts. Researchers argue that published versions of Brahms transcriptions of Op. 120 raises suspicion considering that the transcription methods involved adjusting all changes in the register and correcting voice leads or conducting no adjustments at all. The suspicion originates from the fact that there are full alternations in the viola version, but no alterations in the piano part.

Further inquiries into the nature of the composition of the Two Sonata transcriptions are with regard to the unusual conditions that led to the publication of Op. 120. Prior to the composition of the viola versions of the clarinet sonatas, the composer had never been involved in any prior composition of viola versions of the sonatas. Research indicates that the drive to compose the viola versions was stimulated by the approaching publication deadlines. Some critics argue that the publisher appointed his own staff to transcribe the sonatas after much protesting. Brahms made some quick changes to the transcribed part prior to the publication. The lack of any signed part by Brahms himself; in addition to the contrasts to Brahms standard practices are facts that should have caused a disturbance among violinists and publishers. However, the works found in Brahms Archives indicate that Kupfer’s transcription was carefully done as it was quite clean even though it contained mistakes. Brahms corrections were quite sloppy. However, an observation of Brahms manuscripts of the violin and clarinet versions shows that they were carefully done with high adherence to exactness.  There is evidently limited literature analyzing the Two Sonatas, and the current premise in this thesis seeks to analyze and compare the clarinet and viola versions of the Two Sonatas composed by Brahms.

Background of the Study

Johannes was brought up in Germany under the care of his father who was a freelance musician playing flute, horn, violin, cello, and double bass. His mother was a housewife and a former landlord of his father, and she was 17 years older than his father. Most of his training in music and music composition had taken place before he graduated from school at the age of 14 years. At the time, he was an excellent pianist, to the extent that he was teaching piano for one of his professors. He had started formal lessons in piano at the age of seven and he the learned to play the horn and the cello as his father inspired him such that he took a keen interest in music. His first piano teacher laid a firm foundation for his excellent technique in music and by the time he was ten, he understood the basics of music composition concepts. He gained these skills as Marxsen offered to teach Brahms and his older brother formal lessons in music composition and theory. He gave his first performance in friends’ and family gathering at the age of 10, and his first performance before the public at the age of thirteen. In the initial stages of his performing profession, he performed in the dance halls and taverns, the Hamburg Theater, and private concerted organized by the wealthy. At this time, he also earned supplementary income for his family by teaching piano lessons.

In the year 1859, Brahms established his career Hamburg by establishing women chorus, conducting, revising his profession as a soloist, and teaching. However, in the year 1862 he was rejected as the conductor of Hamburg Choral Society and Philharmonic and he decided to travel to Vienna, where he becomes the conductor of Vienna Singvereign soon after he arrived in the city. Nonetheless, he resigned from his job after one year of service with the intention to dedicate more time to his personal work of performing, composing, and publishing his music. In the year 1875 he settled in a career that entailed touring as a conductor and performer during the winter and autumn seasons, traveled during spring, and spent his summers composing mostly in the mountains.

The term sonata has evolved throughout the music history representing a range of forms. Nonetheless, the term gains its popularity and significance during the classical era when it acquired a significant value and in the 19th century it designated a principle of composing musical works in large scale.  The term sonata applied to a variety of musical instruments and was classified with fague, a one of the two most popular approaches to organizing, analyzing, and interpreting concert music. The 20th and 21st century has retained its original structure irrespective of the changes that the musical sonata styles have undergone since the classical era.

During the Baroque phase, a sonata mostly applied to one or more instruments, in which case the continuo was always present. After the period, most musical works categorized as sonata were played by a solo instrument in the company of a keyboard. In the early classical era, a sonata for instruments, and a keyboard part was said to have an obbligato keyboard section. The terms obbligato section of a keyboard was used to differentiate the sonata with a keyboard part and the one using instruments and instruments as continuo. However, the practice fell out of use during the 19th century. In the 19, 20th, and 21st century, the sonata for solo instruments that do not use the keyboard and the ones for combination of instruments have been composed.

The other concept of interest is the sonata form, which represent a large-scale structure of musical composition that was widely used in the 18th century. The term sonata form represents the most fundamental principle of musical form in the classical era as well as in the 20th century. Since it is a formal model, the Sonata form is mostly utilized in the initial movement of multi-movement musical pieces while in some cases; it is applied to the final movements. The teaching and learning of the sonata form depend on the series of hypotheses and the established definition of reasons for its durability and variety. In most cases, the form consists of the exposition part, followed by the development stage, and lastly, the recapitulation part. However, the sonata form presents a considerable level of difficulty in putting it into one particular model.

Research Problem

This section of the study seeks provide the justification of the research. The ability to justify the need for research in an identified field of interest enables the researcher to provide objective and credible conclusion based on results obtained from well-defined objectives. As such, this section of the research provides the information that displays the significance and relevance of the subject matter. Numerous factors demand attention in connection with the understanding of the two clarinet sonatas Op. 120 given the that they stem out at the time when the composer (Brahms) had just been motivated to get back to working as a composer following his one-year retirement. Mayr (2004) asserts that Brahms invested his passion and emotions in these sonatas as he had passed through a very difficult time of his life in terms of experiencing great loss as most of his close associates were departed at the time. However, it was during this time that he discovered the full potential of the clarinet, given that clarinet sonatas were under-developed in the time. The interest in Brahms clarinet sonatas is placed on the significance of the clarinet sonata Op. 120 nos. 1 and 2, given that they were the most influential and incredible compositions of all time that took the Clarinet Sonata to a different level while exploring the F- minor and the A-flat major notes.

The subject of sonatas is comprehensively researched. Nonetheless, exist gaps in knowledge regarding Brahms clarinet sonatas Op. 120. No 1 and 2 in terms of the clarinet and viola versions and the impact on this piece of the clarinet sonata literature. This paper will address the gaps in literature.

Research Questions

The research questions of this study are tailored to ensure the collection of appropriate data, such that the drawn conclusion of the study may meet the objectives of the research. This study is built on four research questions. The answering of these questions enables the researcher to satisfy the aim of the research and meet all the objectives set. The questions are as follows:

  • What are the differences and similarities between the clarinet and viola versions in Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2?
  • What is the impact of Brahms’s Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2 have on clarinet literature?
  • What are the performance practices issues faced Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2?

Research Aim

This study seeks to explore all possible aspects of Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2. By doing so, the researcher aims at establishing the differences between the clarinet and viola versions this piece. In addition, the study seeks to capture the impact that Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2 had on the future and extant literature of clarinet, hence capturing the level of influence that the price had in understanding, exploitation, and development of clarinet sonata. Additionally, this research aims at gaining comprehensive understanding regarding the performance practices issues in the Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2.

