Baroque Violin: An Introduction
I was very taken by these reactions of students trying Baroque violin for the first time:
The other thread about historical performance practice had fascinating and diverse viewpoints, and particularly interesting was seeing that many players who don't play Baroque violin share the sentiment that being exposed to it benefits their modern playing.
How would you describe the sounds and styles between a mainstream violinist and historical violinist? What are some obstacles you might had encountered in period performance, and questions do you have about the Baroque violin?
For me, it's like learning another instrument with the purpose of representing an idealized version of what could have been, based on the latest scholarship on the matter. I enjoy listening to it occasionally, have a few very interesting and beautiful recordings, but am never tempted to learn this period instrument.
I wonder if Early Music's unintentional/intentional weaponizing of sources and claiming a sort of historical highground was a reaction to have been heavily ridiculed and criticized (some fair, some not), by the mainstream for half a century?
Another thought on equipment vs. technique, going beyond Baroque: Beethoven literally changed his writing in his Sonata Op. 96 by Rode, who uses a French-style Tourte couldn't play the bow strokes Beethoven wanted. (
Dorian great video again on the Beethoven sonata, thanks again! However I can't match what is happening there with what you write about it? You write that Rode couldn't play what Beethoven wanted, so Beethoven had to rewrite it. But the lecture shows that what Beethoven wrote in the end cannot be played with a Viennese bow? That's not the same thing? Could you clarify?
Sorry I'm unclear. What I understand from Prof. Köpp is that Beethoven was used to writing for Crammer style bows, with much more different response than the very stiff French Tourte bow at the time designed for bow strokes like the stiff detaché appuyé, staccato at the tip, etc. He would had written his more typically sprightly finales but changed his compositional style for this sonata because he was going to play with Rode at a concert and had trouble playing with him.
I am a bit confused here, from what I remember the changes that where made were in the LAST movment (the examples in the first movment), and the changes were not because of the bow, but becase Rode was past his prime as a soloist. At least according to the Archduke who was the pianist at the premiere.
My idol in the "infant days" of HIP was Simon Standage who led modern- as well as period-instrument orchestras and even in baroque music adapted his style according to the needs of his company. During the 1980's a pro/am band I played with somehow secured the gig of performing the St Matthew Passion in St Paul's Cathedral on Good Friday, in front of a guaranteed house of maybe 1500 people. According to my diary we did it 7 years in succession, and for the first three we engaged SS as leader. Sitting right behind him for Erbarme Dich was one of the most nervous times of my playing life. The adaptation went both ways; not only did he adopt what I would consider an ideal half-way style (playing a "modern" instrument) for that occasion, we in the orchestra learnt and applied a considerable amount of rudimentary period-instrument practice.
If I understand correctly, Kai Köpp is arguing that Beethoven wrote what would make Rode sound his best. Perhaps in addition to Rode being past his prime, the drastic difference of the French style vs the Viennese style (both in technique and bows as we can see in Claire Holden's demo) played a big calculus in Beethoven's compositional decisions, and he decided to forego his usual finale writing style.
But if he wrote the first movment in his "normal" way and "the drastic difference of the French style vs the Viennese style played a big calculus in Beethoven's compositional decisions", he would have written the first movment with the Viennese bow in mind, right?
Indeed it really does not make sense the way you interpret it, Dorian. Köpp uses striking examples from the first movement to prove that these could NOT be played with a Viennese bow. Perhaps Köpp's point is that he has discovered something new, that was not yet known, namely, that Beethoven not only had to adapt the final part (as is well documented) but he actually wrote the ENTIRE piece with a Tourte bow in mind??
That is an interesting thought Jean. Those of you that are more familiar to the chamber music of Beethoven - how unique are these bowings in his music?
To be honest, I myself would find it very surprising that Beethoven would limit his writing because it would become harder for the instrumentalist to pull it off. The Music always came first! So I am a bit skeptical about the whole theory and its various interpretations.
I suspect my brain is short circuiting and I'm confused with the confusion. Just to be clear, I don't think Kai Köpps said Beethoven rewrote the final movement, but rather Beethoven changed his compositional style and deviated from what he would usually do in his violin sonata finales, if I understand correctly. How much this was due to Rode's decline as noted in Schwarz's "Beethoven and the French Violin School" article, or according to Köpps's observation that there were competing schools of violin playing and instruments between Paris and Vienna influencing Beethovne's compositional decisions, this would be a fun project to tease out.
At any rate, I hoped the video showed the drastic differences between the Parisian and Viennese bows. The very straight-looking early French Tourte bows were also later recambered to the shape we are now used to.
