Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 2 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

Gifts and supplies for the musician
SEARCH
the Forums & Piano World

This custom search works much better than the built in one and allows searching older posts.
Ad (Piano Sing)
How to Make Your Piano Sing
(ad) Pearl River
Pearl River Pianos
(ad 125) Sweetwater - Digital Keyboards & Other Gear
Digital Pianos at Sweetwater
(ad) Pianoteq
(ad) P B Guide
Acoustic & Digital Piano Guide
Who's Online
122 registered (anotherscott, Alexander Borro, ando, accordeur, 661-Pete, 35 invisible), 1676 Guests and 23 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Quick Links to Useful Piano & Music Resources
Our Classified Ads
Find Piano Professionals-

*Piano Dealers - Piano Stores
*Piano Tuners
*Piano Teachers
*Piano Movers
*Piano Restorations
*Piano Manufacturers
*Organs

Quick Links:
*Advertise On Piano World
*Free Piano Newsletter
*Online Piano Recitals
*Piano Recitals Index
*Piano & Music Accessories
*Music School Listings
* Buying a Piano
*Buying A Acoustic Piano
*Buying a Digital Piano
*Pianos for Sale
*Sell Your Piano
*How Old is My Piano?
*Piano Books
*Piano Art, Pictures, & Posters
*Directory/Site Map
*Contest
*Links
*Virtual Piano
*Music Word Search
*Piano Screen Saver
*Piano Videos
*Virtual Piano Chords
(ad) Estonia Piano
Estonia Pianos
Page 1 of 2 1 2 >
Topic Options
#2268639 - 04/29/14 11:57 AM To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"?
Old Man Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/12
Posts: 778
Loc: Michigan, USA
As a hobbyist, who plays piano only for my own pleasure (or more often, displeasure cry ), yet loves Bach, one of the most intimidating aspects of Bach's keyboard music is ornamentation. While I would certainly place voicing and fingering as the two most formidable technical challenges of his music, to an amateur like me, ornamentation warrants a close third place.

I have an old worn and tattered Kalmus edition of the Inventions and Sinfonias which contains some ornaments in normal size print (presumably required), and others in smaller print (suggested). Yet I've heard recordings where even the so-called "required" ones are completely ignored, and ornaments are added where none are annotated in my score.

Dictionary.com defines the word "ornament" with respect to music as: "any of several decorations, such as the trill, mordent, etc, occurring chiefly as improvised embellishments in baroque music." The words "decorations" and "improvised" and "embellishments" would seem to imply that the performer has a certain amount of discretion as to when, or even if, to play them.

But is this true? Are ornaments mere adornments or embellishments, like toppings at a salad bar, or are they integral to Baroque music? What would constitute "acceptable practice"? Are there "minimum standards", and if so, how would these standards vary for an exam vs. a competition vs. a performance? Do pianists like Gould, Hewitt, Schiff get a pass, or are they held to the same standard?

Yes, I understand that no Ornamentation Police will visit me in my living room, so let's put that one to bed. But if I were to play a Bach invention for a real pianist, what would be the expectation? Could I honestly say I "played" it if I chose to ignore many of the ornaments? Or is this a case of "If you can't play the ornaments, don't play the piece."

At least I can take some comfort from this delightful quote from Cinnamonbear:

Originally Posted By: Cinnamonbear
"I usually just squiggle my fingers around the note really fast till it sounds about right, then move on. When I come to another squiggle on the page, I squiggle my fingers again. I thought that's what those squiggles meant.

I'd love to believe that's what those squiggles mean, but my confidence level is very low. smile


Edited by Old Man (04/29/14 05:42 PM)

