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Double-Dotting

 

 

Double-dotting

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 61 - Discussions Part 2

Robert Sherman wrote (March 27, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] Neil refers to double-dotting (that is, playing a dotted-eighth and sixteenth note patter as if it were a double-dotted eighth and a thirty-second note) as employed by "HIP conductors." True, but we frequently hear it done by non-HIP conductors (e.g. Marriner's Messiah).

I consider myself anti-HIP as the term is frequently used, but in baroque music I double-dot more often than not, because it seems to fit the music better.

Frequently the most effective, IMO, is to begin such passages by zero-dotting the first time, and double-todding after that. For example, in Messiah's "Behold the lamb of God), the initial "Be" should be a full eighth note, while "the" and "of" are thirty-second notes. The text seems to support such an approach, in that "Be" is obviously more important than "the" or "of". But this practice works well on instrumental pieces too.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 27, 2005):
[To Robert Sherman] Bob, I am actually referring to the practice of performing the groups of 3 successive notated semi-quavers (a total of 4 notes in the 'run' if we include the following crotchet) that occur frequently in the score of BWV 61's opening chorus, as (almost) glissando-like sweeps of notes; not to the different issue of the degree of pointedness of the dotted quavers, with their following single semiquavers (ie, the double dotting you refer to). I have not really considered the issue of the 'degree of dotting' in these recordings.

The point you make about double dotting is very real, of course; if I remember rightly, in BWV 153's tenor aria, non-HIP Rilling double dots the continuo quavers, making them almost sound like one note (since they are an octave interval apart from the following semiquavers). HIP Leusink plays the score as written, which in this case I prefer because of the better contrast with the 32nd notes (notated) in the upper strings, and greater rhythmic vitality (audibility) of the (single) 1/16th notes in the continuo.

I most likely agree with your remarks concerning double dotting in "Behold the Lamb of God" in Messiah - which is another great French overture movement.

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 28, 2005):
[To Robert Sherman] Unless I misunderstand something, Malcom Sargent discussed exactly this issue in the liner notes for his wonderful 1959 Messiah - a better "big battalion" performance to my ears than Beecham's of about the same time.

Ludwig wrote (March 28, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] I am not a Händel specialist but in general "big Battalion" performances are a Romantic concept and not appropriate for the Baroque age and often result in muddy sounds in which the interparts of the work are not clearly heard if at all. Music from the Baroque period sounds much better with smaller forces and is more easily controlled by the Continuo player or conductor.

I have never been able to find out what Händels normal forces were although we know that he had at his disposal a richer variety of instruments closer to the modern Orchestra than did Bach out in the boondocks of Saxony and Thurgia (sp?).

For Bach we know his normal forces were a Chorus of 16 Men and Boys and if the Church authorities allowed it--- Women usually in solo roles. The Orchestra consisted of Organ (never Harpsichord except when the Organ was being tuned or repaired), 8 Violins, 4 Violas and 1-2 Gambas occaisionally a Violone but in performances I usually do not hire a Violone or Contrabass player(if I do I use them only for Continuo parts) as they just plod along with the Gambas, contributing nothing other than a very lugubrious sounds to what is otherwise joyous music.

The Woodwinds consisted of two Blockflote,doubling on other members of this family, Flauto traverso (the modern orchestra flute)--rarely used ,up to 4 Oboes--doubling on the da caccia and d'amore, maybe one Bassoon.

Brass, when used, usually consisted of up to 4-5 Trumpets, rarely used 2 Horns, even more rarely used 1-2 trombones.

Percussion consisted of 2 typmani tuned to G and D or closely allied notes. All these people can fit into the less than 300 square feet + Organ of the small balcony spaces one finds in the Churches where Bach was in Kapellmeister.

Händel's Messiah is so overplayed these days that it has become trite. I fail to understand why Bach Cantatas and Oratorios appropriate for Easter and Christmas are not more often played especially the Passions of St.John and St. Matthew.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 28, 2005):
Not often played SMP/SJP ?

[To Ludwig] What do you mean by "not more often played especially the Passions of St. John and St. Matthew"?

