A Baroque Violinist vs Classical Violinist vs Romantic Violinist

June 11, 2020, 12:10 AM · Well, as the name suggests, I wondered if there are any documentaries / books / blogs / knowledge bank on the performing violinists or other instrument players during the great ages of Baroque, Classical and Romantic. As I have studied a lot of composers of the great eras, I couldn't find anything on the life / autobiographies of any performers during that time.

I would like to do some work on this subject. Please help me with any links / PDF book suggestions / ideas so that I can get to study the basics of the point of view of the performers - how they looked and thought of the music of their period, how (if at all) they revered the great composers, how they rose to be the performers, how their mentality changed as the world moved from the Baroque age to Classical, etc etc. - basically, all about their life!

Thank you, in advance.

Replies (10)

June 11, 2020, 3:22 AM · In those times great violinists were almost always composers too. A few names off the top of my head:

Baroque: Corelli, Vivaldi, Tartini, Geminiani, Pisendel.
Classical: Viotti, Kreutzer, Rode, Mazas, George Bridgetower (I don't know if he composed but he premiered the Kreutzer sonata).
Romantic: Spohr, Paganini, Joachim

If you look them up in an encyclopedia or even on Wikipedia you'll find probably links/quotations that lead you further.

June 11, 2020, 6:52 AM · It's true that they themselves were instrument players as well. But I wanted to know about the performers of the then orchestra sections (other than the composers themselves, who occasionally performed).
Edited: June 11, 2020, 8:13 AM · Your question makes me wonder, at what point in the development of western music did the class of top professional musicians arise and how long before there was sufficient interest to publish articles and books about them?

As Albrecht noted, most composers were also performers of solo parts for a very long part of the development of western music.

My personal guess would be that an academic search of the various forms of print media of the time might reveal those who were "professional" soloists and perhaps a more in-depth study would reveal details of their lives. That being said, whatever could be obtained would be, at best, a pencil sketch of who they really were and what they accomplished.

June 11, 2020, 12:05 PM · https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_classical_violinists
June 11, 2020, 12:49 PM · You're basically trying do cultural history of 300 years, which is a lot. Just only performing musicians (excluding composers) is also a lot.

There's musicking in the court, in the church, later in the 18th- and 19th-century salons, and concert halls, opera houses, and living rooms. That's a lot.

Just to isolate one perspective, let's say, rank-and-file musicians of the orchestra, for instance, here's what I would do:

I would use my local library system and online book search engines, JSTOR (articles) and ProQuest (dissertations) to look into the history of the orchestra. Of course Spitzaw and Zalsaw is a no-brainer start:

Spitzer, John, and Neal Zaslaw. The Birth of the Orchestra: History of an Institution, 1650-1815. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Treatises is of course another major avenue. Do you know Quantz's On Playing the Flute? It's not just a book about flute but every instrument in the orchestra and how they should behave. That's a good window in mid-18th c. orchestral life in German-speaking lands.

Quantz, Johann Joachim, and Edward R. Reilly. On Playing the Flute: The Classic of Baroque Playing Instruction. Translated by Edward R. Reilly. 2nd edition. London: Faber and Faber, 2010.

You can then narrow down to payrolls of professional musicians and journals of amateurs who also played with the pros in orchestras. The amateurs weren't necessarily bad musicians, but had wealth to play in orchestras for fun and don't necessarily take command from the pro concertmaster, for instance.

It's hard to tell from your question, but maybe what you really need is to read/reread music history surveys like Grout or Taruskin.

June 11, 2020, 12:54 PM · That is a very involved study. takes lots of reading and research. I believe reading the treatises of the day on violin playing give much insight not only in the writer's point of view, but about what was going on in their orchestras and the playing in general. For instance, one can read many differing opinions on vibrato-in general, there were more than one way of doing things, whatever Leopold Mozart and others (Auer for instance, for romantics) may tell you. You may never find all the answers, but at least form an analysis of what could have been possible during their time.

My apologies for not being helpful-this seems like an interesting project, but takes lots work. There should be some other modern research on the subject. Hope you find the answers you seek.

June 11, 2020, 3:08 PM · Leopold Mozart's Treatise on Violin Playing offers, I believe, a nice perspective on the early classical violinist's conventions, also still based on firm foundations of baroque style and execution, e.g., the exhaustive list he gives of how to bow various forms of musical passages.
June 11, 2020, 3:33 PM · Another book that offers some insights would be Adam Carse's The History of Orchestration. It mostly addresses composers' practices, but there is also a lot of information on what the orchestras themselves looked like.
June 11, 2020, 3:52 PM · Are you writing a paper on this, for conservatoire, for example?
June 11, 2020, 11:31 PM · Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I'll check the books about which you all informed. Yes, indeed this is a vast topic of research, which I realized, should be a part of generic music education as well.

Paul: It is just for my curiosity, but yes, I am planning to write a story line on that. For that, I need to know the basics right.


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