Research Objectives

Objectives of the study determine the scope of the research. The objectives specify what the researcher would like to achieve at the end of the study, and directs the decision-making process in achieving these goals. The definition of research objectives eliminates time wastage and ensures that the researcher is on the right track in the data collection and compiling of the results. The research objectives reflect the information within the study, the purpose of the study, and the manner in which the information obtained will be used. The objectives of this study are as follows:

  • To understand the similarities and differences between the clarinet and viola versions in Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2
  • To understand the impact that the Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2 had on  clarinet literature
  • To gain comprehensive knowledge on the performance practices issues faced Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2

Significance of the Study

As aforementioned above, a substantial volume of studies has been conducted on the Brahms Clarinet Sonatas Op. 120. The interests in writing about Brahms work is drawn from his expertise and exemplary performance in the writing of the two sonatas that led to a significant contribution to the literature of instrumental music. The current study seeks to examine Brahms Clarinet Sonatas by reconciling the knowledge obtained from the literature in a manner that fills the existing gaps. This is carried out by observing the differences between the viola and clarinet versions as published in the Op. 120, observing the performance practice problems faced in the performance of two sonatas, and paying particular attention to the impact that the two sonatas had to the future of Clarinet literature. Nonetheless, this study also observed the history of the Sonata and the life of Brahms in conclusively to ensure an extensive understanding of the subject matter.

Brahms contribution to the literature was based on the analysis of the new scopes and directions that the study introduces to literature and the new and emergent concepts and knowledge about composition that was discovered due to his work.  The two sonatas revealed the alterations, discoveries, and extensive knowledge that Brahms had his instruments. The study draws its significance in obtaining an in-depth understanding regarding Brahms techniques, concepts, and expertise demonstrated in his work of the two sonatas. For example, he utilized the sound of identical passages that can be expressed differently according to the instrument and his ability to deliberately alteration of the composition to gain different effects.

The Structure of the Thesis

This research has four sections. The paper begins with the introduction section. The introduction provides the information that highlights the significance of the study and the reason for the thesis. The introduction is divided into five sub-sections starting with the background of the study. The other subsections are the research questions, aims, objectives, and the structure of the study.

The last section is the conclusion. This part provides a restate of the research problems, a summary of the results obtained, and the drawing of objective and valid conclusion that meets all the objectives of the study. Moreover, this section provides recommendations of the study.

The second section provides information regarding the history of sonatas. This section provides information regarding the evolution and significance of sonatas through the centuries. The history of sonatas highlights the manner in which sonatas changed with changing musical styles in different musical eras.

The third section is the most significant part of this study that provides the analysis of Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2. The section has three subsections that facilitate the optimal analysis of the subject matter. The first subsection explores the impact of the pieces on clarinet literature. The subsequent subsection analyzes the performance practices of encountered by the Brahms Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 and 2. The last subsection focuses on the comparison between viola and clarinet versions.

History of the Sonatas

A sonata is an Italian and Latin word meaning “to sound”. Sonata refers to a piece that is played as opposed to singing, in music. The term sonata became increasingly important in the classical era after remaining vague for much of the early history of music. Sonatas represented a large-scale principle of music work composition by the 19th century. Sonatas, alongside the fugue, became to fundamental methods for application in most genres of instrumental music. The two methods were used to organize, analyze and interpret concert music. Many changes have been experienced in the sonatas musical style. However, the structure of sonatas has remained the same in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Most sonatas in the Baroque period for instruments always had a continuo. A solo instrument was used to perform most of the works described as sonatas after the Baroque period. The keyboard was the most used instrument for performing sonatas, either as a solo instrument or with the combination of another solo instrument. The transition period between the late Baroque period and the early Classical era marked the performance of a combined instrument and keyboard part that was written out. The use of the keyboard part commonly known as the obbligato part subsided in the early nineteenth century. There have been compositions of sonatas for a combination of instruments, as well as sonatas designed for a solo instrument.

An establishment of two broad categories of sonatas was achieved through the works of Arcangelo Corelli. These two categories of sonatas included the Sonata da Chiesa and sonata da camera.  The Sonata da Chiesa was suitable for church use while the sonata da camera was highly suited for court use. The Sonata da Chiesa is the category that became rightly identified as Sonatas. The sonata da camera consisted of a prelude, which was succeeded by a sequence of dances. The two successive components of sonata da camera were in the same key. As much as the four to six motions of the Sonata da Chiesa were also in the same key more than often, the Sonata adopted contrasting tonality in one to two of the internal movements. Other features of the Sonata da Chiesa included an introductory part that was slow, an allegro, which was loosely figured, a slow movement cantabile and a final piece that was quite lively. These characteristics featured mostly for one of the more bass and violins. Until the composition of Arcangelo Corelli, the scheme of the Sonata da Chiesa was not clearly defined. The composer marked a period during which the Sonata da Chiesa became the essential sonata. The sonata persisted in the history of music into the19th century as a dominant tradition of violin music of the Italian nature (Brahms et al., 1950).

As much as the sonata da camera contained idealized dance-tunes, free intermixing of the features of the two categories of sonata was quickly achieved. Most of the surviving instrumental works of the period are not sonatas as sonatas only comprised about 4% of the work. The period also marked the use of the term sonata from other keyboard instruments and harpsichords solo by Domenico Scarlatti. Most of these works were composed of a single binary form motion only. Two parts often used the same thematic material and binary tempo. However, the tempo changed in some instances. The sonatas also used distant harmonic modulations and transitions and the invention and variety of the sonatas were greatly admired. Vivaldi composed more than 70 sonatas during this period. Most of the sonatas composed by Vivaldi were the solo type. Some of them were trio sonatas and only a small percentage of the sonatas were multi-voice types of sonatas. On the other hand, Domenico Paradies composed elongates and mild sonatas that not only had melodies movements, but were also graceful (Mayr, 2004).

The Classical period was a very decisive period for the practice of the sonata.  This period marked the evolution of the term sonata from a representative of forms or genres of instrumental composition to a form designated towards organizing large-scale musical compositions. The evolution of sonata during the classical period lasted around fifty years. In addition to individual movements, the application was also achieved for the layout and structure of works of multiple movements (Mayr, 2004). Multi-movement works of sonata received several names during the classical period. The names included partita, serenade, and divertimento. These names are currently regarded as sonatas. It was not until in the 1770s when such works of music became referred commonly as sonata, which became the standard name. The names became obsolete and were only used sparingly. The development of piano sonata became apparent after the term was increasingly used for instrument compositions, which involved the keyboard as a solo instrument or a combination of the keyboard with one of the other music instruments. The most used instruments in combination with the keyboard included the cello or the violin.