Top
Ad 800 (Pearl River)
Pearl River World's Best Selling Piano
#2268650 - 04/29/14 12:16 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
FSO Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/12
Posts: 854
Loc: UK, Brighton
Old Man; I can at most offer you my unreliable and uncertified opinion on the matter and only at least that...well, at least I suppose I could offer nothing, but it's too late for that laugh Um...all pianists are the same; the "rules" apply just as much to Gould as they do to you, *or* to Bach. Bach is no different to any other composer (and here the batons come crashing down) and should be treated no differently. If you play with *no* ornamentation at a Gouldian level you'll still be playing competently, um...the actual notes don't *really* matter so long as the sensation, the feeling, the milieu of the piece is held intact. I mean...I ornament liberally and, though I'm not sure, would never choose to leave one out; I'd rather play that section inexplicably slowly and pretend nothing was amiss grin But, um, seriously, ornaments, by definition, are decoration, the basil in the dish rather than the egg, they're *important* for a decent flavour but not necessary. Your playing may sound like it lacks some substance or other, but if you play well enough that won't matter...I just...well, um, bear in mind that harpsichords and organs were the main keyboard instruments of the day and, as such, ornamentation *was* their version of dynamics; if you replace ornamentation with clever articulation you won't go wrong...I'm sure if done particularly well it could even surpass ornamentation, but that's just conjecture frown Personally, I like to throw in ornaments as and when the mood takes me and that satisfies *my* conditions on how it should be played. Audiences will likely expect a carbon copy of what they usually hear, ornamentation and all, but will appreciate a *well done* performance either way...um...as for exams and competitions I couldn't advise without *entirely* talking out of my other end. All I'd say, in short wink is that if you'd miss such an ornament in a bit of Brahms or Beethoven, don't feel bad for missing it in Bach; he was a prolifically versatile musician himself, I'm sure he'll adjust smile
Xxx
_________________________
Sometimes, we all just need to be shown a little kindness <3

Top
#2268655 - 04/29/14 12:27 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
A454.7 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 1577
Loc: Manywheres
Another thing to consider is that ornamentation makes less of a difference in a modern temperament. In many historical temperaments, embellishments had a very real tension, or even avoidance, function.
_________________________
Masters degree in piano technology, +factory(s) training, etc., blah, blah, yada, yada, yada...[uncensored break-out in song]..."it don't mean a thing, if you aint got that swing."
--Klavierbaukuenstler des Erwachens--
Email: klavierbaukuenstler@gmail.com

Top
#2268668 - 04/29/14 01:01 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
phantomFive Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1776
Loc: California
In the old days they might just give you a bass line and a melody and let you fill in the rest yourself.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

Top
#2268676 - 04/29/14 01:20 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
Vid Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/01
Posts: 888
Loc: Vancouver, B.C.
It is for sure not an exact science but was a common practice at the time. There are a few books on the subject and it is no simple matter.

Given that the music manuscripts at the time did not carry the same weight towards 'correct' interpretation as say a Stravinsky score I believe there is freedom in what ornaments you choose to recognize and ignore. Or course an adjudicator or teacher may disagree with me and whatever decisions you decide to make but I guess that's a risk you have to take.

It was common practice for singers and instrumentalists to add more ornamentation on repeats. Think of a greedy song bird strutting her stuff on the repeat of a da capo aria to make the audience drop their jaws. This seems to be a lost art but maybe there are a few performers out there who can pull off this kind of thing.

For myself as long as the end result is sound (and tasteful) I wouldn't argue pro or con what a performer SHOULD do in regards to ornamentation. Something new and unexpected on a well known work would be welcome.
_________________________
Kawai VPC1, Pianoteq, Galaxy Vintage D

Top
#2268690 - 04/29/14 01:48 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: FSO]
Old Man Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/12
Posts: 778
Loc: Michigan, USA
FSO, you're touching on the very thing that is frustrating, when you talk about the "sensation, the feeling, the milieu of the piece." One can become so obsessed with trills, mordents, trills with prefixes and suffixes, trills with terminations, that the whole feel of the piece soon gets lost. My temptation is to close the book, and pop Gould into the CD player so I can get back to actually enjoying Bach. grin

I also agree that the limitations of the instruments available in Bach's time contributed to the liberal use of ornamentation. The rapid decay of a harpsichord note combined with lack of sustain, almost begs for some sort of embellishment. But would Bach or other Baroque masters have employed these same techniques if they had had access to a piano? Anyone's guess.

Which is the purpose of my questions. I'm not looking for "certified" opinions, just opinions. But my sense is that many pianists seem to play Baroque ornaments ad libitum - a little basil here, a little rosemary there. Curiously, I seldom hear this ad libitum playing in the romantic period, including Beethoven. If a Chopin waltz has a trillo above a note, I feel duty-bound to play it. I think that's because we know that Chopin had access to a more capable instrument. So if he says he wants a trill, we assume his purpose is musical, and not simply to augment the sound of a less capable instrument.

