Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)



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(ii) The agréments.

In the following discussion, the ornaments are grouped according to interval: (a) Unison: aspiration, balancement de main, batement, flattement, langueur, liaison, plainte, son coupé, suspension, tenuë, tremblement (these do not involve auxiliaries, though pitch may be affected); (b) Whole tone or semitone: aspiration, cadence, coulé, martellement, pincé, port de voix, tour de chant, tremblement; (c) The 3rd: double cadence, tierce coulé, tour de gosier; (d) Larger intervals: arpégé, compound ornaments, glissando.

(a) Unison.

(b) Whole tone or semitone.

(c) The 3rd.

(d) Larger intervals.

Ornaments, §7(ii): French Baroque: The agréments

(a) Unison.

The expressive use of silence is represented by two ornaments: suspension
and aspiration. The suspension is a delay of a note, and was considered particularly affective. The aspiration or son coupé is a shortening of a sound; d'Anglebert called it a détaché and recommended its use ‘avant un tremblement’ or ‘pincé’ (see below).

The prolongation of sound is a more convoluted matter. De Machy's liaison is a tie, joining two notes of the same pitch into a longer note. It is not to be confused with Jean Rousseau's (H1687, pp.103–4) liaison, which is a slur, encompassing several notes (and intervals) within a bowstroke. Rousseau called a tie or hold a tenuë, noting that ‘if one runs out of bow, one should change strokes as discreetly as possible’. The tenuë is usually indicated with long lines, though Marais used square brackets and De Machy sometimes used long notes written as double stops. This is one of the most distinctive technical aspects of the style brisé on the lute, harpsichord or viol, enhancing the sonority of the instrument while underpinning the harmonic progression. De Machy's preference for jeu d'harmonie over jeu de mélodie was attacked by Rousseau (H1687, p.64) because of the way in which the tenuës restricted the melody: ‘quite inappropriately, [De Machy] wishes to … tie us to practising the tenuës. Preferable to this are more important things … [such as] the beauty of the melody and its agréments, which are preferable to all tenuës which might wish to stand in the way’. The curved lines found in harpsichord préludes non mesurés are variously referred to as tenuë or liaison, the latter by the majority of writers. Whatever the terminology, the intended effect is that of ‘digital pedalling’, with the affected note left sounding (i.e. held) throughout the length of the sign or for an indeterminate duration (for examples see Prélude non mesuré).

French writers give detailed descriptions of the vibrato. For wind players the flattement or flaté, as described by Hotteterre (H1707; he also refers to it as tremblement mineur), involves the lowering of the pitch of a main note and has the sole purpose of ‘sweetening’ or ‘softening’ notes. Mahaut (H1759, chap.7) described it as ‘a wavering of the tone which is slower than that of a trill and produces an interval narrower than a semitone’. For string players the same ornament was named pincé by Marais, in common with all 18th-century writers, who described it as a vibrato produced by the rocking motion of two fingers pressed against each other. Variant interpretations confuse the picture. Bacilly evoked the comparison with a bow vibrato when likening the singer's doublement du gosier to the flatté, which is ‘easier to execute with the bow than with the voice’. Corrette's vocal flaté (H1758, chap.15) requires a barely perceptible upper auxiliary inflection of the voice, whereas his flattement for the flute (Hc1740), ‘done to swell and diminish the sound … extremely touching in tender pieces on long notes’, is reminiscent of the Italian Messa di voce (like Corrette's son filé). By contrast, Montéclair's (H1736, p.85) flatté was a vocal ornament produced by several slight, gentle aspirations, which he compared to a vibrato on one string. His other vocal vibrato, executed by making ‘several small aspirations more definite [plus marquées] and slower than those of the flatté’ (ibid.), is called balancement and is equated with the Italian tremolo, producing the effect of an organ Tremulant. This could well be the interpretation of the wavy lines in the ‘Shivering Chorus’ in Lully's Isis (1677; see Sawkins, H1996).