Common layout movement of sonatas in the classical era included the Allegro, which meant some degree of theme development and tempo. The second layout comprised of a middle movement, which was slow in nature. These movements included an Andante, Largo, Minuet, Adagio, Variations forms. A Presto of Allegro composed the closing movement. Other than the three-movement layout, a practice of two movements was used by composers such as Haydn until the 1790s. It was possible to use four movements during the early Classical period.  In this case, the composers inserted a dance movement before the slow movement. One example of that sonata is the Piano Sonata No. 8 composed by Haydn the sonatas composed by Mozart also contained three movements. Most of the piano sonatas of the classical period were of three movements. However, the four-movement layout of sonatas became increasingly popular during the classical period especially on symphonies and string quartets. Beethoven’s early sonatas demonstrated a continuation of the trend. Works with more or fewer sonatas became known as exceptions during the late classical period. Beethoven became one of the biggest composers of sonatas during the classical period. The composer set out to compose different varieties of sonatas including 32 piano sonatas, cello sonatas and sonatas for violin and piano (Lee, 2004).

The romantic era lasted from ca 1804 to ca 1910. The theorist who took an interest and codified sonata form at the time was inspired by Beethoven (Berger, 1991). His motivation dwelled  on the ability to work on from each end of the sonata form, despite the fact that he was enclosed in the fluid phrase models and a range of schematic layout that originated from Mozart and Haydn work. By approaching the sonata form from both ends, Beethoven was able to understand the totality of the structures and polish their themes in a manner that supported a predominant design. He persisted with his practice of expanding both weight and length of sonata forms utilized by Mozart and Haydn while at the same time applying the harmonics models and motives drawn from their works. His work marked the transitional ear between classical and romantic ears due to its increasing disruptive devices and rhythm features.

The romantic era was marked by the definition and institutionalization of the sonata form. Academic experts such as Adolph Bernhard described the sonata form with a normative objective of describing the manner in which the sonata form should be composed. In this time, the first movement was perceived as the peak of the musical expertise. During this period the teaching of how to write sonata forms emphasized in the first movement of the multi-movement composition. At the beginning of the beginning of the 19th century, the approach, and methods used in writing sonatas deviated from the classical style significantly. In this era, the weight of the sonata was placed on themes as opposed to positioning and location of cadences. The monothematic criterion disappeared and the themes used in the first and second groups were characterized by highly contrasting traits. The outline of the sonatas was viewed in terms of themes or group of themes used as opposed to the distinctive distinction of tonal regions rooted in cadences (Lee, 2004). The classical era created tension by establishing the expectation of a given cadence, then avoiding or delaying it. The 19th century faced a significant expansion of harmonic vocabularies to the extent that the delay and subsequent avoidance of cadences failed to create the equivalent level of unexpectedness. As a result, a number of distant keys were utilized using a wide range of approaches including the dissonant chords, textures, pedal points, and alterations of the fundamental theme.

In the previous classical era, the contrast element between themes was not deemed significant; hence it was not required. In this ear, the first them was intended to capture the tonic chord, and the second theme was intended to be cantabile in nature. As a result, the significance of harmonic contrast had a low value in the romantic era, resulting to the springing up of stereotypes of theme characters. Scholars and theorists indicated that the sonatas one with opposing themes and suggested that the initial theme should have masculine characteristics in a strident, dissonant, and rhythmic manner, while the second one would be feminine characterized by a vocal melody. The nature of the contrast captured by the rhythmic and singing aspects formed the apex of tension in the musicals. Therefore, most composers gained the belief that texture was the most crucial aspect and that tempo and contrast should emphasize on the texture of music.

The sonata form in the 19th century instilled a high level of discipline among composers and gave the audience a chance to a deeper understanding of the music through the requirement that themes move with harmony. Nonetheless, this sonata forms of tension and disharmony among composers as they had to resist their desire to combine academic rigor aspects and poetic expressions in music.  In the later stages of the romantic era, theorists and other experts discovered a sonata form had increased formalization in a manner that more movement were incorporated in the multi-movement sonata. As a result, the complexity of the sonata form increased with the progression of the 19th century (Lee, 2004). The increased complexity of the sonata form was attributed to the works of Brahms where movements were placed on circles based on the major and minor triads.

Brahms felt a strong connection with the composers of the classical period, as the romantic sonata form did not appeal to him. Consequently, Brahms took and explored Beethoven’s modulating technique and extended it to remote keys in the description, thus merging this aspect with the counterpoint element in the inner voices. For instance, his work in the piano quintet has the first part in F minor and the second part in a C sharp. He also altered the recapitulation scheme in this work as the second subject in the recapitulation is in F sharp as opposed to F minor of the initial subject.

The other source of pressure on the sonata in the romantic period is notions and works of Liszt and Wagner, proposed the integration of roving harmonies as well as unprepared chords in the structures of music so as to capture the expressive range of different keys, and get formal coherence. The results were that themes ended up with notes that were different from the original keys leading to the development of the extended tonality procedure. The extended tonality concepts influence the emerging generation of composers at the time. For example, Mahler sonata form ended up diverging from its original scheme in a dramatic manner (Brahms et al., 1950). These innovations in the sonata form resulted in sectional forms of works. Some composers such as Liszt and Bruckner started including pauses between work sections. Consequently, the length of the sonata forms increase significantly in the 1830s. Moreover, the tone poems that assumed sonata forms extended their length as compared to the traditional suggestions.

The debate over whether instrumental music should use the poetic or literary structures heated towards the end of the romantic era. A significant proposition of composers under the German school-based their works in the Liszt and Wagner compositions, arguing that the literary structure was the most appropriate inspiration for the instrumental music. On the other hand, most composers esteemed the works of Brahms, and Schumann that followed the example presented by Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn that favored the symphonic structure of instrumental music.

The modern era is marked by the separation of the sonata form from its conservative basis. The works of the modern composers such as Strauss and Debussy focused on different aspects of the musical form as opposed to the conservative major-minor format, as well as the use of chords that have no tonality aspect. While it was argued that the composers of the 1930s utilized a rhetoric term to designate a movement of themes, took the themes apart, and restored their original form. Nonetheless, even the atonal composers followed the structure used by Beethoven and Haydn irrespective of the approach and style differences (Berger, 1991). On the other hand, composers such as Britten and Prokofiev continued with the use of complex and extended tonality structures. In the modern times, minimalism has found new means of developing forms utilizing new outlines that are not founded on the harmonic style seen in the classical era. However, evidence shows that the new approaches to sonata composition exhibit a close association with the classical sonata form. An example is presented by the work of a composer named Aaron Kernis in the early 1990s.

