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Vibrato


Michael_Molnar
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It's been around for a long time--Leopold Mozart writes of his dislike of it.  However, in its modern form, I've always heard it attributed to Ysaye.  I recall reading that he failed an audition for an orchestral post because of his use of it at which point he decided that he'd just have to become a famous soloist.

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Good question.  And, I don't know.

What I recall reading over the years is that while a little vibrato, used sparingly, has been around a long time continual vibrato came around the latter years of the 19th century.  I wouldn't be surprised to find that its more common use came as chin rests became popular.

I don't know about the Ysaye story, but it does bring up the question if any one or two players might have made it more popular.  I believe Kreisler has also been mentioned as being one of the first to vibrate continually.

Another interesting question might be whether early vibrato was not only more rare but also narrower.  I'd assume that because I think players with wide (and varied) vibratos would have trouble without being able to secure the violin very well.

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I doubt it ever wasn't used.  I've read lots of things condemning bad vibrato but I don't recall anything condemning all vibrato.  The viol family was fretted which prevented vibrato, and the frets disappear with the emergence of the violin family in the early Baroque.  Renaissance music is performed w/o noticeable vibrato, corresponding to that.  You might ask a voice professor about vibrato historically.  I'm not sure it's possible to sing without at least some natural vibrato.  The intervals and methods of Renaissance composition might discourage vibrato, in the same way music of our time demands it.  If the violin origins were in the Middle East or Asia I'd expect crazy foreign vibrato immigrating with it and maybe that's really what the ancient treatises are condemning.

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9 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

I doubt it ever wasn't used.  I've read lots of things condemning bad vibrato but I don't recall anything condemning all vibrato.  The viol family was fretted which prevented vibrato, and the frets disappear with the emergence of the violin family in the early Baroque.  Renaissance music is performed w/o noticeable vibrato, corresponding to that.  You might ask a voice professor about vibrato historically.  I'm not sure it's possible to sing without at least some natural vibrato.  The intervals and methods of Renaissance composition might discourage vibrato, in the same way music of our time demands it.  If the violin origins were in the Middle East or Asia I'd expect crazy foreign vibrato immigrating with it and maybe that's really what the ancient treatises are condemning.

Frets don't stop vibrato.  Classical guitarists do and it seems that viol players do as well https://vdgsa.org/pgs/Comp-forViols.pdf

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20 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

If the violin origins were in the Middle East or Asia I'd expect crazy foreign vibrato immigrating with it...

Huh?!  And why would you expect that?  'Cause it certainly doesn't seem to be based on actual information, which is I think what the OP had in mind.

In fact, West/Central Asian traditions employ a wide variety of approaches to ornamentation, which includes vibrato of various sorts--as an ornament.  Not continuous.  Though it may strike you as foreign and "crazy," I find the uses I'm familiar with to be very tasteful and expressive.  This, for example...

 

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1 hour ago, palousian said:

Though it may strike you as foreign and "crazy," I find the uses I'm familiar with to be very tasteful and expressive.  This, for example...

If you can time travel to 18th century Germany you can enlighten them. 

P.S. the example has nothing to do with Western classical music.  Which kind of makes my point IF it is in any way similar to what anybody was hearing two hundred years ago.  I might not sound convincing to you for some reason, but I took the classes and made good grades.  Me and my trusty Selectric.

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Well, I was trying to enlighten you, actually.  The example addressed your peculiar characterization of music from "Middle East or Asia," which seemed to be based on something other than factual information.  And Kalhor is awesome, so it never hurts to post a master that many here might never hear otherwise.  Listen and observe, and you may learn a few things about vibrato.  But maybe you were making a joke or something. 

Anyway, back to the OP, my understanding is that, in spite of the Florentine Camerata's aim to recreate Greek theatrical music, within a few decades, singers in the performances of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo (1607 and subsequent performances...) were already using a wide variety of ornamentation, representing influences from singing traditions throughout the Mediterranean region (including vibrato as an ornament), that fit the new melody-driven style.  I think there is a fair amount of evidence that Arabic singers were significant in this influence, for what that's worth.  Violinists were imitating opera singers from the first half of the 17th century, and I think that's how a lot of violin ornamentation of the baroque era developed.  I believe that is the source of vibrato in classical European violin playing (though another significant influence came in the 19th century via Eastern Europe), and I have no trouble imagining that excess in vibrato has been explored in depth by both operatic singers and violinists ever since.  I'm with Leopold, personally.  I don't think there is evidence that this style passed directly from North African or West/Central Asian bowed lute players (except into Eastern Europe); I think that the sophisticated vocal style you can hear in a master like Kalhor is an independent tradition, which I believe is neither crazy nor entirely foreign to those with open ears.

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There seems to be a little bit of disagreement about whether Michael was asking about continuous vibrato or vibrato as an ornament.

There's probably also some disagreement about the point at which vibrato goes from ornamental to continuous.

In any case, the basic information is already here.  Vibrato as an ornament is ancient.  Continuous vibrato is a 20th century development.

 

PS- Whoa!  Kalhor!  Now there is someone who knows how to use vibrato.

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22 hours ago, Addie said:

The Leopold Mozart comment is basically "I hate when people use vibrato all the time."  That implies that people were already "overdoing it."

 

 

I have to wonder what the quality of vibrato might have been like back then, at best.  The worse it was, the more irritated Leopold may have been, perhaps.

BTW, I had one friend who rarely practiced with vibrato even though he planned to use it in performance.  As I recall the reason was that it was saving his fingers from unnecessary wear and tear.  Personally, I think it helps to home in on pitch even more. 

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3 hours ago, Will L said:

1. I have to wonder what the quality of vibrato might have been like back then, at best.  The worse it was, the more irritated Leopold may have been, perhaps.

2. BTW, I had one friend who rarely practiced with vibrato even though he planned to use it in performance.  As I recall the reason was that it was saving his fingers from unnecessary wear and tear.  Personally, I think it helps to home in on pitch even more. 

1. I think it depended on the "school" and that's about it. I always found hard to believe that humans less stressed, more "musical" and less tired than us would've played worse or would failed to discover what we know or in general be less inventive or prone to exploration. 

2. Never thought about that - good food for thought. I wonder how are players learning vibrato nowadays. 50 years ago when I started to scratch violin it was learned by imitation. I don't remember to have ever been told how to do it. One just did it. Usually badly. :)

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On 1/20/2017 at 1:21 AM, palousian said:

In fact, West/Central Asian traditions employ a wide variety of approaches to ornamentation, which includes vibrato of various sorts--as an ornament.  Not continuous.  Though it may strike you as foreign and "crazy," I find the uses I'm familiar with to be very tasteful and expressive.  This, for example...

 

That was a very interesting example. I am quite sure somebody raised in that tradition "understands" that kind of expression. I certainly wish I could.

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On 1/19/2017 at 5:24 AM, Bill Merkel said:

  If the violin origins were in the Middle East or Asia I'd expect crazy foreign vibrato immigrating with it and maybe that's really what the ancient treatises are condemning.

I think you might right. Berlioz, who was a musical genius of the first order expressed similar sentiments.

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