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vibrato


bryan
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Yes it is true that vibrato is only used as an ornament in baroque playing. Vibrato is hardly ever used. Sometimes you might hear a modern orchestra play baroque works using vibrato. But the "authentic" ancient music orchestras, who use the baroque setup violins, bows, etc., usually would not use very much, if at all vibrato.

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I recently played for a Handel Opera and we were coached using baroque bows and baroque style of playing. We were encouraged to use vibrato really only on sustained pitches, but to keep it slight. A lot of the tone color in baroque playing therefore comes from bow speed and emphasis you place on notes by the bowing directions themselves. Baroque bows are shaped so that the down bow strokes are always going to sound more noticeable than up bows. THey use this as an advantage to shape phrases. Also, because of the weight of the bows (much lighter than modern bows) one is able to draw a slow bow and pull a different sound from the strings, and up bows are more prone to being crisp and light. You have many new options for sound with the baroque bow.

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Also, playing without a chinrest and on a wider, thicker baroque neck effects vibrato as well. I can really tell the difference when I switch between my Baroque and non-Baroque instruments. With the latter vibrato is comparatively easy and always more intense. When playing period instruments (which is most of the time these days) I use vibrato only on sustained notes (and even then not always), largely by finger, rather than by wrist vibrato. It is a whole new tonal world! There is a purity to Baroque playing which you can hear in the work of modern masters like Huggett, Manze, Tarling, Gwilt and Podger that demonstrates an entirely different aesthetic and technique from the Romantic tradition.

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I recently played two baroque pieces: "Wachet Auf" by J.S. Bach, and "Gloria in D Major" by Vivaldi with our String orchestra at Minnesota Youth Symphonies (MYS). We did use some vibrato, but not as much of a lush, except for an adagio movement in "Wachet Auf", and an adagio movement in "Gloria". So, I it depends on what sound your trying to get. Whether you're trying to keep true to the original sounds of baroque or your sort of in a modern tradition. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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Thanks to all. Are there any recommended recordings of authentic baroque style string playing available? Also, how well would a baroque instrument play and sound used with a wound gut string rather a pure gut string? (I love the tone I get from Eudoxas)

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In no particular order, here are my ten favourite 'gut strung' string performances at the present moment:

Manze & Podger - J.S. Bach - Solo & Double Violin Concertos - Harmonia Mundi

Manze - Corelli - Violin Sonatas Op.5 - Harmonia Mundi

Estournet - Tartini - Le Sonate del Tasso - ARTS

Manze - Tartini - The Devils Sonata and other Works - Harmonia Mundi

Kuijken - J.S. Bach - Sonatas & Partitas - Deutsche Harmonia Mundi

Holloway - Biber & Muffat - Der Turken Anmarsch - ECM

Matthews - Rebel - Sonatas pour le violon & Suite in G - Wild Boar

London Baroque - Schmelzer & Muffat - Sonates - Musique d'Abord

Esterhazy Quartet - Boccherini - String Quartets Op.32 - Warner Classics

Quatour Festetics - Haydn - Les Quatours Opus 9 - Arcana

All should be available through Amazon.

Regarding stringing, for Baroque or Classical playing at a minimum your A & E on the violin, or your D & A on the viola, must be plain gut. Eudoxas (or Olivs) work well on the lower two strings.

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Quote:

I recently played two baroque pieces: "Wachet Auf" by J.S. Bach,


Hey, I sang the "Wachet auf" last year! We were directed by a baroque specialist who held workshops on the side teaching instrumentalists to use no vibrato whatsoever, and I think some of the instrumental performances were in period costumes and I wouldn't be surprised, with period instruments if possible. My violin teacher scoffed at the idea of no vibrato, but his use of vibrato in that kind of music would be ornamental, widening, narrowing etc. In the choir performance I learned a few things about baroque phrasing and stressing certain notes to add colouring which would correspond to what was written here about the downbow with baroque bows. The experience of being exposed to two musicians with differing ideas on such things as vibrato in baroque music was enlightening, in that there is not just one interpretation on what is right.

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The point being that there is no one right answer on the issue. The recent Strad article notwithstanding, it seems clear to most of us that vibrato was considered an ornament by most players, and that the sound of the unvibrated pure tone was highly valued by many. It also seems clear that some played with a great deal of vibrato–at least enough did that others complained about it. (So often we learn what was done this way...)

Bryan--I have a few additional recommendations for you: Judy Tarling's fabulous book Baroque String Playing is a great survey of style, regional differences, etc. I plan to get her new book on rhetoric in baroque music as well, she does a great job of compiling information from the sources.

This thread may be of interest to you: Pegbox Thread

I would add to tradfiddle’s list of recordings anything of Rachel Podger’s, but specifically her solo Bach and her Vivaldi cd. I think she has really infused herself with the baroque idea of music as speech. IMO her ability to give highly expressive inflection to the music without falling into self-indulgence or mannerism is unrivaled.

[edit] I meant also to add that this area continues to evolve. There are luthiers and string makers working to improve our understanding of the old setups and strings. I understand that at the Proms concert July 17, the Gabrieli Consort used mostly equal-tension all-gut stringing with no overspun strings, at somewhat higher than usual tensions (and incidentally a higher than usual pitch-standard), which is based on documented historical practice but is a departure from modern 'baroque' practice.

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If I understand your question right, in this context the usual modern 'baroque' setup (although generalizing is risky in this area) is unequal tension across the strings (lower tension in the bass), and lower than modern tensions overall.

One sees all sorts of variations among professional players purporting to play 'authentically' though, including modern necks.

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Well . . . I guess one could play baroque music on a modern instrument set up, probably more difficult vice versa.

Where does the viola fall in the baroque bowed instruments. Did I read correctly that the viola was actually introduced before the violin?

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"Where does the viola fall in the baroque bowed instruments. Did I read correctly that the viola was actually introduced before the violin?"

My understanding is that the earliest references to the violin and the viola (written documents and paintings) date back to the 1520s. They seem to have emerged at the same time, together with the cello, as a family of instruments, drawing on features of existing instruments such as the rebec, the medieval fiddle and the lira da bracchio. No one knows who built the first violin (or viola) or where the instruments were first made (though there are endless disputes about these points), but northern Italy seems to be the likely cradle of the violin. The earliest violins seem to have been 3-stringed instruments; four-stringed violins became the norm by the middle of the 16th century. By the beginning of the so-called "Baroque" style-period in music--around 1600--both violin and viola were well-established.

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