The two Sonatas are regarded as great masterpieces in the history of the clarinet. In addition, Brahms produced a transcription for performance of the works for viola. The works were altered in a manner that was suitable to the instrument. It is documented that Brahms was quite critical of altering the two sonatas to suit the viola and described the works as unpleasant and awkward as viola sonatas. Unconfirmed evidence indicates that part of the viola composition was sent to Simrock by Brahms in March of 1895. Brahms did not have the time to dedicate to the transcription of the violin part of the sonatas consider that the deadline for publication of the clarinet sonata was approaching. However, out of dedication to Joachim, who was a violinist, Brahms managed to create time for the production of the piano and violin versions. The violin part was complete, and the piano section had substantial revisions.

Brahms composition of the Two Sonatas came in a period where the composer discovered different aspects of both the Clarinet and Viola, hence adding to the appeal of his music that was marked by a great level of prowess and an extensive knowledge of the instruments. The accomplishment of the Two Sonatas marked the beginning of the complex development of the Clarinet Sonatas. Previously, the clarinet sonata was largely exploited. Brahms became one of the pioneers of the musical form of combining the piano and the clarinet in new composition works. The Two Sonatas were the last two pieces of ingenious composition developed by Brahms before his death.

Analysis of the Two Sonatas

Comparison of the Clarinet and Viola Versions

The clarinet and viola versions of Brahms’s composition can be compared according to many criteria depicting the contents and style of alteration in each version. These criteria include the idiomatic writing, range, voice leading and melodic shape, among others.

Idiomatic Writing

Idiomatic writings exist in several examples that can represent the two sonata versions. Certain features such as chords and double stops fall under the category of idiomatic analysis of the two sonatas composed by Brahms indicates that there is a widespread use of idioms for the viola part (Brahms et al., 1950). On the other hand, it was almost impossible to apply idiomatic writing on the clarinet version of the sonatas.


An examination n of the two sonatas reveals a distinct difference in the range of the clarinet version and viola version of the sonatas. The range in the clarinet version is surpassed by the range in the viola version by two noted, which include the C3 and C3-sharp (Mayr, 2004). The difference in the range of the two versions may have played a critical role in the first movement of the Op. 120, 1, m. 66, (C3). The other two moments in which the difference in range is experienced include the first movement of the Op. 120, 2, m 85 (C3), as well as the fourth movement of the Op. 120, 1, mm. 42-43 (C3).

Melodic Shape

Addressing the issue of the melodic shape in the two sonatas is vital considering the doubt that has ensued concerning the accuracy of the publication of the two versions of the sonatas. Intervals are crucial in the melodic writing of Brahms composition. For example, there is no interchanging of rising sixths with falling thirds in such compositions as the (Piano Quartet. In addition, the composition indicates that there is no interchanging of fifths and fourths. These aspects of the melodic shapes of the two sonatas indicate a critical attention to detail resembling only a few composers in the history of music composition (Brahms et al., 1950). The viola and clarinet versions of Brahms sonatas show that the composer paid an acute attention to melodic shapes and intervallic integrity in his transcriptions. The differences in melodic shapes between the clarinet and viola versions can be illuminated by the following passages from the sonatas.

Figure 1: Melodic Shapes of the Two Sonatas

The differences in the melodic shapes of the clarinet and viola versions of the two sonatas are a clear indication that the presumed equivalence of the two sonatas is superfluous.

Voice Leading

Many music scholars who are familiar with the chamber music and symphonies composed by Brahms ought to be familiar with the voice-leading approach adopted by the romantic composer (Mayr, 2004). A selection of small passages with an indication of the voice-leading aspects of the two violas can demonstrate the approach taken by Brahms in composing the two sonatas. An examination of the Op. 120. 1, 1., mm 25-30 indicates the differences in voice leading between the clarinet and piano versions as shown in the Figure.

Figure 2: Op. 120. 1, 1., mm 25-30

A critical examination of the example indicates that there is always a coincidence between the final quartet note of the piano and that of the clarinet arpeggio represented by mm. 29 and 30. The same concept applies to mm. 34 and mm. 35. The two cases demonstrate that the mark is missed each time in the adjusted viola part (Mayr, 2004). This situation raises the query as to why the viola should not reproduce the original part of the clarinet. The interjections create the rising lines, which are quite exiting and logical at the same time, in the clarinet version of the first movement of the Op. 120/1, mm. 122-125. In addition, the m. 125 has an imitation that makes more sense.

Figure 3: Op. 120. 1, 1., mm 122-125

A critical examination of the two sonatas also indicates that the piano lines in the m.  187-201 bars are doubled by the clarinet. However, this function is not fulfilled by the later version of the viola.

Figure 4: Op. 120. 1, 1., mm 187-201

This situation leads to the loss of thematic elements in the viola in the event that it is an octave lower. One thing that is clear in the analysis of Op. 120. 1, 1st movement, mm. 213-220 is that the melodic movement in the clarinet revolves around C5. On the other hand, C4 lower violas octave is open for discussion regarding its melodic movement. A B5-flat is evident in the m. 17 of the piano’s A5 of the Op. 120. 2 as opposed to the B-4 flat. In addition the m-20 demonstrates a logical explanation of the use of the B3 flat followed by the D4 flat instead of the D3 flat. The striking element in the transcription of the clarinet and viola parts of the two Sonatas, Op. 120, 1 and 2 is the arrangement of the viola section, which was changed to obtain the attractive qualities of the viola and address the limitations encountered by musicians (Lee, 2004).

Other Striking Comparisons

As much as the quality of the clarinet and viola is similar, the two instruments have striking dissimilarities in characteristics. These differences include the subdued quality of the tone of the viola as compared to the strength and richness of the quality of the tone of the clarinet. The clarinet’s lower register is quite hollow as compare the lower strings of the viola, which demonstrate some level of warmth. In addition, the clarinet produces a relatively straight tone when compared to the vibrato experienced in the viola. Accommodating all these dissimilarities in the composition of the viola and clarinet parts of the Sonata Op. 120, 1 and 2 presents a great challenge, and marks Brahms as one of the most creative sonata composers (Berger, 1991). The expert molding of the viola version of the sonatas Op. 120 to fit the unique standards of the viola provides a model for future rangers of instrumental music. Brahms first wrote the Sonatas Op. 120 from the clarinet and the piano. The composer late rearranged the Sonatas for viola and piano. The sonatas were both published with parts for solo instruments included.

