Continuing with Quantz goodies I’d like to use him to comment on what to embellish and what not to. We know that the French wrote down many (but not all) of the necessary embelishments and we know the French almost didn’t embelish compared to the Italians who could be accused of overdoing it. I assume the Germans did it as well, being inspired by the French and Italians. So instead of asking when do we ornament, the question is when don’t we? In chapter 12, paragraph 26, he sais “The majestetic admits few additions, but those that are appropriate must be executed in an elevated style”. Perhaps there is nowhere that one shouldn’t ornament, but rather how much should one ornament?

This weekend Dan Laurin is giving a masterclass in Esbjerg, and me and Michael are going to play Belicha, an estampitta from the 14th century Italy. As far as I’ve understood, there was much culture imported from the middle east to Italy at this time, and you weren’t really in style if you didn’t have your clothes imported from Istanbul. Grove lists this piece as a dance, but I think many would agree to this being more improvised music. I sure would like to see someone dance to it. So I’ve been at the library borrowing stacks of music with Taksims (TaqsÄ«m) trying to get to know the contemporary arab classical music more. According to Grove, TaqsÄ«m means dimunition and is a form dating back to the 18th century, but I haven’t been able to find any earlier forms leading up to the taqsÄ«ms until now, so these will have to do. And my imediate reaction is that early music lovers should get some CDs and listen to this! There is so much brilliant music and musicians in this genre! I’ll definetly use their input for improving my Belicha. Perhaps not for this masterclass, but certainly during this semester. Lots of great ornaments to be “borrowed”. :-)

In this first post I’d like to talk about Pierre Philidor’s notation of ornaments and what this might mean. The ornament in question is the grace note leading up to the second quarternote in the third bar:

Excerpt #1 from Prelude of Philidor's Suite No. 10

Seeing just the upper voice and that second bar, I’d think this is inégal. However, as this is french late baroque music, we would assume that inégal would be written in quavers like the fourth bar in the bass line. But if we can expect a regular inégal, why would Philidor then in the next system write the dotted figure seen in the upper voice first bar and bass second bar in the following example?

Excerpt #2 from Prelude of Philidor's Suite No. 10

It seems like Philidor likes to play with the sharpness of the inégal. But if this is the case, we still haven’t decided what the second bar in the first excerpt means. My personal take on this is to see what Vivaldi is doing at the same time. Shame on me for thinking about italians when working with french music, but hey, Philidor and his fellow french composers were more influenced by italians than the previous generation composers would have allowed. Vivaldi uses such grace notes as dissonances in front of the harmonically correct notes, and since we know that they should have at least half the length of the note, they become great dissoances while it’s easy to read where we’re going harmonically. So I tried playing it lombardic, but I’m not sure that this would be a great solution either.