Top
#2268691 - 04/29/14 01:50 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3836
Loc: Bay Area, CA
There are some ornaments I feel I have to include, some I choose to ignore, and some I think are optional. This isn't based on historical practices; it's based on my thoughts about the piece: how I think it should go. (Admittedly, this is strongly influenced by how I've heard it in the past.)

For instance, some of the 2-part inventions. For the B-minor, I would never consider not playing the three RH ornaments in the first two measures. Those are a fundamental part of how I hear that melody. And A major: How could I not play those turns, and the trill in the first measure? Essential to my feeling of this piece.

I'm less convinced about the RH ornament in the first measure of C major. I'd probably play it, but it feels more "optional" to my ears. And I'm not sure if I'd play all the written ornaments in measures 3-4 of the D major. Doesn't feel essential to me, especially at a fast tempo. I'd probably leave one of them out.

Etc. My point is just that I make a personal decision case-by-case, based on how I hear the piece. I probably play 70-80% of the printed ornaments.

But, as you say, there are no Bach police. Enjoy the freedom, scary as it is.

-Jason
_________________________
Schubert Immersion: Bb Impromptu; C# minor and Ab Moments Musicaux; accompanying four songs (Suleika II, Rastlose Liebe, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Im Fruhling); listening intensely to Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise

Chopin: first Ballade; Mozart: D minor concerto;

Top
#2268705 - 04/29/14 02:21 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
It is my understanding that the placement of ornaments was left up to the performer during the time Bach's pieces were written. I also understand that ornaments, in many cases, were added to make up for the fact that the harpsichord does not sustain sounds. Codifying ornaments, and scores for that matter, is a more recent phenomena. I think if you add or delete ornaments it is fine as long as you preserve the flavor of the piece - not under-doing it or over doing it.

On the other hand, there is much to be gained by learning how to play ornaments with ease. Start with slow, relaxed, weighted practice.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

Top
#2268748 - 04/29/14 04:06 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
prout Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/13
Posts: 902
Ornamentation is such an integral part of baroque music of every type. It is what gives the music emotion (think accented appoggiatura), lilt, finesse, excitement... Look at the second movement of the Bach Italian Concerto. It is one long written out ornament. It gives you a clue as to how Bach thought about line and emotion. Read through Couperin or Rameau. French Baroque musicians were masters of ornamentation. It is worth the effort to make your own ornaments, and make them musical. Much of the music is simply a harmonic skeleton on which the melody and ornaments are hung.

Listen to a HIP performance of the Bach St. Matthew Passion. Most soloists will sing the da capo much more heavily ornamented than the first time through.

Top
#2268760 - 04/29/14 04:35 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
Roland The Beagle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/12
Posts: 256
Loc: California
It seems to be all about taste and musicality. That may sound ambiguous, but it really isn't. It's probably best demonstrated by example. If you want an example of abundant yet tasteful use of ornaments in Bach, see Schiff's recordings of the inventions and the Well-Tempered Clavier.

Schiff also freely uses ornaments in his Haydn. He even adds them occasionally in his Beethoven Sonatas. It works because his playing carries such musical authority without them. They are then added as a cherry on top to tastefully heighten the musical expression of the piece.

Of course, you can always disagree with this that or the other ornament, but even if you do, when they are used well you are forced to recognize the interpretation as a valid one even if that's not how YOU would play it. Indeed, ornaments are about the courage, conviction, and taste to say, "This is how I would play it."


Edited by Roland The Beagle (04/30/14 12:38 AM)
_________________________
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

Top
#2268781 - 04/29/14 05:50 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: prout]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3991
Loc: Rockford, IL
Originally Posted By: prout
[...] It is worth the effort to make your own ornaments, and make them musical. Much of the music is simply a harmonic skeleton on which the melody and ornaments are hung.[...]


Agreed! In Baroque music, especially on a modern instrument which is much more powerful and that can be controlled by the subtle use of dampers, I think it is important for ornaments to fit the flow and momentum of the music, and not be ornaments for the sake of ornaments. Depending on the kind of keyboard piece (Allemande? Sarabande? Minuet? Gavotte? Courente? Gigue?, etc.) with the appropriate attendant pulse and tempo of each, the ornaments help move the piece along, and sometimes help define the melodic arc. Sometimes they help to heighten the harmonic tension, and, a move to resolution. I'd like to underscore what prout said by saying that I think ornaments almost always help establish lilt and momentum. And, when used as an explosion of interest when playing the repeat, they can be very exciting when done well, but can also be garish and grating when overdone (as in, "puhleeze!" *rolls eyes*). So, sometimes, I will start to learn a piece *without* the ornaments, and "see what it needs," like seasoning.