A critical review indicates that Brahms took the opportunity presented by the lower viola notes to write the notes on either a single or two octaves down from the original clarinet notes. Op. 120/1 presents an example of this feature in the fourth movement where there is one octave below the clarinet piece. Transposition of the octave was able to grab the opportunity to use the open C string. Brahms transcribed the first eight notes of the clarinet part down one octave so as to ensure that the violas part was more playable. This transposition was necessary considering that the last movement of Op. 120/2 in the clarinet part was quite high. The transcription also involved the transposition of the next four notes two octaves down. Only one octave was omitted in the next four notes. Therefore, a nice line exploitation of the range of the viola is achieved through the use of transposition of octave.

Considering that violinist are capable of playing more than one not at the same time, the advantage is captured in the arrangement of clarinet parts into viola parts through the addition of notes. Brahms applies the use of double stop in the second movement of the sonata Op. 120/2, which does not exist in the clarinet part., and triple stops for the viola part. In addition, Brahms extends the viola line for nearly thrice the measure after the stoppage of the clarinet the first movement of the Op. 120, 2, m.85 is one of the most exciting passages of Brahms composition as it renders the ideas presented by Brahms better in the viola part as compared to the clarinet part. In m, 82, the descending triples double the lower third of the piano after starting off with B4. However, the descending triplets begin with C#5 and double the upper line of the piano in m. 85. Achieving the low c#3 7 notes is not possible with A#4 as the starting point in the viola version. These conditions tend to indicate that the viola is an improvement over the clarinet due to the larger range in the viola (Bryant, 2001).

Notable difference between the viola and the clarinet versions of the two sonatas include the uniqueness in practical performances such as vibrato, range, lip pressure, volume and lip shifting. The character of each instrument composed by Brahms resulted in the production of different sounds. One of the two versions was made to borrow from one that was made innate. Whenever violinist try to play the works as a clarinet part due to loyalty to in the composition, the sound produced is always treble indicating the need seen by Brahms to arrange the original clarinet version into a viola version (Lee, 2004). There are many oppositions towards playing the viola part in the same manner as arranged by Brahms as some critics argue that violinists in the modern era posses

Brahms’ fundamental alterations of the viola part was to transform the register of various sections. Unlike in the clarinet version where he placed allegro appassionato, Brahms marked Appassionato, manon allegro for the viola version. It is believed that the alterations were made as the author heard the pieces played, which was his tradition before publishing. The version further encompassed of double stops in specific passages including mm. 140 to 150 (in the first transfer of  F-minor sonata) (figure 6); 126 to 135 in the second transfer of Eb sonata (Figure 7); and he placed an octave at mm. 84 in the third transfer of the same sonata (Figure 8)

Figures 5

Figure 6

            Figure 7

Source: (Bryant, 2001)

By deploying double pauses, more particularly in the first movement of the F minor sonata mm. 147 to 150, the author maximized the advantage of the viola’s potential, one that is more voluminous and powerful than clarinet.

Detailed Comparison of Sonata Op. 120. No. 1 in f-minor

Allegro Appassionato

An examination of the mm. 25-35 octave reveals that there were several inconsistencies of voice-leading left in the passage by Brahms in the lower octave. In addition, the imitation is obscured in the same passage. The mm. 60-67 shows that Brahms intentionally left a rhythmic version in a simplified manner with a lower octave. The composer added the octave upbeat. The addition meant that the lower c added for the viola version could not be played for the clarinet. Critics argue that this phenomenon shown that the viola version was actually an improvement on the clarinet version of the Op. 120 sonatas. In the arrangement of the mm. 92-95, Brahms altered the voice-leading for the viola version compared to the m. 40 by leaving it in the lower octave. Brahms added the chords of mm. 279-87 in mm. 79 and 86 and left it in the lower octave. In this case the clarinet was unable to play the low c while the viola has idiomatic chords (Lee, 2004).

Andante un poco Adagio

The movements lacked any alteration from the copyist of Brahms. However, Brahms eliminated slurs that were mistaken in mm. 65 -66.


The corrections made by Brahms on the copyist version contained a lower octave, which made it impossible to comprehend the voice leading and the sound became unclear for mm, 4-8 and mm72-76. As for the mm. 46-53, Brahms re-corrected the violas section back to the original version contained in the original clarinet version (Brahms et al., 1950).

Allegretto grazioso

There is an incomprehensible reasoning behind the transcription of the shape of the bars figures by Brahms in mm. 29 and 119.  The composer rewrote the 7 notes in mm. 35-36 and mm. 124-125 in the lower register.

Detailed Comparison of Sonata Op. 120. No. 2

The transcription of the original clarinet version into a viola part by the copyist and subsequent adjustments by Brahms reveal several features of the two versions. Brahms rewrote mm. 18-21 on the bottom of the page in the upper octave after their transcription into the lower octave. However, he added the chord in m. 18 after scratching the changes indecisively. The reason behind the peculiar behaviors is that the lower octaves create problems of voice-leading. Brahms extended the viola part by the addition of chords and double stops in the mm. 126-135 (Berger, 1991). In the piano part, Brahms made minor changes to the section such as eliminating the lilting and charming dotted rhythm in mm. 126-127. In addition, the addition of octave in the viola part in mm 84-85 seems to have been conducted by Brahms.

In m. 17, the A5 of the piano resolves to B5-flat instead of B4-flat. The same logic applies to the following of the D4-flat instead of the D3-flat ass seen with the behavior of the B3-flat. The viola renders the ideas of Brahms better than the piano as seen in the exciting passage of the first movement of Op. 120, 2, m. 85. An examination of the passage indicate that the doubling of the lower third of the piano is preceded by a pattern of descending triples as seen in m. 82. The C#5 marks the beginning of the descending triplets in m. 85 and the doubling occurs in the upper line of the piano. The alternative would have been a copy of the viola version, which begins with the A#4. However, the situation would prevent it from reaching the low 7notes of C#3. This analysis indicates that the viola version is an improvement considering that it has a larger range.

Figure 8: Op. 120. 2, 1., mm 79-86

A further analysis indicates that the transition of parts as shown in the first movement of Op. 120, 2, mm. 38-40 leads to lack of clarity in volce leading ehen presented in the same fashion as in the passage.