The single-finger vibrato is even more fraught with confusion, being referred to as aspiration by De Machy, balancement de main by Danoville (H1687) and langueur by Rousseau (H1687). The latter regarded it as a poor cousin to the two-finger vibrato, to be used ‘when the batement [Rousseau's and Danoville's term for the two-finger vibrato] is not possible, particularly when it must be a note held by the little finger’. The use of the fourth finger for this ornament was standard for Marais and most 18th-century composers, who, like De Machy, referred to it as the plainte.


Ornaments, §7(ii): French Baroque: The agréments

(b) Whole tone or semitone.


The bulk of documentary evidence supports the practice of playing ornaments on the beat. However, several modern writers, notably Neumann and Mather, have argued for pre-beat performance, citing as reasons the avoidance of parallels and the subjective experience of the ability of anticipatory ornaments to aid the flow of the melodic line: thus a ‘pre-beat’ ornament is preferable for iambic pairs, while an ‘on-the-beat’ ornament is best applied to trochaic pairs of main notes.

The trill. The most common ornament in this category, the trill, had both melodic and harmonic applications, and was referred to interchangeably as tremblement or cadence. The latter term designated the specific ornament found at a melodic closing, the penultimate note of which was typically ornamented by a trill (though other ornaments are possible; see §(c) below). Loulié explained in Eléments (H1696, pp.83–4, under ‘Tremblement’):

It is customary to give to the tremblement the name of cadence; there is nevertheless a difference. The cadence is a melodic ending. Now, melodies are related to an air [much in the same manner] as periods and other parts [of speech] are to an address. The endings of these melodies, or sections of which an air is composed, are related [in speech] sometimes to periods, sometimes to commas, sometimes to question marks, etc., according to the different manners in which these melodies conclude. The ending or conclusion of each section is called cadence, of which there are many types … Since the tremblement enters into most of these cadences, the name of cadence has been given to the tremblement.

Rousseau (H1768, p.67) added that ‘Cadence is, in terms of the melody, that beating of the throat that the Italians call trillo, which we also call tremblement, and which is usually done on the penultimate note of a musical phrase, from where, without doubt, it has taken the name cadence’.

The anatomy of a trill is best revealed by Couperin (H1716, p.24), who described three components: the appuy, an upper auxiliary preparation; the battements, the oscillation proper; and the point d'arrêt, a termination on to the main note. This analysis, more properly for the tremblement appuyé, however, belies the dazzling variety in which trills can be executed. Most writers apportioned to the appuy half the value of the trilled note, for notes divisible by two, or a third, for those divisible by three (Bérard, H1755; Blanchet, H1756); naturally, the ornament takes on the suffix appuyé or (in the case of Hotteterre) pleine. Despite Couperin's example confirming an earlier example by d'Anglebert, it would seem that this ornament should have a reiterated upper auxiliary. Saint Lambert (H1702, p.47) not only omitted d'Anglebert's tie but also stated quite specifically that, in performing the tremblement appuyé, the ‘borrowed note’ (i.e. the upper auxiliary) should be heard once ‘before starting the tremblement’. This is not to be confused with Couperin's (H1713) tremblement appuyé et lié, in which the appuy is tied to the preceding note.

It is, however, possible that because of its brevity a note cannot accommodate any dwelling on the auxiliary or its point d'arrêt. In the former case, the suffixes non appuyé, sans appuyer, brisé (Hotteterre), détaché (Couperin) or precipitée (Corrette) apply. Sometimes the term simple is used, though this usually applies to a short, as opposed to longer (double) or long (triple), ornament. Mahaut associated such a non-appoggiatura trill with the Italian style, as opposed to the appuyé trill of the French style; Corrette's (H1758) cadence italienne, however, does have an appuyé as well as a two-note termination, and seems to differ from his double cadence (Hc1740) only in that the latter applies to notes in conjunct ascent. Note that De Machy's tremblement sans appuyer for the viol is actually a two-finger vibrato.