I've been working through the Handel Keyboard Suites for a few years, now (slow learner, you know; Edition Peters, btw), and there are places with ornaments indicated that say to me, "No! No, no, no!" and places with no ornament indicated that scream to me, "Yes! Put one right here!" In fact, I will admit that there are places where the ornament comes from my fingers before I realized I just made one up. Sorry, OldMan, I guess I just invalidated my quote! blush Ah, to be human... wink

Anyway, for show and tell today, I brought this, from Handel's Keyboard Suite No. 13, the first part of the Sarabande. Here is the "original":



And here it is "worked out":



This is an example of the way the ornamentation is an integral part of the music, not just some semi-random, uh, squiggle. grin The tricky part in this example is to make it all fit the pulse in three. This Sarabande is the only piece in the two volume set that has the ornamentation for the whole movement written out like this, so I know, in this case, it's im-por-tant! blush wink (At least, it was to the editor! smile )

--Andy
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

Top
#2268818 - 04/29/14 07:34 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5543
Here's the Goldberg played almost devoid of ornamentation. The Aria is almost unrecognisable......

http://youtu.be/Y2w-jBKYDWk

In some Baroque music, ornamentation is almost an integral part of the music, and sounds rather odd without it.

Here's how we normally hear it (this version has more ornamentation than most other piano versions):
http://youtu.be/--WOImiq7TQ
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

Top
#2268819 - 04/29/14 07:39 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: prout]
Old Man Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/12
Posts: 778
Loc: Michigan, USA
My thanks to prout and Cinnamonbear thumb You've both helped me make a small discovery about myself: I'm a squigglephobic.

prout said to take a look at the 2nd movement of the Italian Concerto, so I did. I looked at a few scores on IMSLP, and noticed that some had deconstructed those squiggles into real, honest-to-goodness notes. And that makes all the difference in the world. Not that I'm delusional enough to believe that this small discovery will enhance my execution of these notes. But visualizing them greatly clarifies what's demanded, without having to know in advance about short squiggles, long squiggles, tails pointing down, tails pointing up, etc.

Cinnamonbear did the same thing with his "show and tell". He said, Here's what the score shows, and here's what I actually play. Once again: notes. You can never have too many notes, despite what Emperor Joseph II thought.

So thanks, guys. I think I may be cured of my pralltriller nightmares! grin

Top
#2268821 - 04/29/14 07:40 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: gooddog]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Codifying ornaments, and scores for that matter, is a more recent phenomena.


I'm not sure of what you mean by "codifying ornaments" but Bach himself wrote out a table of ornaments. So, if that is the sort of thing you mean, it has been around as long as the scores themselves.

Top
#2268838 - 04/29/14 08:26 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: wr]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Codifying ornaments, and scores for that matter, is a more recent phenomena.


I'm not sure of what you mean by "codifying ornaments" but Bach himself wrote out a table of ornaments. So, if that is the sort of thing you mean, it has been around as long as the scores themselves.
I was referring to the trend nowadays to follow the score exactly. My teacher has told me that before recordings, and especially before the 20th century, there was more flexibility in interpretation including adding, deleting or changing ornaments. He told me that competition judges today frown on changing the score or presenting an original interpretation, even if it is musical, because they have to follow a rigid score card or are rigid themselves. Changes like this can hurt your chances of progressing in a competition so piano playing today has less originality than it used to.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

Top
#2268842 - 04/29/14 08:35 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: FSO]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1275
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: FSO
Old Man; I can at most offer you my unreliable and uncertified opinion

No more unreliable and uncertified than a Kalmus edition laugh

Deborah -- surely not all piano playing nowadays is done at competitions?


Edited by hreichgott (04/29/14 08:36 PM)
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Working on: Schumann/Kinderszenen
Daily 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2, Pischna
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

Top
#2268852 - 04/29/14 08:59 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: hreichgott]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: hreichgott

Deborah -- surely not all piano playing nowadays is done at competitions?
Of course not but it seems that most careers these days are made at competitions.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

Top
#2268854 - 04/29/14 09:09 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: wr]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3991
Loc: Rockford, IL
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Codifying ornaments, and scores for that matter, is a more recent phenomena.