Figure 9: Op. 120. 2, 1., mm 38-40

The Uniqueness of the Viola Sonata as Compared to the Clarinet

The viola part composed by Brahms was quite attractive considering that it had a unique timbre that instilled a lot of intimacy to the chamber works. On the other hand, the clarinet part, which was initially composed, was more of a soloist sonata composition.  Brahms had a massive role of play in the history of instrumental music by pioneering the treatment of two different musical instruments as having an equal contribution to the sublime whole. This treatment enabled the consideration of alternative instruments making the consideration reasonable for later use by composers and arranger of instrumental music. The same treatment led to the composition of violin and piano parts from the clarinet sonata. The creating of the piano and viola parts was massively received and has a huge following.

Numerous popular performers around the world have acquired their position due to performing the viola sonata, which has origins in the late works of Brahms. There performers demonstrate great intimacy and deep feeling while performing the piano and viola versions of the two sonatas transcribed by Brahms. Modern performers perform in partnerships that include violinists and pianists who combine to play the same sonata written in different versions for the two instruments to great effect. Performers such as Lawrence Power and Simon Crawford claim that the sonatas are a measure of fine music performance considering that the different versions of the two sonatas for different instruments provide instrumentalists with a wide spectrum of tone through Brahms range. Performers of the two versions of the sonatas provide convincing case regarding the arrangement of the original clarinet version to viola and piano versions (Berger, 1991). The viola and piano versions demonstrate some level of sensitivity, full imagination and ample phrasing as far as performance is concerned. Great performers invoke the deepest feeling when performing the different versions of the sonatas.

The darker tones of the viola parts of the two Op. 120 sonatas are well-suited by the essential elements contained in the viola parts of the sonata in F minor. The viola indicates the main theme a short while after a brief introduction by the piano. Arpeggio figurations are hen added to the melody section of the piano version. Further thematic materials are introduced in the autumnal mood. The viola suggests poignancy, which combines with the full texture of the piano to carry Andante un poco adagio into a slow movement after marking the completion of the first movement. Broken semiquaver chords are introduces in the piano figuration with the descent of a flat major melodic chords at the beginning. There is a continuation of the allegretto grazioso continues with the relative major key. In this movement, the lower range of the viola is explored against the syncopation of the piano. The A major opening is then returned. The Vivace is the final F major which stars in the piano part a theme that meets the criteria of the initial direction is offered in the sonata in E flat major. Of the Op.120, 2. The second subject material continues with a mood developed and recapitulated is a woven feature of the writing of Brahms. There is a gently ending of the movement followed by an Allegro appassionato, which is a scherzo form common for Brahms pieces of work.

Performance Practice Problems Analysis on Brahms Sonata for Clarinet Piano, Number 1 Op. 120

Brahms’ work provides insight about the variant sounds that explore the breath of sonority that the clarinet can attain. “Brahms’ first Sonata Clarinet and Piano” is a clear example of scholarly attempts to explore the ranging timbers the clarinet presents. Nonetheless, the premise offers emotive differences from the perspective of the sonata. There are various themes of disaster contrasted with dance-like, successful themes, giving the player a puzzling yet passionate experience (Baines, 1991).

The first sonata for piano and clarinet presents the listener with two, rather contrasting characteristics each experienced in different sets of movements. The first characteristic is notable in the first two movements while the second one is heard in the third and fourth movement. The somber and the grave mood depicted in the second and first movements presents a void of sadness that entangle the performer as the performance continues. The characteristic (mood) is then juxtaposed in the subsequent movements (the third and fourth movements) where the dance-like theme is introduced and extended. It is, rather interesting that the, once sad mood, transcends to a triumphant conclusion.

The contrast between the two stances is specifically challenging. According to Clarke (2002), the characteristics of the first and the second movement clash thereby presenting challenges as the performer plays the movements in quick succession of each other. The difficulty sets in because the two movements present contrasting moods. Brymer (2004), for example, argues that while the short consideration or pause between the two movements provides the optimum way to play the two movements in quick succession of each other, it is difficult to achieve a complete change of mood in such a short duration.  The current section intends to provide a performance commentary by focusing on four specific topic each presenting significant elements to facilitate the realization of a comprehensive interpretation of the theme in question.

Brahmas’ opus 120 is composed of two sonatas (sonata number 1 and sonata number 2) for clarinet and piano. The author discussed and researched the nature of the clarinet and the clarinet repertory is depth with Muhifeld. The research is evident throughout the development of the clarinet line under the sonata. The melody is scripted in the clarion register and in noted forte. The clarion register of the clarinet is regarded as the strongest and the melody is compatible with the phase (refer to Figure 1).  Melody is placed under the clarinet line.

Figure 10: Example: Brahms Sonata for Clarinet and Piano

Source: (Baines, 1991)

There are numerous varying opinions about the nature of Muhlfeld’s playing, especially about the use of vibrator in playing clarinet. The arguments give insight to the debate to determine which between non-vibrato and vibrato is superior on wind instruments.

English performances find Muhlfeld’s sound moderately “strong”. The argument enforces the notion that the English school of playing was extremely different from the German school of playing and that players need to appreciate German music in order to perform Brahms’ music to the author’s intention (Mayr, 2004). It is, therefore, justifiable to play the composer’s work with slight vibrato. Worth noting, however, is the difference between the boxwood clarinet that Muhlfeld would have used and the Boehm system Granadilla wood clarinet.  The latter, for example, allows the performer to produce a warm, yet large tone that differs from the thinner and brighter tone the boxwood clarinet produces. According to Brymer (2004), it is extensively difficult to attain a “warm tone” on boxwood clarinet.

The deployment of vibrato is rare and considered unfashionable in current performances. Most literatures justify Muhlfeld’s use of vibrato as an attempt to achieve a warmer ‘Germanic’ or as a consequential result of Muhlfeld’s background as a violist. Nonetheless, vibrato is today used to make an effect and is not recommended for general sounds Brymer (2004) argues that it diminishes the delivery of conviction). The variation in the nature of vibrato used by most renowned clarinetists from the 1950 further complicate the process of choosing the nature of vibrato for a performance. The most popular clarinetists of the time allied a range of vibratos include a quick, heavy and a slow and warm vibrato that creates different tones (Baines, 1991). Players who honor Brahms’ works find it challenging in their attempt to strike a balance between the authors’ intentions, current attitudes towards vibrato, and the wide range of potential vibratos to be used in performances. Deploying vibrato that is too heavy hides the beauty of the melody and that such can only be applied in long tones. Figure 2 is an exemplification of the argument.