Trills are usually portrayed oscillating for the entire duration of the note, despite Couperin's illustration of a point d'arrêt. This feature could, however, be shortened to allow a brief silence, which Couperin called aspiré. A brief silence can also be found in Hotteterre's (2/1715) double cadence coupée, where it occurs between the termination of a trill and the subsequent note. This is unlike Corrette's (H1758) cadence coupée, whereby the point d'arrêt takes half the value of the ornament and has no ‘cut-off’. Often the tremblement runs into a termination, usually written out in small notes; however, d'Anglebert tended to consider this a compound ornament, tremblement et pincé. Couperin called those with a termination resolving upwards tremblement ouvert and those resolving downwards tremblement fermé. His term for a trill which oscillates across a few bars is tremblement continu.

Jacques de Gallot, in the ‘Méthode’ to his Pièces de luth (c1684) recommended the use of ‘rhythmically even trills as often as possible’, while Le Gallois (H1680, p.77) found that ‘there is nothing which makes playing more lovely … than to trill equally and to sustain the trill’. This does not exclude the shaping of the momentum of the ornament; as Couperin (H1716, pp.23–4) succintly put it, ‘a trill of any considerable duration … should begin more slowly than it ends’.


The appoggiatura. The symbol for the port de voix in keyboard music is almost always an inverse comma preceding the main note. (Chambonnières alone used a cross.) The ornament takes up half the value of the ornamented note. The choice of upper or lower auxiliary is guided by the note preceding the ornamented note. As d'Anglebert (1689) pointed out, the cheute en montant ascends to the main note, while the cheute en descendant approaches the main note from above; the falling motion of the latter explains Gallot's use of the term tombé. Couperin (1713) eschewed the symbol, opting for a small note linked by a square bracket and calling the ornament port de voix coulée, while Rameau's coulez is slurred with an overlegato. Other terms for this ornament include accent plaintiff (Mersenne) and coulement (Hotteterre).

A closely related ornament is Loulié's coulé (H1696, under ‘Coulé’), a vocal inflection from a subsidiary or weak note to a lower and stronger one. It is indicated by a comma between the main notes of varying intervals, and functions mainly as a descending anticipatory appoggiatura linking notes a 3rd apart; its descending counterpart is the port de voix, which Loulié indicated (with an oblique stroke) as playable either before or on the beat.


The inverted mordent and other ornaments. The pincé or pincement begins on the main note and involves only the lower auxiliary. For the flute Mahaut called it battement, a term used by Mersenne and adopted by most viol composers, though De Machy and Loulié referred to it as martellement. It is indicated by a comma after the note or by the modern sign for inverted mordent. Played very swiftly, the pincé is often preceded by a port de voix. These two ornaments are so closely associated that they have mutated into another ornament which Mahaut called martellement. Hotteterre's (1715) tour de chant has the appearance, in its explanation, of an inverted mordent, but is actually an extended preparation involving a lower auxiliary of the anticipation.

Rousseau's (H1687, p.90) viol aspiration is played a semitone or a whole tone higher at the very end of a long note; this note must be very short and separated from the main note. A vocal counterpart to this ornament is Bacilly's (H1668, 3/1679, p.189) accent, a passing note nonchalantly inserted between main notes: ‘There is in melody a particular note that is only articulated very lightly by the throat … it is always done on a long syllable, and never on a short one’. This description was echoed for wind instruments by Hotteterre (H1707), who observed that the passing appoggiatura is ‘borrowed' from the end of some notes to give them more expression. The main notes do not have to be conjunct: Corrette (H1758, chap.15) demonstrated how, in bridging a leap, a long note is held until a light upward inflection to the auxiliary precedes the following disjunct main note.



Ornaments, §7(ii): French Baroque: The agréments



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