The Interpretation of the Music of the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries Arnold Dolmetsch
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THE INTERPRETATION OF THE MUSICOF THE
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THE INTERPRETATION OF THE MUSICOF THE
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INTRODUCTION.musical notation began, in the early part of the nth century, the pitch of the notes was indicated by square dots upon a stave. There were no signs to denote the different lengths of sounds. The rhythm of the song had to be taught orally, as well as its tempo, phrasing, and ornamentation. Gradually, special shapes were given to the notes, to indicate their relative duration. Time-signatures, ligatures, signs for the various ornaments, and all the other necessary devices came gradually to complete the system. For nine hundred years notation has progressed, and still it is far from perfect. are not often conscious of this with regard to modern music, for most of what we wish to play is already known to us from previous hearing and when it is not, the style of the music is familiar enough to enable us to interpret the written text correctly without having to think much about it. But future generations will find difficulties and doubtful interpretations where all seems clear to us.
hundred years ago people wrote their music still than we do now, so that if we want
play in the original style a composition of Beethoven, for example, we find the text incomplete
imitative interpretation perplexing, for the leading players of our time do not agree in their readings.
indeed be an unquestionable tradition for a period comparatively so recent, since people are now living who could have learned to play Beethoven's music from someone who had Time, heard the composer himself play it. however, has already obscured these memories.
we go back half-a-century further, the difficulties become greater. We come to the time is now called " Old Music " was merely when whatIf.
which is now in progress, the attention of musicians was so completely withdrawn from this " Old Music " that no tradition of it survived. The tradition now claimed by some players only goes back to the early pioneers of the present revival, who knew much less about it than we do now. Reliable information is to be found only in those books of instruction which the old musicians wrote about their own art. Happily there are many such, well filled with precepts, examples, andphilosophical considerations. In order to get a comprehensive view of the subject, we must analyse and compare all available documents. No single author gives full light on every point, even concerning his own works. The thing we most want to know is frequently exactly what has been left out or passed over lightly. The author, perhaps, considered it too simple or too well known to require any explanation. In such cases we must look elsewhere for the desired
knowledge and if no single document gives it, we must attempt to deduce it from a combination of sources. There is no lack of material for our studies, and it is well it should be so, for we have
to learn. Until far into the 18th centuryseveral important problems were left to the player. Thus, before we can play properly a piece of old music we must find out:
the Tempo, which frequently
indicated in any
Secondly, the real Rhythm, which very oftendiffers in practice
from the written text
Thirdly, the Ornaments and Graces necessaryfor the
adornment of the musictofill
up the Figured Basses accompaniments.
These various problems will be considered here, But the student should first try and prepare his mind by thoroughly understanding what the Old Masters felt about their own music, what impressions they wished to convey, and, generally, what was the Spirit of their Art, for on these points the ideas of modern musicians are by no means clear. A number of quotations from old books whose authority is not open to question are gathered They are most together in the first chapter. interesting and helpful, and will show how erroneous is the idea, still entertained by some, that expression is a modern thing, and that the old music requires nothing beyond mechanical precision.in turn.
however, before beginning this study, to clear our mind of prejudice and preconceived ideas, and put aside intolerant modernity or else we may, as others have done, corrupt and twist about the meaning of even the clearest statement. should take warning from the 1 8th century connoisseurs, who declared Gothic architecture barbarous, or the early 19th century art critics, who could see no beauty in pre-Raphaelite art.It is advisable,
TABLE OF CONTENTS.TAGE
The Tempo of Dance MovementsCHAPTERIII.:
Conventional Alterations of RhythmSectionI.... ... ...
The Shake or The Tremolo, Close Shake IV. Mordent, Beat. OpenII.
93 154 196
The Elevation, Double Backfall,Wholefall, Bearing VII. The Springer Spinger). Accent. Acute. Sigh VIII. The"Anschlag" or Doppelsvorschlag IX. The Arpeggio. Battery. Broken Chord X. Expressive Rests XI. Tempo Rubato XII. Acciaccatura, Pince Etouffe Zusammenschlag, Tatto XIII. Compound Ornaments XIV. DivisionsVI.Slide,
The Turn, Single Relish(or
CHAPTERPosition and Fingering...
CHAPTERThe Musical InstrumentsSectionI.
of the Period 419433
III. The Organ IV. The Lute
436 437 444 452453
VI. The Viola d'amore VII. The Violins ... VIII. The Wood-Wind Instruments IX. The Brass Instruments
Combinations of Instruments
EXPRESSION.book which from its title could hardly be suspected of containing matter of interest for our subject, but does nevertheless contain most valuable information, is " L'Art du Facteur d'Orgues," by Dom Bedos de Celles, a Benedictine monk, who published it in 1766. An important part of this book treats of " La Tonotechnie," which is the art of pricking music upon the cylinder of self-playing instruments. This art was brought to a very high degree of perfection in the 18th century. Its aim was to reproduce with absolute precision the execution of the music as intended by its composer. It thus of gives us indications almost mathematical accuracy on tempo, rhythm, and ornaments. The following phrase, taken from this book at page 596, could well serve as motto to the present work " There is a manner of conceiving Music entirely different from the one taught in all the Treatises upon this Art; it is founded upon the execution'
In a footnote on the same page, speaking of previous writers on his subject, the author says " They have not said a word about the ornaments, nor of the combination of silences, held and touched notes to form the articulations of the music, &c. of the distinction between first and second quavers, and of the crotchets, &c. of their inequality, &c. all these observations are, however, essential, and form the essence of beautiful execution as practised by the most famous organists, and as I have had the occasion to remark in several pieces which Mr. Balbastre, a very skilful organist, has been so ." kind as to play for me. The imperfections of musical notation could not be pointed out more clearly. The explanations with which musicians have endeavoured from time to time to palliate these imperfect