Pag 1 and tuning
It occurred to me that tuning a violin up a semitone wasn't the same 200 years ago: - a) they only had gut, but also b) concert pitch was lower, so maybe it wasn't a big deal at all. Worth discussing?
I'm not sure what extremes of tension violin strings can tolerate (I was contemplating Indian violin tuning which can be scary). What's the worst you've dared?
Menuhin says that, for the Moses vars all on the G string, he tunes his violin to Bb,Eb,bb,eb for maximum resonance! In that case, it's only the G string that we might want to worry about. All we can do is get one of our lesser violins, and when it's due for a restring, tune the G string up and see how far it will go before it snaps, but I wouldn't want to risk harm to the violin or the bridge.
I ditched my Chinese VSOs too soon.
We seem to have adopted A=415Hz for HIP performance, because it's a whole semitone lower than A=440 and
Pitch could have even been higher than 440 for a typical Paganini performance in the 19th C. Old Philharmonic Pitch was A=453 (ouch)
Gut can stretch. Some people specialising in the very early Baroque era play at A=466, which was early Venetian pitch. Some recordings of the Monteverdi Vespers are at this very high A.
In this discussion I miss two important arguments:
Traditional fiddle music from Cape Breton sometimes calls for "high bass" tuning, most often raising the G and D strings a full tone (AEAE). I have frequently played these pieces with my violin #2, fitted up with some old Obligato strings (medium gauge), and the effect is really quite striking. Haven't noticed a problem with either the strings or the violin. Checked with my luthier, and he said it shouldn't hurt the instrument at all. Scordatura. The strings wear out sooner, of course, but they can take the strain for a time. Undoubtedly easier on gut than on sythetics.
Parker, I have heard that tuning used. Very nice. Around here it's called something different though because high bass is ADAE. Here it's called cross tuning. There are lots of nice tunings, as there are for old time banjo.
Gut strings can take a decent amount of abuse, so tuning up and down is not an issue. What's more is that on some violins I heard there is evidence of the bridge being moved back and forth to adjust pitch, which would leave the tension unchanged. Sounds kind of stupid to me, because then the distances between notes would be off, but I'm just repeating what I heard.
Much respect to scordatura composers and players, but I really do not enjoy employing it, even using gut strings. I know modern recordings of the Moses variations are generally played as intended, but I dislike editions where two piano parts are not included (or rather, I may like the edition, but not the fact that two piano versions were not included-I do have an edition that came with both parts). I would play the Moses in C minor, and Paganini 1 in D, even if the great Menuhin disapproved, or if Paganini himself turned in his grave.
I have tuned up a whole tone for the solo in Mahler 4 using medium Evah Green strings. No problem for the instrument that I could note, but having absolute pitch it is very disturbing to play a transposing instrument "Violin in D". Scordatura where the intervals between the strings are different is even harder for me. I have had the opportunity to play a viola d'amore a few times. The ADAD tuning is possible to get used to, but there is a F# string thrown in there to maximize the confusion. And much of the music has a lot of double stops - I guess partly because it is difficult to play on only one string ;) - and with the intervals between the strings being different it is quite hard. I have never needed so many fingerings in my music. The next time I get access to a d'amore I think I will tune it as an arpeggione and play the Schubert sonata - that could be fun.
"having absolute pitch it is very disturbing to play a transposing instrument"
@Adalberto - the scordatura in Biber's sonatas isn't difficult to figure out. You just have to put your fingers down where the stave suggests and accept that the notes you hear aren't what you expect. I do wonder how any violinist, either today or in Biber's time, could be expected to repeatedly retune in between sonatas, and how gut strings could stand being tuned up by as much as a major third or even a fourth as compared with their usual pitch.
I agree with Steve. The notation is very easy to follow and self-evident. The extraordinary resonances created by scordatura or cross-tuning are quite exhilarating to play. Performers such as traditional fiddlers generally had a second violin pre-tuned and at the ready. Probably the same goes for violinists playing Biber sonatas. If you have to tune up your instrument, say to AEAE, or ADAE, etc., during a solo performance, and then adjust it back again to normal tunings, the strings will take too long to stabilize.
Parker, Old time banjoists tend to have zillions of banjos, each in a different tuning so they won't be slowed down in a performance. Sorry, I have to stop and retune, as the audience gets bored!
I get how scordatura works. It just seems difficult for my brain to accept putting down the finger to play a note, hearing a different one and not try to correct it.
Ann -- thanks for that, I'm loving your image of all those banjos in their different tunings. :)
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