Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

(iv) The 17th century: instrumental ornamentation


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(iv) The 17th century: instrumental ornamentation.

Vocal treatises indicate that keyboard and instrumental players employed the same ornaments as singers. But it is rare to find any signs other than ‘t’ or ‘tr’, which can probably stand for any of the trill- and mordent-like figures described above. Thus Froberger, whose autograph manuscripts use only this sign (borrowed from his presumed teacher Frescobaldi), employed it in contexts evidently calling for a descending tremoletto or mordent (ex.60), an ascending tremoletto (ex.61) and a groppo (ex.62). Significantly, these examples are all from a piece in French style (the Allemande of Suite V), but there is no certainty that at this date (1649) the ornaments were receiving the names or realizations applied to them in later French practice.

Later music is often more explicit. Numerous accenti appear as one-stroke signs in the keyboard suites of Kuhnau (I1689) (ex.63; the first one-stroke sign might represent an acciaccatura struck briefly as the chord is broken). A two-stroke sign used by the latter signifies a mordent (also in ex.63), but for Walther (I1708) and others the same symbol indicated a gedoppelter Accent, that is, a descending anticipazione della nota (ex.64). Walther's illustration recalls written-out instances of this ornament in early works of J.S. Bach such as Cantata 106, composed in the older italianate tradition (ex.65). In keyboard music such as Weckmann’s, however, the context for this sign suggests an upward passing note (the French port de voix) or mordent (ex.66).

Ornaments, §8: German baroque

(v) The later 17th and early 18th centuries.

The vocabulary of ornaments in Germany expanded during this period, while at the same time certain ornaments, such as the repeated-note trillo, fell out of use. Many German musicians evidently retained the old Italian terms for ornaments, which continued to receive discussion by Walther (1732) and Mattheson. But by about 1750 C.P.E. Bach and other German writers were advocating a highly stylized manner of ornamentation reminiscent of contemporary French approaches yet applied in sonatas, arias and other Italian genres, thus reflecting the German synthesis of the two national styles. The discussion below focusses on keyboard sources, since these are the most explicit with regard to ornamentation, but it is clear that other musicians employed most of the same ornaments.

(a) Ornament tables and signs.

(b) Appoggiaturas.

(c) ‘Mordant’.

(d) Trills.

(e) Turn.

(f) Slide.

(g) Other ornaments.

Ornaments, §8(v): German baroque: The later 17th and early 18th centuries

(a) Ornament tables and signs.

The ornament tables that began to appear shortly before 1700 are one sign of an increasing concern for the precise notation and performance of ornaments. Often understood today as instructions for the performance of ornaments, the tables must have served rather to clarify which signs were used within a given work for ornaments whose manner of performance was already understood. For there was no standard system of ornament signs, and the symbols, realizations and names for ornaments that occur in German ornament tables are drawn from various sources. Thus J.S. Bach's table for W.F. Bach employs a sign for the Accent (appoggiatura) shaped like a half-circle or small letter ‘c’, similar to that used by d’Anglebert and Rameau for the port de voix (ex.67). But Bach's sign for the mordent resembles that of François Couperin's pincé, and his table shows several signs that are absent from French sources.

It is unclear whether the proliferation of ornament signs represents an expansion in the number of actual ornament types or merely greater precision in their notation, but there was probably an element of both. Georg Muffat (I1690), for example, used only four signs, all variants of the letter ‘t’, to signify four distinct types of Triller: short, long, with termination and inverted (i.e. a mordent). Already a refinement of the old use of a single ‘t’ (for tremolo), this system was greatly expanded by his son Gottlieb Muffat (1726), whose table shows five signs for different types of trill alone.

Most of the new signs are commonsense extensions of more basic ones. Thus in Bach's system the stroke through the middle of a trill sign converted the latter to a Mordant (ex.68); but the combination Trillo und Mordant produced what we would call a trill with a closing turn or termination (ex.69). Similarly, a straight descending stroke continuing into a trill sign indicated an Accent und Trillo (ex.70). C.P.E. Bach observed in 1753 that most of these signs remained unknown to all but keyboard players. But appoggiaturas indicated by small notes are common in many 18th-century repertories, and the accounts of Georg Muffat (1698), Agricola and others make it clear that instrumentalists and singers used the same ornaments as keyboard players.

Ornaments, §8(v): German baroque: The later 17th and early 18th centuries

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