'The only good vibrato, is the one that can lead a current'

September 21, 2011 at 09:53 PM ·

Quote for discussion :)

Replies (26)

September 21, 2011 at 11:28 PM ·


I believe the original quote was from Bach:

`The only good vibrato is one that can lead a Courante.`



September 22, 2011 at 12:15 AM ·

 Whew, that makes (a bit) more sense.

September 22, 2011 at 02:15 AM ·

Oh, I don't know - what about alternating current? 

September 22, 2011 at 02:37 AM ·

I thought that's "lead a light brigade"!

September 23, 2011 at 08:14 AM ·

@ Buri, I did not know there existed vibrato in Bach's time :)

September 23, 2011 at 10:13 AM ·

 No need.  Too many organ works.

September 23, 2011 at 11:35 AM ·

Actually there is written reference to vibrato in string instruments in the 1500's!

And now for some real wisdom:

"You may lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead!" - Stan Laurel, noted philosopher

September 23, 2011 at 02:29 PM ·

funny how i fail to appreciate how vibrato can lead courante, and yet, i can totally identify vibrato with electrical current:)

September 23, 2011 at 02:38 PM ·

...if the strings were wired up to ac then vibrato may become automatic and unavoidable?

September 23, 2011 at 04:37 PM ·

 @Raphael--I'll have to remember that for my college students.  Lead/led, lose/loose are two of the favorite errors (along with the females who seem to think 'a women' is the singular for our gender; the guys generally get that one right).

September 23, 2011 at 07:48 PM ·

 Majory, those are all interesting phenomenon.

September 23, 2011 at 10:53 PM ·

 Can we all agree to keep both the AC and the DC away from our organs?

September 23, 2011 at 11:06 PM ·

maybe we are missing some words here ie:lead to a current trend.As we know historically vibrato is developing as a technique.Barely used in the baroque era it has become an additional colour, a must for evey violinist.The current trend must surely be to elaborate the vibrato,to  oscilate and create even wider posiibilities of tone colour. 

September 24, 2011 at 12:56 AM ·

 I'm still curious about what the original quotation about good vibrato leading a courante meant originally.  What is there about a courante that is particularly related to vibrato (more than a sarabande, gigue, or allemande)?

September 24, 2011 at 02:54 AM ·

lol, Marjory! Do you also notice how few people now-a-days seem to know when to say "I" and when to say "me'?

Janet - Leoplold Mozart writing his violin treatise just 6 years after Bach's death wrote that many people vibrate constantly as though they had a palsy! He also mentions  in passing how variable tuning pitch was. (So much for 415 as a standard.) I'm re-reading it now. It's not only informative about string playing as of the year his famous son was born, but his sarcastic asides are (to me) very funny!

September 24, 2011 at 10:53 AM ·

 hello raphael, you always seem to have the historical aspect at your fingertips and i wonder if you can shed some light on how vibrato has developed over time.  it is common knowledge that one should exercise ?restraint with vibrato when playing bach these days, having been told that in bach days, vibrato was no in vogue.  did i get that right?

say, in terms of the speed of oscillation, did it start out much slower than we are used to now?  


September 24, 2011 at 01:03 PM ·

Hi Al. AArrggghhh! Just posted and almost at the end, accidently hit the back space and it vanished!!

Briefly - we'll never know how people sounded prior to recordings, let alone how they would have wanted their music to sound for all time. That said, I've long felt that many dicta of the "authenticists" are in fact IN-authentic. It's on my "bucket list" to write a thesis-length article on the subject one day. Meanwhile, if anyone is interested, I can e-mail to you my past ravings on the subject that I've collected from v.com and elsewhere.

September 24, 2011 at 04:58 PM ·

@ Raphael, indeed its funny when people say how Mozart or Bach should be played according to music research. Why thinking so much about the composers intention, when you actually can not ask him directly how he wanted the piece to be played? The complete idea of following the composers intention in interpretation is just a pseudoscience, and a time waste.

September 24, 2011 at 05:25 PM ·

Funny how fashions and trends seem to come round in full circle.

September 24, 2011 at 07:47 PM ·

"Can we all agree to keep both the AC and the DC away from our organs?"

I once knew an organist who was AC/DC.

EDIT: That reminds me of a conductor once who was AC/DC and when he came on for a performance the first trumpet would always be playing ACDC ...

September 24, 2011 at 08:54 PM ·

You're a wise man, Mr. Lenartsson! :-)

September 24, 2011 at 09:14 PM ·

 "There are as many ways to play it now as there were back then."


A comment to me by Stanley Ritchie concerning "authentic" Baroque performance.

I've read treatises concerning vibrato, and there seems to be a large variation in how it was used. We should remember that the music world of the 18th century was much more fragmented, and thus difficult to make generalizations about. While there were traveling musicians, they didn't have recording to emulate, or youtube videos which could cause the wholesale adoption of any one technique or style. Thus Leopold Mozart's opinions on vibrato were more of a reflection of his immediate surroundings (Salzburg) than an indication of how things were done in Bruges, London, or Naples. In my opinion, the music world is much more uniform and institutionalized now than it was in the past.

September 24, 2011 at 09:24 PM ·

And maybe you have the key to classical revival Scott.  That is going to a concert with little idea how the piece may sound (much as has happened with theater performing Shakespear - set on mars, a second world war encampment, with people wearing 20 ft stilts etc) - where the orchestra adds it own creative spark.  Sure, historical reproduction is essential and we do want to hear the music played as the composer intended but not ONLY that way and not ONLY by one narrow vision.

Why are we so obsessed with getting it 'right' according to some (non composer) expert when there really is no 'right'? 

September 24, 2011 at 10:19 PM ·

Thank you, Mr. Klayman, it's a hobby :-)

September 25, 2011 at 11:52 AM ·

Scott, that's a good quote from Ritchie. But when he talks about the fragmentation in earlier times, that also applies to the so-called baroque and transitional bow, as there were many different such bows in different places at any given time, as well as pitch, vibrato, set-up, etc. And when he says "In my opinion, the music world is much more uniform and institutionalized now than it was in the past." that applies to much of today's "period" music world as well, with its institutionalized 415 A, etc.

September 25, 2011 at 12:52 PM ·

I would like to quote a fiddler that I admire.

"Even the description of calling oneself as being 'authentic' is unbelievably arrogant, and in the case of so called 'period' performance, misguided."

Nigel Kennedy.

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