I'm not sure of what you mean by "codifying ornaments" but Bach himself wrote out a table of ornaments. So, if that is the sort of thing you mean, it has been around as long as the scores themselves.




or

https://app.box.com/s/kikysyc46x60e8i9q7bu

smile
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

Top
#2268857 - 04/29/14 09:13 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: gooddog]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1275
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Originally Posted By: hreichgott

Deborah -- surely not all piano playing nowadays is done at competitions?
Of course not but it seems that most careers these days are made at competitions.

True. Though I think even competition winners play differently when performing than when in the special environment of a competition.

Anyone who thinks free ornamentation is a thing of the past should listen to Schiff's recording of the first Two-part Invention.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Working on: Schumann/Kinderszenen
Daily 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2, Pischna
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

Top
#2268862 - 04/29/14 09:18 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3991
Loc: Rockford, IL
Originally Posted By: Old Man
[...] Cinnamonbear did the same thing with his "show and tell". He said, Here's what the score shows, and here's what I actually play. [...]


Here's the thing, though, Old Man. I did play from the "worked out" pages for a long time--slow, laborious practice--until I noticed it was becoming fluid. Then, I went back to reading the "original," and worked slowly with a metronome until I could feel the pulse and get it to fit in three. Now, I am working on the "interpretive arc" of the movement, trying to get everything in it to actually *do* something pleasant while holding together. grin
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

Top
#2268880 - 04/29/14 09:41 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3991
Loc: Rockford, IL
Here's a nice example of not overdoing it on the da-cap. This is cued up to the Gigue of Handel's KBS 13, Keith Jarret, piano. Notice especially how "plain" he plays section two of the Gigue the first time around, and how fitting the ornaments are the second time around. In the score that I have, there is but one mordent indicated in the whole Gigue, which occurs at the end of the second section, and he does play it the first time around, (7:38).

http://youtu.be/IGVxUhBNtuc?t=6m54s
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

Top
#2268912 - 04/29/14 10:43 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: gooddog]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Codifying ornaments, and scores for that matter, is a more recent phenomena.


I'm not sure of what you mean by "codifying ornaments" but Bach himself wrote out a table of ornaments. So, if that is the sort of thing you mean, it has been around as long as the scores themselves.
I was referring to the trend nowadays to follow the score exactly. My teacher has told me that before recordings, and especially before the 20th century, there was more flexibility in interpretation including adding, deleting or changing ornaments. He told me that competition judges today frown on changing the score or presenting an original interpretation, even if it is musical, because they have to follow a rigid score card or are rigid themselves. Changes like this can hurt your chances of progressing in a competition so piano playing today has less originality than it used to.


Oh, okay - I misunderstood.

On the subject of competitions, I heard one competitor at the VC do an extravagantly ornamented (and quite wonderful, IMO) version of the Italian Concerto, and was wondering what the judges would make of it. IIRC, it didn't seem to do any harm - I think that competitor progressed to the next round (OTOH, my memory of exactly what happened or who it was isn't too solid).

Top
#2268923 - 04/29/14 11:24 PM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: hreichgott]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
Originally Posted By: hreichgott

Anyone who thinks free ornamentation is a thing of the past should listen to Schiff's recording of the first Two-part Invention.


I don't know that recording, but I remember being startled by a live performance of that piece by him. But it turned out that what he was playing was this variant, which I had mistaken for something he had dreamed up himself.

Top
#2268974 - 04/30/14 04:32 AM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
sandalholme Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/09
Posts: 783
Loc: Dorset, UK
It might be instructive to read through the English suites. Here we have examples of Bach writing out ornamentation in some detail and also the doubles of some movements, which also indicates how the basic theme can be elaborated. It gives a perspective on the sort of ornamentation that Bach would have used.

It might be inferred from these few examples that Bach expected performers to do similar feats of elaboration in the rest of his keyboard music. OTOH, some of his movements, in the partitas for instance, are fairly elaborately written out and leave less room for further adornment. In my view, the French suites certainly can take a lot of elaboration, not just in mordents etc, but "joining up the dots": semiquavers C E G can become CDEFG, C E can become a triplet CDE. The 4th partita's allemande and sarabande are full of Bach filling in the gaps in this way.

