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Baroque bows

Performing: Performance with a baroque bow.

From Jonathan Stuchell
Posted December 14, 2005 at 12:48 AM

I am interested in the baroque bows, but want to know more about their playing characteristics before I buy one. I know that full true chords
are attainable, but can one play loudly ?
It seems generally to be a p-mf tool. Anyone who
is familiar with how they handle and sound please
give me your thoughts. Thanks.

From Jonathan Stuchell
Posted on December 14, 2005 at 08:13 PM
Anyone?
From Alvin Chen
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 02:50 AM
It's more difficult to play louder. The one I played with was shorter and actually lighter. I didn't get to mess around with it much, but that's what I noticed most from it.
From Gennady Filimonov
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 03:21 AM
Jonathan,
Baroque is a very broad term.
There are new bows today that are made in models of Early Baroque and the post 1700 models.
There is the Corelli-Tartini model, the Cramer Model, the transitional models before the Viotti model.
The Viotti model became the ideal for the modern bow.

There is a lot of great & interesting literature on the use of the bow (and types of bows used at the time) from Geminiani, 1751; L. Mozart, 1756; L'Abbé le fils, 1761; Labadens, 1772; Löhlein, 1774; Reichardt, 1776; Corrette, 1782; Schweigl, 1786; Crome, 178-; Hiller, 1795; Bailleux, 1796; Cartier, 1798; and Bornet, ca. 1807.

The basic bow stroke of the Transitional period was the 'non-legato' stroke. Because of the 'give' of the hair, the bow does not produce the full tone immediately at the beginning of the stroke, but only after some finger pressure has been exerted. There is a momentary softness followed by a crescendo in each stroke.


In general, there were fewer varieties of attack than in modern bowing, but there were greater nuances within the stroke itself.

I have a Corelli-Tartini model bow that is very strong and fun to play with.
They are also less expensive than the bows we are used to playing with.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 03:43 AM
I have been using my teacher's baroque bow for a few weeks now. It is lighter than what I have now, and much shorter. You play more on the frog end. Chords are simple to do, and it does have a small lag getting to f. I like it much more than my normal bow for playing Bach. I gives those Bach 'drones' the character it needs.

If you manage to find a good one for under $1K, let me know where. I'd like to get one myself, but all I've seen is either low end ($100) or over $1K ++++ not much in the middle range.

From Larry Snyder
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 01:38 PM
Gennady, seeing Reichardt's name in your list of authors of violin treatises was a delightful surprise. I know him as a composer of Singpiele and Lieder (of which his daughter Luise also wrote some remarkable examples), and a friend to Goethe and other intellectuals of the time, but had missed his starting out as a violin prodigy. What is the title of his work on the violin? Was it influential in its time? Thank you.
From Gennady Filimonov
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 05:21 PM
Larry,
Here is some info.:
Musikalisches Kunstmagazin von Johann Friederich Reichardt ... Erster - zweyter Band. I-IV (V - VIII) Stück. Berlin, im Verlag des Verfassers, 1782 - 1791.
CALL NUMBER: ML 4 .M52 1782

He must have been an influential figure for he was also known for endorsing aspects of Leopold Mozart's violin method:
Mozart's rules on where to shift were endorsed by writers such as Reichardt (1776), Galeazzi (1791), Campagnoli (c1797) and Woldemar (1801).

From Aldon Sanders
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 06:12 PM
Are four-note chords a normal thing with a baroque bow or is it generally used for three-note chords?

I'm fascinated and tempted to give one a try......

From Mike Harris
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 06:22 PM
Gennady,
thanks for the enlightenment. I love that gradual surge of sound, didn't know the reason behind it. Is it silly to create that effect artificially with a modern bow (in Baroque music)?
Why would the Baroque bows be cheaper? Less labor-intensive?
From Jonathan Stuchell
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 06:36 PM
Yes Aldon , true 3 and 4 note chords can be played using a baroque bow. With the modern Italianate bow, we are only playing arpeggios. Thats why I want a baroque bow to play Bach, Telemann, and certainly
Biber and experience first-hand the intended sound. I encourage everyone to check out www.earlymusic.org , and order the magazine. I would think they would be more expensive, I ordered a snakewood model from Shar.
From Larry Snyder
Posted on December 15, 2005 at 06:55 PM
Thank you, Gennady. The local University library lists the Reichardt volume in reprint from Georg Olms, so I can take a look for myself next time I get over there.
From 'Erie Weber
Posted on December 16, 2005 at 11:06 PM
I tried the Baroque bows from Shar. Don't bother... the quality matches the price.