Figure 11

The nature of the F minor key of the first sonata provides insight of Brahms’ wishes wish to associate the key with a rhetorical, compassionate expression. The information enlightens the player about the character that the sonata intends to reflect. The first movement’s first subject experienced in the opening bar of the piano accomplishes the effect. The idea that Brahms uses the subject of the piano in movement may seem unorthodox from a face-value. However, it is arguably acceptable to perceive the act as a reminder that the sonata was composed both for piano and clarinet and that the instruments suffer equal considerations and preferences. The clarinet lacks the first subject up to bar 19 (Figure 3).

Figure 12

Source: (Baines, 1991)

The configuration of the allegro appassionato movement is in the form of a clear sonata-allegro. The author’s treatment of the subjects included in the movement allows the performer to interpret and know the pieces, and understand the manner in which the musical line moves and the instruments that has the primary line. The examination of the correlation the piano and clarinet parts aid players’ performance (clarinet is a chamber piece). The connection of the two parts creates a significantly intimate feeling, as though the audience were “eavesdropping’ on the performance (Baines, 1991).

Striking a balance between the two instruments is the prime consideration for there to be a successful performance. As such, performance must have a vast awareness of the contours of all the phases in all the parts. Nonetheless, challenges are likely to set in bar 193 where the typical beat of the bar is stolen by the piano part (Bryant, 2001). Here, the clarinet line sustains a stable crochet rhythm amounting to a polyrhythmic effect. As such, the listener may not note Brahms’ traditional use of polyrhythm to move the accented beat of the bar without affecting the flow of music line. Regardless, the performers has to maintain the clarity of the beat in the duplet against the triplet rhythm. Figure five gives further explanations.

Figure 13

Source: (Bryant, 2001)

Performance Practice Problems Analysis on Brahms Sonata for Clarinet Piano, Number 2 Op. 120

The sonata Op.120 number 2 is among the two sonatas that Brahms wrote about clarinet and piano. The sonata is characterized by a glowing warmth that pervades its first movement. The warmth of the first step matches perfectly with the words of its title (amiable; meaning loving, tender or sweet). The second movement, also termed as the central movement, is slightly diverting scherzo typical of the author’s intermezzi both for his chamber works and solo piano. The trio  parts of the second sonata’s ternary forms assumes a more somber character with music of a dignified demonstration, nearly hymn-like, prior to the return of the initial theme, somewhat recast and transformed to take on specific solemnities of the trio. The final stage sets in with a glowing warmth similar to the first movement. The movement is integrated with a graceful promenade of the trio suggesting a complex work of integrated character with limited contrasts. Nonetheless, the final step turns out to be a theme for creating a group of vibrations with a wishful, almost dreamy character once again presenting the gentle charm of the last piano intermissions and the final clarinet notes.

The magnitude of literatures evaluating Brahms’ music is growing. Nonetheless, extremely few writers address the performance issues involved. Nonetheless, one issue that tend to emerge whenever performance practice is mentioned: the metric dispositioning in Brahms’ clarinet and horn trios. Among the major postulations is that nuances of phrasing, tone and dynamic can have a catastrophic impact on the presented accent pattern of a metrically vague passage. Meanwhile, the manner in which performers read metric cues in the score may have identical effects on the full complex of the physical activity that developed an expressive presentation. It is most challenging for performers to decide whether articulate the notated metre in face of contrasting signals or permit the signal of the displacement to remain open and dominate. Typically, the answer is dependent on the performer’s own interpretation and test and partly on particular metric context (Adrian, 1990).

Brahms’ work is exceptionally continuous. In the second movement (also termed as the middle movement) of Op. 120, Number 2, however, the level of continuity of the composition is called into question at numerous key movements. The mentioned discontinuities crop up with phrases, between other phrases, and the most significant dimensions of form. It is of significance importance that analysis expose the marked movements, draw a speculation on Brahms’ comprehension of the discontinuities as suggested by performance indicators, and discuss the manner in which the awareness of the presents contrast between discontinuity and continuity can influence local performance decisions.

The allegro appassionato transfer functions like as scherzo, and encompasses the traditional ABA format with both B and A sections in rounded binary format. Closer evaluation unravels a particular attainment of rounded binary form in the A section as in bars 1 to 80. The music solidity returns to tonic chord in key of Eb minor at bar 27. However, the thematic reprise delays until bar 37. As such, Brahms’ music not only separates the moments of thematic and tonal returns infrequently, but almost always does so by postponing the tonal return until the beginning of the thematic return. As such, the movement permits the reverse to occur and the bars the thematic reprise and the tonal return are a crucial passage for the performer and analysts.

There are numerous varying perceptions on the tonal role of the bars between the thematic reprise and the tonal return. One of them is a prolongation interrelation in the middle of Eb-minor chords in bars 27 and 37. As exemplified in figure below (figure 10), bars 27 up to 36 give a motion configuration from I to V through an extension of the submediant (Adrian, 1990). The E-minor chord sustains the prolongation span started at bar 27. The interpretation can be justified as a contrast between thematic design and tonal structure (between the ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ form), but experiencing the entrance on E-minor at bar 37 as the return of the middle-ground prolongation instead as the introduction of a fresh one is not auditory convincing. The second alternative is to comprehend the E-minor introduction as bar 27 as ending the span on tonic harmony from the start of the movement.

Figure 14

Source: (Adrian, 1990)

The reading allows the Eb-minor chord that tallies with the thematic repeat to start the middle-ground prolongation span, but brings equal satisfaction as the first interpretation as a result of the closure role assigned to bar 27. The listener (at bar 27) is ready for the thematic repeat, the clarinet could have connected the Bb to Gb movement and recall the starting melody. Interpreting the bars as parenthetical to the tonal structure of the movement answers the contrasts in other tonal structure models. Nonetheless. The Eb-minor introductions are the same tonal event at bar 27 and 37 if the bars are interpreted as structural parenthesis. They fail to enter into a prolongation correlation with each other as they represents an identical moment in musical time. As from the listener’s perspective, the form of musical movement that had been continuing since the beginning of the movement is postponed in bar 27 and returns only after Eb-minor harmony is retained in bar 37.

Components of harmony, hypermeter, and thematic facilitate a parenthetical function for bar 27-36. From harmony’s perspective, the bars have a diminishing foray into submediant. Apart from the mode mixture, Brahms fails to introduce the submediant harmony via traditional passing bass movement. The passing scale 7 is often the bass note for inverted dominant (V34) of the submediant. Brahms introduces the submediant’s dominant in the same bar pushing the bass a semitone Fb rather than descending to Db. It cannot escape the current premise’s attention that Brahms avoids putting Db in the bass, but deploys all other notes in the Gb­7­ –harmony as a bass note. From a thematic perspective, the clarinet attempts to start the opening melody twice but is unable to go on (Adrian, 1990).