BTW, the view that ornaments were necessary because of the poor sustain of the harpsichord is only partially true. I have played - and listened to afterwards - the opening of the sarabande of the 4th partita on piano and harpsichord. The top A minim in bar 2 is audible for longer on the harpsichord due to the higher harmonics: it sings on amazingly, but that's about the limit. Also, early fortepianos have a short sustain, but the practice of elaborate, as opposed to some, ornamentation died out. It was a cultural/fashion thing. My wife's 'cello teacher loved to say that he can play a single note for ever and so he could, so could Bach's stringed instruments, but ornamentation is hardly absent in the 'cello suites.

We cannot - except in the meticulously written out ornamentation of Couperin, Rameau etc (and even here I add an extra one or two sometimes in repeats) - know what was considered tasteful and what would have been considered vulgar in Bach's time and we are playing a very different instrument. So we are bound to end up deciding what suits our musical taste. Nevertheless, the English suites do give us an inkling of Bach's practice and we can at least try it, even if we then modify it.

Top
#2268988 - 04/30/14 06:30 AM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: sandalholme]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
Originally Posted By: sandalholme
My wife's 'cello teacher loved to say that he can play a single note for ever and so he could, so could Bach's stringed instruments, but ornamentation is hardly absent in the 'cello suites.


I was thinking of this, too. I haven't checked but imagine that the violin pieces and organ pieces also have ornamentation, and they, too, can sustain notes.

IIRC, some think that vibrato, as well as certain crescendo and decrescendo effects, were considered to be ornamentation during the Baroque era, too.

Top
#2268993 - 04/30/14 06:53 AM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: phantomFive]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
Originally Posted By: phantomFive
In the old days they might just give you a bass line and a melody and let you fill in the rest yourself.


I believe they also gave you the chords, not unlike what you see in pop music "fake books" today. IIRC, if you were the accompaniment, you didn't get the melody, but just the bass and the chords.

Back in music theory class, we had to learn how to "realize" Baroque figured bass, which I was dreading. But it turned out to be surprisingly easy, once you knew the basic principles. In a way, the musical universe that made up "classical music" was much, much smaller back in the Baroque era, and that made it relatively easy to learn what was okay. There was a lot of formulaic stuff you could acquire without too much effort.

Unfortunately, I've forgotten how to do figured bass realizations. It's not something that sticks with you even if you don't use it, at least it hasn't for me.

Top
#2269007 - 04/30/14 08:00 AM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8027
It is interesting that taste comes up in many posts in this thread.

I was schooled in another recent thread here at PW that taste is apparently a kind of evil if you know you have it - it is a Fall from Grace. Of course, if you don't know you have it, it might be sort of difficult to use it as guidance (not to mention that it might be hard to acquire in the first place if you don't know what you are looking for).

But, on the other hand, if you do have taste, you are doomed to being a member of an elitist snobby club of effete prigs who think they are superior to other people. And who would want that?

The way I understand it, the more maladroit and lacking in grace your ornaments are, the better you may be as a person.

Top
#2269012 - 04/30/14 08:22 AM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: wr]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1275
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: hreichgott

Anyone who thinks free ornamentation is a thing of the past should listen to Schiff's recording of the first Two-part Invention.


I don't know that recording, but I remember being startled by a live performance of that piece by him. But it turned out that what he was playing was this variant, which I had mistaken for something he had dreamed up himself.

Wow thanks wr. Does anyone know if the other inventions have variants like this?
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Working on: Schumann/Kinderszenen
Daily 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2, Pischna
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