'Erie (-:

From Peter Rovit
Posted on December 20, 2005 at 01:48 AM
Real Baroque bows feel much "softer" than modern bows and you can't use them to play simultaneous 3 or 4 note chords.

Once we've learned how to use them the main differences are:

1) They're much lighter than modern bows which makes fast passages with string crossings much easier to negotiate.

2) Because they're softer, you get a softer range of articulations. One thing I really like about this is that I can play fast passages with plenty of energy, but the there is still a roundness to the sound and the articulations--whereas playing in the same way on a modern bow would give it a certain "edge".

As Erie mentioned, cheap no-name bows are probably not worth you money or time.
There are some good Baroque bow makers around and you can get a nice bow for a good bit less than modern bow makers are charging.
I have a Baroque bow by Ralph Ashmead which I like.
If anyone is interested, here's a site with some contact info on Baroque bow makers:

http://www.vanzandtviolins.com/early-bowmakers.htm

From Bram van Melle
Posted on December 26, 2005 at 07:20 AM
Saying that baroque bows "swell" in sound because they have a soft attack is something of a fallacy I think. This theory was put by Dent in his (outdated) book on baroque music style, many years ago. It very much depends on the player's technique.

A player trained in a modern "elbow-up", pressure on the bow, style would find that a baroque bow does not have the attack of a modern bow. Baroque technique comes more from the wrist *and fingers* of the right hand. In general, the attack using this technique should be very sharp - more so than with a modern bow.

The gut strings mean you have to have a very slow bow stroke, and the stroke has to be intiated from the fingers. The way I was taught to practice was:

1) to put the bow stationary on the strings
2) depress the stick until the wood rests on the hair (the knuckles should be "flat" in this position).
3) "release" the pressure while beginning the stroke with the fingers / wrist.
4) then repeat on the next note, alternating up and down bows.

Use one the Corelli 16th note allegros for this practice.

If you practice this technique for a week or two (or even a few minutes at the beginning of your practice session) you will find that the bow suddently seems to "engage" the string much more positively, and that you have a more powerful ("concentrated"?) sound. The slow bow stroke means that you get a very intense and focussed timbre.

The baroque bow does not have the "power" of the modern bow played with a modern technique: But that is not the point. Baroque music works on a smaller scale - The detail and phrasing is from note to note, rather than bar to bar (if that make sense?) Less of a "sweep" and more of a "plucking" and deliberate placing of notes.

If you try approaching it this way you may be surprised what you can acheive in apparent volume (but I think "intensity" is a better way of looking at it). Have fun.

PS: As to playing 3 or 4 note chords on a baroque bow, the so-called "Bach" bow was a rather literal interpretation of the look of bows in old engravings... All I can say on that, is try playing Bach on a violing that looks literally like the violins in old engravings...

From Joao Paz
Posted on December 26, 2005 at 03:44 PM
Hi Bram van Melle,

Glad you brought your point of view. I've been training on my baroque violin/bow for a month now, and one of the first things I noticed was that you could easilly get some sharp attack sounds and that bouncing bow strokes like the spicatto or the collée can be accomplished easilly... and this kinda goes against much of what I've been reading; I am not denying the softer articulations of this setup (I think it is not only a bow thig, but also the strings and the violin) but simply saying that the opposite is also true.

I don't know how much of a myth that is - as also Leopold Mozart referred to it, for instance, to the "small softness" at the beggining and ending of each stroke.

My playing experience with the baroque setup is fairly limited, but I've been listening and analysing the baroque sounds and technique for many years now - cds, videos, dvds, concerts ... whatever I can grab! - and, as an example, one of the things that characterizes the Fabio Biondi/Europa Galante sound on Vivaldi is the extremely percurssive approach.

The gut strings have - in my opinion - a much higher grip than the regular wounded strings, and if this is true for my left hand fingers why not to bow hair, too? And, a higher grip favors a bow stroke like the collée.....

Keep the thread rolling ;)


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