I can certainly go with that conclusion Dorian, and thanks again for the very interesting videos you posted here and on the other thread.
Thanks for the fantastic videos, Dorian. This is a fascinating discussion that makes me realise I really should read more musicology, something I enjoyed in high school.
I really appreciate the follow ups on bows in the early 1800s, which really falls outside of my perview. I would love to dig deeper into Beethoven's performance practice when I have more time -- or perhaps someone might be able to enlighten me on this area too, I would be very thankful for that.
Dorian - sorry, I was a bit off topic. There is no doubt that playing have changed immensive. Thanks for the thread and keep the excellent videos coming :D
Dorian I love your idea of a grand reunification. I think it would require advances in bows and strings that are hard to imagine right now. In fact I can more easily imagine a new kind of HIP arising in which the style of play of the late 19th/early 20th c. is recreated.
To Dorian Fu
@Andres. The problem with recreating playing styles of the early 20th century is that we have the audible evidence and we don't like it very much! Makes you wonder what we'd think of baroque played authentically...
Steve Jones, some of us like the early 20th century playing very much!
It's mainly the portamenti that I find contrived and artificial. I doubt we'll ever hear live playing like this again! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBZZ8Jv4fIA
Steve - It may still seem manneristic and contrived to us, but these things change. Current performance practice i.e. what we are used to, is just as much a matter of conventions and what we grew up with as any other era. Some day the portamenti will seem like just the right new flavor to liven up people's listening.
Forgive me for radically departing from the Baroque/Enlightenment and reaching into the early 20th century, but this excellent (as usual) offering from Elam Rotem really gave me food for thought about how much accepted styles has changed, even in music we might think we know well (e.g. Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, etc.):
Dorian, that's a great video. I really love that old, freer style and would love to see it make a resurgence.
Of course in all aesthetic activities tastes and fashions are constantly changing, not necessarily in cycles. To adorn the body in an eye-catching way seems to be a Darwinian adaptation with the ultimate objective of improving one's...er..."score" in the competition to reproduce. Sometimes an arms race seems to take hold, giving rise to extraordinary mutations like the medieval poulaine (long pointed shoe) and the 18th century macaroni style of dress and deportment. These are interesting historical phenomena that nobody wishes to repeat in practice!
The "affectation" characterization comes from a critical mind biased by modern performance practice. They knew what they were doing-some people loved it, but even back then, "bad" use of portamento was ill-received.
About the old Kubelik recording that Steve referred to: I found it amazingly well played. You often read that there was a "pre-Heifetz" and a "post-Heifetz" period; in the pre period, violinists didn't play particularly well in tune. But Kubelik plays beautifully in tune.
I agree, exquisite playing of a sort that may be gone for ever. In the published copy there are a number of places where Drdla's fingering implies a portamento. Kubelik adheres to these and adds a liberal number of his own, some sounding more like glissandi.
The metronome and recording technology has certainly standardized our modern preferences for tempo and pitch (pros and cons of course).
Just so long as you don't take HIP performance one step to far and claim all the performers have to be male!!
Sorry Lydnon, I genuinely don't understand your joke...at the expense of killing it, can you explain?
there were practically no female musicians in baroque music groups. It was forbidden.
Except the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice
@Lyndon, ahh now I get it. Hmm, no females except for all the all-girl-band imitations of the
I was thinking more of church music, I don't believe there were women in the chamber groups or choirs at least in Germany.
Women voices in church spaces isn't my speciality, but a quick search brought this:
The gender bias against and paucity of women in classical music, even in many cases for female singing roles, is so well historically established that to challenge the notion is to take a much weaker position, despite a few counterexamples that proved the possibility of participation, because music is not gender-specific.
Right, and I included these hurriedly-found counter "exceptions of the norm" in reply to Lyndon's implication of what HIP should do or not do. (I argue that the under premise of HIP, one can basically do anything with some support from historical sources, which are often contradictory and we cherry picked at our pleasure. Richard Taruskin et al has spoken of this for the past four decades and I won't rehash them here.)
oh brother, some people can't take a joke!!
Yeah, sorry Lyndon I killed it. (#sorrynotsorry)
I also want to share this Bach violin concerto movement from a Cantata BWV 1045, here reconstructed/realized by Shunske Sato and Netherlands Bach Society:
The Elam Rotem video was ear-opening for me, and although the skeptic in me hesitates in drawing specific conclusions from the few and period-limited samples I got to see, I think I will in any case.
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