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#2112535 - 07/04/13 12:53 AM Question about ornaments
Roland The Beagle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/12
Posts: 161
Loc: California
I had a question about performing ornaments, specifically turns.

I can't find a straight answer about where they begin - before or on the beat. I've read that ornaments are supposed to follow convention and musicality as far as how they are performed, but I've also read that they also always begin on the beat. However, in one of the pieces I'm learning this summer, the turn sounding on the beat for the opening theme sounds a little ridiculous (although perhaps it could work...), and the recordings I have heard so far seem to start before the beat.

Also, later in the piece there are turns on sixteenth notes. The piece is not that fast, maybe quarter = 60-80bpm. However, it does seem rather challenging to play a sixteenth followed by a turn on a sixteenth (4x 1/64th notes) followed by another sixteenth smoothly and legato, even at this speed. Also, true legato isn't even possible without pedal here because the first 64th note is a repeat of the previous note (G followed by a turn on F aka GFEF followed by G). Is it at all proper to connect the turn to the previous beat and / or the beat after to give more 'breathing room'? A similar situation came up in a Bach piece where there was no clear guidance but tying it to the previous beat is what I ended up doing.

I should mention the turns I am talking about here are written over the beat. When it's written later then it's a lot easier because you are free to insert it wherever.
Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach

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#2112964 - 07/04/13 07:29 PM Re: Question about ornaments [Re: Roland The Beagle]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17670
Loc: Victoria, BC
I could answer your question more surely if I could see the context of your query.

Traditionally, however, a turn is made up of four notes, as I am sure you know :
- the note above the principal note
- the principal note
- the note below the principal note, and
- the principal note.

If the turn is written directly over the note, the turn starts on the beat where that note falls, and not before the beat.

- - - - -
Estonia 190 in satin ebony
Writing from Paris until 15 May, 2014

#2113013 - 07/04/13 09:59 PM Re: Question about ornaments [Re: Roland The Beagle]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6077
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
You may also find this book useful.

Music is my best friend.

#2113083 - 07/05/13 03:54 AM Re: Question about ornaments [Re: ChopinAddict]
de cajon Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/10/13
Posts: 163
Loc: London, UK
Do I remember correctly being told that it depended on the era? That there was a tendency to be on the beat in older music and before the beat in later music?

When I started playing a lot of Bach, I seem to remember my kid's teacher explaining that to me.
Yamaha C3X SH

#2113293 - 07/05/13 03:00 PM Re: Question about ornaments [Re: de cajon]
outo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/02/12
Posts: 384
Loc: Finland
When it comes to ornaments it depends on the era and also on the composer. Sometimes it's not clear what a certain composer meant in older stuff.

Some of my urtext editions have discussions on the ornaments.

#2113294 - 07/05/13 03:18 PM Re: Question about ornaments [Re: Roland The Beagle]
Roland The Beagle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/12
Posts: 161
Loc: California
In this case, the piece is Rondo in C Major Op. 51 no. 1 by Beethoven.

The opening theme starts right here:


In this theme, Richter is not beginning the turn on the beat, but before the beat. My recording of Alfred Brendel is the same - they treat it virtually identically.

The turns on 16th notes are here:


I can't tell exactly what the rhythmic treatment is here because it's moving so fast, but it definitely does not sound like a turn is being played on a 16th note - instead the turn seems smoothly tied to the previous and following sixteenth notes.


In this version of the opening theme, it sounds a lot closer to the turn being played on the actual beat. And it does work because the pianist here is extremely precise, hats off to him. I wouldn't mind playing it this way. Whether it's aesthetically better is debatable - I think most listeners would prefer Richter / Brendel's treatment.

Here's a further picture to illustrate how I imagine it would be played:


Is this right?

Edited by Roland The Beagle (07/05/13 03:45 PM)
Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach


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