Influence of Brahms Two Sonatas on the Future of Clarinet Literature

Brahms work was highly esteemed and was a significant a part of the clarinet literature in 1960s. His work on the two sonatas was used to represent the ultimate challenge and benchmark the Clarinet performance of the time. His technique soared above of the expertise of other clarinetists as he encountered numerous of professional clarinetists and learned from them as he become are of the diverse abilities of the instruments. As a result, he held indisputably his contribution led to the breakthrough in understanding and exploring the full potential of the violin and the piano as he held extensive knowledge of all time, and shared the knowledge with the world through his performances and publications (Brymer, 2004).

In addition, his sensitivity, keen, and observant nature enabled him to gain profound understanding diverse aspects of instrumental music that has contributed to the development of literature. His contribution allowed the literature to capture the technical and tonal aspects of the instrument and highlight the capacity of capacity of solo performance. Brahms two sonatas form the cornerstone of the Clarinet literature presenting a revolutionary art piece characterized by freshness and originality. Brahms was able to defy tradition and treat both the piano and the viola melodically without making the piano as a subordinate instrument. He established a constant dialog between the two instruments propelling the music such that the pulse did not coincide with the bar line (Baines, 1991).

Brahms last composition of the two clarinet sonatas had a significant impact on the future of Clarinet literature. His works expanded the perception of future composers and enabled them to experiment and explore the full capabilities of the viola and piano in an attempt to produce extraordinary instrumental music Brymer (2004). In addition, he influence the future literature of the Clarinet in a manner that the composers were more open to change and were open to the idea of adopting the best parts of music from different errors instead of disregarding ancient of present sonata forms by abiding rigidly to a personal sense of the best styles. This is because Brahms was able to produce exemplary piece of work by utilizing both classical era and romantic period aspect of the sonata form and produced the two sonatas that have claimed a prestigious position in the history of instrumental music (Adrian, 1990).

Brahms work of the two sonatas had a profound influence on the clarinet literature of the modernist and conservative tendencies. The features of his work persisted in the literature over time as they were absorbed in the works of other composers in a complex and synthesis and demonstrated in other contemporary fashions by composers such as Rott, Berger, and Schmidt among others. The future of clarinet literature utilizes the Brahms techniques to enrich the harmony as well as to ensure a complete exploration of the instruments’ remote tonal regions. His other contribution to Clarinet literature is that he highlighted the value of discipline in sticking with the what a person understand and values by identifying limitation in compositions. For example, he maintained his classical order as opposed to the value placed on the contrast as most composers of his time (Bryant, 2001) .

He implemented an element of thematic unity in his work, which was subsequently recognized as a significant aspect of quality music. Even though, he applied diverse thematic and melodic content, he was able to incorporate several universal components that appealed to most composers, as the significance of universal elements in composition was indisputable in the future of clarinet literature. He introduced the principle of metamorphosis in his piece, which allowed diversity of characters in the composition; while at the same time; maintain the inner unity in the musical works. As such, he enabled the future composers to implement complex interrelationships among motives and themes in the formal and informal structures of their composition, resulting in the development of a comprehensive, rich, and detailed literature (Baines, 1991).

The sonatas’ original score has a significant contribution to the literature of the clarinet as it offered useful knowledge regarding composition techniques to new scholars. The inscriber’s copies of the innate score, the solo section, and the viola section Brahms arranged are currently found in the literature used for teaching young and talented composers regarding clarinet sonatas. Given that Brahms associated himself actively with his music publication process throughout his life, his work has been put down to literature and in most cases, revised in a manner that suits the evolving curriculums in schools. Students, but also established composers do not only use his contribution to the development of knowledge regarding the clarinet literature, as they use his work for the purposes of references and skill enhancement as well. Nonetheless, researchers such as Adrian (1990) and Baines (1991) argue that a substantial volume of knowledge that would have further enhanced the extant clarinet literature was lost as Brahms had a routine of destroying his initial works that he thought were not up to his standards. His tendency to destroy his initial work was attributed to his perfectionist personality.


The questions regarding the accuracy of the music al text concerning the different versions of the Two Sonatas, Op. 120, 1 and 2 led to several analyses and continuation of the transcription of the clarinet works into piano and viola parts. Researchers have a chance and responsibly to evaluate the facts and arrive at a conclusion. The analysis gives the public a rare opportunity of hearing the original works of Brahms according to his intentions for the musical compositions. Research shows that Brahms Clarinet Sonatas Op. 120 no. 1 and 2 (for the piano and violin) have a significant range of similarities and difference. Nonetheless, these two pieces display extensive knowledge of composition, expertise, and creativity that contributes significantly to the development of the Clarinet literature. These findings also reveal that Brahms experienced a significant volume of challenges in his performance practice of the two sonatas. However, he was able to overcome, and in some cases, found a reasonable way of dealing with these challenges due to his experience and expertise in the composition and performance of instrumental music. The analysis of the two versions of sonatas places displays Brahms inventiveness and discipline in his composition as he was able to alter and explore different and unexplored aspects of his instruments, while observing the basic principles of instrumental music composition.

The analysis indicates that Brahms stands as one of the best composers of instrumental music in the world considering his attention to aspects of melodic shape and intervallic integrity. In addition, the viola version appears to be an improvement in composition as Brahms designs it to suit the instruments thus removing typical problems such as unclear voice-leading and melodic movement.


Adrian, J., ‘The Ternary Form’, Journal of Music Theory, 34/1 (Spring, 1990) 57-80.

Baines, A., ‘The Clarinet’, Woodwind Instruments and Their History (Dover, 1991) 123.

Berger, M. (1991). Guide to sonatas: Music for one or two instruments. New York: Anchor Books.

Brahms, J., Brahms, J., Brahms, J., & Brahms, J. (1950). Two sonatas for ‘cello and piano ; Two sonatas for clarinet (or viola) and piano. New York: Lea Pocket Scores.

Bryant, M., ‘The Clarinet on Record’, The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet, ed. Lawson C. (Cambridge, 2001) 204-209.

Brymer, J., ‘Vibrato’, Clarinet (London 2004) 204-208.

Clarke, E., ‘Understanding the psychology of performance’, Musical Performance: A guide to Understanding ed. Rink, J.

Lee, K. (2004). An analysis and comparison of the clarinet and viola version of the two sonatas for clarinet (or viola) and piano OP. 120 by Johannes Brahms. Cincinnati, Ohio: University of Cincinnati.

Mayr, R. (2004). Of violins, violas and others : aspects of scoring in the symphonic works of the great masters (part 6) : chronicles. Musicus, 32, 2, 28-81.

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