Top
#2269015 - 04/30/14 08:43 AM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
FSO Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/12
Posts: 854
Loc: UK, Brighton
Figured bass always brings a smile to my mind (mind? laugh ) when I see the urtext fascists on patrol; some of my favourite pieces by Pascal feature figured bass and *every* interpretation is worth hearing because of it...and none can be "wrong" smile It displays a freedom, admittedly only in the accompaniment, that today seems sadly lacking...I mean, um, there's even the misconception of rubato: the left hand, the accompanying hand, keeps strict rhythm. Of course, most people fortunately don't follow this absurdity but the fact you still see it cropping up displays how prolific such a suggestion was at some time. Greensleeves, one of my favourite songs of all time ("song"? Being used correctly? Gosh... laugh ), I believe had just the melody for the singer and the chord sequence for the accompanying lute, virginal, tuned box on a stick or whatever that pub happened to have. I mean, um, the stifling of freedom in music really kind of says to me "this isn't a creative pursuit but a vocation". For some this is true, of course, but for anybody with the liberty to be playing purely for pleasure I feel it's a travesty to be forced into the current fashion of adherence...*if* that's not what you feel. If you do, fine laugh Anyway, um, Old Man; if you're struggling to discover the sincerity of your playing and you feel you're starting to atomise it too much, starting to lose sight of the light that drew you to it, I have...let's go with three suggestions: 1) be a silly sausage. Um...by this I mean, be as embarrassing to yourself as you can; wave your hands around as you play, hum or sing along, swirl your body like a swizzle stick and shake your painfully bemusing Lang-Lang face to your heart's content. Now...for some of us some of these things happen automatically, and that's great, but sometimes all you need is a distraction; I personally don't know if doing all those things works, but I've found that by adopting the postures of different pianists (and, my red face shall admit, pretending to be them wink Really though...um...pretending to be Chopin as you play Chopin is *very* enlightening: oh dear, I have a terrible cold, everybody loves Liszt but he's just a *cough* *sneeze*, urgh...that shouldn't be black...I'm sure it shouldn't...*cough*.....see, playing his funeral marches in that state of mind adds a certain something, to me at least laugh ) can do wonders for trying to inspire life...anyway, um, 2) let it all go. Don't play it well; just play the hands out of sync, or really drastically overstate the melody like some...I don't know, really bad pianist. Make it a sing song grin 3) Stop playing it. Come back to it another day. I feel from your comment that this may well be what you're doing...oh! Sorry, um, 4) record yourself playing it, stop playing it for a couple of weeks and then listen to it. Not critiquingly, not looking for anything to improve upon, but rather to just appreciate it. For even in the simplest, most tortured renditions there are still nuggets of beauty and perhaps it's noticing *those* that will get you to stop worrying whether a squiggle matters or not laugh Um...if you play a piece enough you'll become used to it...the point is to never lose the light until you reach that point and then introduce the extra (or "necessary" ones?) ornaments to highlight this...well, light. Just my tuppenny laugh
Xxx
_________________________
Sometimes, we all just need to be shown a little kindness <3

Top
#2269017 - 04/30/14 08:48 AM Re: To What Extent is Ornamentation "Optional"? [Re: Old Man]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Wow. This is such a pleasant, polite, mature conversation. No one is becoming snarky or combative. What a pleasure. Thanks guys.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

Top
Page 1 of 2 1 2 >

Moderator:  Brendan, Kreisler 
What's Hot!!
Christmas Header
Christmas Decorations - Piano World 2014
-------------------
The December Free Piano Newsletter
-------------------
Forums Rules & Help
-------------------
ADVERTISE
on Piano World

The world's most popular piano web site.
-------------------
PIANO BOOKS
Interesting books about the piano, pianists, piano history, biographies, memoirs and more!
(ad) Yamaha CP Music Rest Promo
Yamaha CP Music Rest Promo
(ad) HAILUN Pianos
Hailun Pianos - Click for More
Ad (Seiler/Knabe)
Seiler Pianos
(125ad) Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad) Lindeblad Piano
Lindeblad Piano Restoration
(ad) Piano Music Sale - Dover Publications
Piano Music Sale
Sheet Music Plus (125)
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
New Topics - Multiple Forums
mp11
by mike2014
12/20/14 11:42 AM
Merry Christmas from TromboneAl
by TromboneAl
12/20/14 10:26 AM
Odd sound effect on old upright
by 661-Pete
12/20/14 06:38 AM
Define "atmospheric" in piano music
by Pianolism
12/20/14 06:18 AM
1 Hour 2-5-1 Jazz Workout Backing Track - Slow to Fast Swing
by Nahum
12/20/14 05:36 AM
Forum Stats
77371 Members
42 Forums
160012 Topics
2349819 Posts

Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
Gift Ideas for Music Lovers!
Find the Perfect Gift for the Music Lovers on your List!
Visit our online store today.

Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
|
Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World | Donate | Link to Us | Classifieds |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | Press Room |


copyright 1997 - 2014 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission