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#2057463 - 03/31/13 04:53 PM Tenuto interpretation
Spacetone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/16/13
Posts: 16
Loc: CA
I've have always been aware that the tenuto sign can have different meanings (accent or hold) depending on its context. Still, I am not always sure how to interpret it in a particular piece of music. Thankfully I don't often see it. Haha. I have asked different teachers on their opinion and I get different answers. I'm curious to know how you guys go about it.

Thanks.


Edited by Spacetone (03/31/13 05:01 PM)

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#2057466 - 03/31/13 04:57 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Spacetone]
BruceD Online   content
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17925
Loc: Victoria, BC
It really depends upon context, for me. Rachmaninoff's piano music is rife with tenuto markings, and I feel they can't all be accent marks, whereas, holding notes for full (and beyond) value - in essence, rubato - seems quite appropriate in Rachmaninoff.

In other music, it really depends upon context, but since there are other markings for accent, tenuto is usually my first choice.

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#2057475 - 03/31/13 05:24 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: BruceD]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4791
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Rachmaninoff's piano music is rife with tenuto markings
Speaking of Rachmaninoff, I've been reviving a nocturne of his that has some tenuto markings that are not melody notes in both the right and left hand. When I asked my teacher how to make them sound important without overwhelming the melody, he suggested a slight wrist drop as I play the notes to give them a firmer, more deliberate but not louder sound. It's working.
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#2057482 - 03/31/13 05:34 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Spacetone]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19709
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Spacetone
I've have always been aware that the tenuto sign can have different meanings (accent....

Even speaking as one who thinks just about anything can mean just about anything ha ....I don't think tenuto ever means "accent." You might have to give a note some extra weight to achieve the tenuto, but that's very different from it meaning anything like an accent.

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#2057483 - 03/31/13 05:44 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Spacetone]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
Why is the room for interpretation for markings? They should be objective.

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#2057485 - 03/31/13 05:55 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Spacetone]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6098
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
From the New Grove Dictionary of Music:
A performance instruction normally applied to single notes or groups of notes, also abbreviated to ten. It can denote either a holding of individual notes to their full length or a complete interruption of the metre. C.P.E. Bach (1753) stated that ‘Notes which are neither staccato nor legato nor sostenuto are held for half their value unless the word “ten.” is placed over them, in which case they have to be sustained’; D.G. Türk (Clavierschule, 1789) wrote that ‘When playing notes in the ordinary manner, that is, neither staccato nor legato, the finger should be lifted shortly before the written value of the note requires it … Where single notes are supposed to be held for their full value they have to be marked ten. or tenuto’. The predominantly detached style of playing which made this necessary seems to have gone out of favour around 1800; but it is presumably in this sense that the first note of each of the repeated-note patterns in the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is marked ten. In the second sense it is often used for a delay of the metre in bravura operatic lines, particularly to indicate that the upbeat must be held back; there are many instances in Verdi. The term has a distinguished position as one of the first to be used in music: according to Notker’s letter to Lambertus (GerbertS, i, 95f) the Romanus letter t meant ‘trahere vel tenere debere’, though Aribo asserted that it meant ‘tarditas’.
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#2057486 - 03/31/13 05:57 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Spacetone]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Why is the room for interpretation for markings? They should be objective.


Joel... I'll let someone else explain to you the deep problems of your statement. Ordinarily I would do it myself, but I have to go practice.

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#2057489 - 03/31/13 06:08 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: JoelW]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2137
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Why is the room for interpretation for markings? They should be objective.

It's important to see how different composers used different markings, because everybody uses different methods.

For example, the marking of "portato" is often seen as a combination "dot staccato" and tenuto when used by Liszt, but you can see Rachmaninoff going for a similar "pronounced, but semi-legato" effect when he places tenuto over ever note in a melody.

Here's another one: why does Liszt denote bass octaves that should be held under a pedal as being eighth notes with heavy staccato (the "tick"), wheras Debussy notes quarter notes that are tied to the next bar (but don't actually "tie" to any other notes)? It's a similar effect that is notated in different, subjective ways.

Each composer notes their desired effects in different ways, and it's important to understand that it's not an objective thing at all.
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#2057559 - 03/31/13 09:53 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19709
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Why is the room for interpretation for markings? They should be objective.

Do you play bridge? (Anyone here play bridge?) smile

It's just about exactly like systems of BIDDING in bridge. Each kind of bid has a specific meaning -- but in most cases, a flexible specific meaning, plus most advanced players (of which I'm not one) ha and even most lower-level players have several systems that they follow, with some kinds of bids having multiple possible meanings. The job of the bidder's partner is to be able to interpret what the bid means, according to the situation. And sometimes it's fuzzy but the partner does the best he can to interpret it.

The reason bids have flexible meanings and multiple meanings is that it's a limited kind of language, with just a few kinds of things that you can use to try to convey your message, and you need to adapt that very limited language to try convey all the specifics and nuances that you wish. With music, it's very similar, only even more complex and nuanced. Great music is more complex than what can ever be put down on paper (or on a computer screen). Composers play a very complex and sophisticated game of bridge in trying to convey their hand with the limited bidding symbols that they have. The extent of what they can convey on the page is still limited, but it would be much more limited if everything had just one simple rigid meaning.

And that's even before we get to talking about performers putting their own tastes and personalities into things....

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#2057567 - 03/31/13 10:16 PM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Spacetone]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13773
Loc: Iowa City, IA
For me, there are three things to think about when interpreting a tenuto:

1) The dynamic; how loudly the note and its accompaniment is played
2) The rhythmic placement; on the front, center, or back of the beat
3) The length; which is what people usually think of when they think tenuto

In many cases, thinking in terms of orchestration helps me. I almost always think trombone or oboe.
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#2057619 - 04/01/13 01:37 AM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Mark_C]
Lingyis Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/09
Posts: 799
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Why is the room for interpretation for markings? They should be objective.

Do you play bridge? (Anyone here play bridge?) smile


oooh! i do.

on interpretation: don't really have much to add. i think this thread has pretty much covered it all!

on bridge though: i think the object of bidding is to convey an extremely specific meaning; at the end of the bidding, you and your partner would be in big trouble if there are multiple interpretations of the bidding sequence! flexible, yes; but the possibilities dwindle with each bid. hopefully down to 1 by the time your partner passes!

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#2057621 - 04/01/13 01:42 AM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Lingyis]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19709
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Lingyis
....on bridge though: i think the object of bidding is to convey an extremely specific meaning; at the end of the bidding, you and your partner would be in big trouble if there are multiple interpretations of the bidding sequence! flexible, yes; but....

All true. But the point was that any given bid can mean different things -- just like most given musical indications can mean various things. Composers use the same thing to mean different things because:

-- there's an infinite variety of musical expression, but
-- only a limited set of indications to use.


......just as in bridge,

-- there's an infinite variety of possible hands you might have, but
-- only a limited set of possible bids.

Quote:
....but the possibilities dwindle with each bid. hopefully down to 1 by the time your partner passes!

Yes. As I said, bridge hands, complex though they are, aren't as complex as music. But even in bridge, as per what you said, the most we can say for totally clear communication is "hopefully."

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#2057636 - 04/01/13 02:46 AM Re: Tenuto interpretation [Re: Spacetone]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Three no trumps!

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