In March 2005 alone there are about 250 performances of SMP/SJP worldiwide. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Concerts/Concert-2005.htm#Mar

Although I have done an extensive research to find them all, I am quite certain that I have missed many more. Many performers/ensemble do not have a website, others present their concert schedule in languages that I cannot read, etc.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Performance of Bach's Vocal Works - General Discussions Part 12 [General Topics]

Robert Sherman wrote (March 28, 2005):
[To Ludwig] I agree with Ludwig that the large scale and added instrumentation just muddy the lines in baroque music, and I'm not at all a fan of the Sargent or Beecham Messiahs, or of the Mozart re-orchestration in any form.

I would go further. Even though Händel apparently used bassoons to double the cellos and oboes to double the choral sopranos in parts, IMO these obscure the essential sound quality and should not be used. I also believe that if one world-class outfit were to record the opening statement of the Messiah Amen a capella, that would sound so good it would become standard practice.

All that said, I'd be interested to hear what Sargent wrote about double-dotting, if anyone has it on hand.

Doug Cowling wrote (March 28, 2005):
Ludwig wrote: < I have never been able to find out what Händels normal forces were although we know that he had at his disposal a richer variety of instruments closer to the modern Orchestra than did Bach out in the boondocks of Saxony and Thurgia (sp?). >
Händel uses a much smaller palette of orchestral colours and depends 75% of the time on standard string accompaniment. In Messiah, there is only one obbligato aria, "The Trumpet Shall Sound" and the oboes and bassoon double the strings throughout. In fact, an aria with an obbligato instrument is an unusual moment in any Händel work. Only a piece like "The Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" has anything comparable to Bach's normal orchestal colours -- and the "Ode" is special because the text calls for depictions of the various instruments.

A Bach work for strings alone is unusual (e.g. "Christ Lag" and "Nun Komm") and are almost always earlier works. Bach's orchestra is much larger in terms of instrument type than Händel's, He even commissioned the building of new isntruments. Leipzig, far from being a hicktown, was a sophisticated centre of learning and musical culture. The only thing it lacked was the opera.

Doug Cowling wrote (March 28, 2005):
Big Band Baroque

Robert Sherman wrote: < I would go further. Even though Händel apparently used bassoons to double the cellos and oboes to double the choral sopranos in parts, IMO these obscure the essential sound quality and should not be used. I also believe that if one world-class outfit were to record the opening statement of the Messiah Amen a capella, that would sound so good it would become standard practice. >
Händel himself admitted that he liked a big band in the oratorios: he called them his "bow-wow" choruses. He regularly used bassoons and contra-bassoons to double the bass line, and oboes on the soprano and tenor lines. Horns doubled the trumpets imany oratorios -- there is even evidence to suggest horns doubling in Messiah! On one occasion, he borrowed the contra-timpani from the military band of the Tower of London -- it played an octave lower than normal timpani! Throughout his career, his orchestra steadily grew in size and there is a direct line to the famous 1785 centenary performances when a huge choir and orchestra were used. OVPP is rarely part of Händelian performance practice.

Dale Gedcke wrote (March 28, 2005):
Händel vs. Bach orchestration

[To Doug Cowling] That's an intriguing contrast in orchestration that you point out, Doug, between the two composers, Händel and J. S. Bach. And now that you mention it, one can hear that difference in their music.

Perhaps it was just a lapse of memory, but the trumpets play an important role in the Halleluja Chorus as well as in the aria, The Trumpet Shall Sound, in Händel's Messiah. Or possibly you were focussing on comparing just the arias between the two composers. In both the chorus and the aria in the Messiah, Händel uses the trumpets very effectively to add bright color.

Mind you, sitting for the entire performance of the Messiah and then coming in cold on two very exposed trumpet movements, is challenging for a trumpeter. Both movements are at high altitude, making them even more demanding for a trumpet player. They can be played on a modern, valved, D trumpet, but a little better endurance is afforded on a piccolo A trumpet. Of course, these two selections would be much more difficult on the natural (valveless) trumpet used in Händel's debut concert.

Dale Gedcke wrote (March 28, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] The premier performance of Händel's Royal Fireworks Music is another example of Händel's penchant for large orchestration. I can't help thinking that part of this difference in orchestral size between Händel and Bach was personal taste, and part must have been due to the available space and resources.

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 29, 2005):
Händel & Double-dotting

[To Robert Sherman] I sure didn't want to start a Messiah bashing thread. The work is a masterpiece and deserves every bit of its fame. The fact that it's more popular in the UK and the US than in Europe might have something to do with language - I bet even Homer Simpson would buy that idea. I love the thing. I also admire several other large Händel works, especially Alexander's Feast. (I write military history from time to time and must be moved by "drinking is the soldier's pleasure.") Anyway, below is a citation from Malcom Sargent's liner notes for his 1959 Messiah with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Huddersfield Choral Society:

"The instructions are so inadequate in the case of Händel that no conductor can direct a performance even of the first chord of the Messiah without making at least two arbitrary decisions. Händel does not even indicate in his score whether we are to start loudly or softly. He marks the first movement 'Grave', so that we know we must proceed slowly. But how slowly? The first note is a dotted crotchet, but composers in the 18th century often wrote a dotted note to indicate a double dotted note. I belive that in this case intended a dotted note, to be played as he wrote it, but many other conductors think otherwise, and no one knows which one is being truly Handelian. In the whole of the Messiah there is no indication of rallentando, of a crescendo or diminuendo; whole movements are written without one indication of loudness of softness, and with only a very indefinite indication of pace; marks of phrasing are non-existent, and bowings very occasional. Given the original score of the Messiah a conductor must make a personal decision at almost every bar."

Sargent covers the growing success and forces employed for the Messiah and notes:

"There is no musical evidence that Händel intended the Messiah to be considered as 'chamber music.'...Twenty five years after Händel's death - with many living who knew him and hear his performances - special Commemoration Concerts were given in Westminster Abbey, directed by Mr. Bates, who had known Händel well and respected his wishes. The orchestra employed was 250 strong, included twelve horns, twelve trumpets, six trombones and three pairs of timpani (some made especially large). The chorus consisted of 60 sopranos (40 being choirboys), about 50 male altos
(singing falsetto I trust), over 80 tenors and about 90 bases. An odd balance of parts. There was no conductor but Mr. Bates led from the organ, at special console 20 feet below it and 19 feet in front of the pipes. (He must have had fingers of iron.) There is no mention of a harpsichord."

Wonder if McCreesh could reproduce that production?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 28, 2005):
Ludwig wrote: < I have never been able to find out what Händels normal forces were although we know that he had at his disposal a richer variety of instruments closer to the modern Orchestra than did Bach out in the boondocks of Saxony and Thurgia (sp?). >
Could you have Thuringia in mind?

Robert Sherman wrote (March 29, 2005):
[To Dale Gedcke] Trumpets also are used, prominently, in Glory to God and in the final triple chorus: Worthy is the Lamb, Blessing and Honor, Amen.

The opening of Worthy is the Lamb has tripped up many an unwary trumpeter, including yours truly. It climbs right up to a high D, which capable trumpeters handle with little difficulty in rehearsal. But then in performance you're sitting there playing nothing since TTSS, you're not aware that you've gotten cold, and WHAM comes the need for the high D which won't be right if you're cold. There are workarounds that can be used once you've found out, usually the hard way, that you need them.

The main advantage of the piccolo A over the D trumpet is accuracy. Endurance is more a function of the mouthpiece than of the trumpet. Also, the more compact sound of the picc, although totally non-authentic, seems to fit baroque music better than the more diffuse sound of a D trumpet.

Playing any part of Messiah well on a true natural trumpet (no finger holes) isn't difficult, it's impossible. At least to the extent that nobody has been able to do it into a recording device.

For reference on how the Messiah trumpet part should be played, Mark Bennett on the second Marriner recording puts the others in the shade.

John Pike wrote (March 30, 2005):
[To Robert Sherman] I agree that large forces muddy the lines in baroque music and I am becoming a fervent supporter of the OVPP movement, but I still think Beecham's recording of Messiah is just wonderful.....so much joy and Spirit, and the Hallelujah chorus is just fantastic.

Robert Sherman wrote (March 30, 2005):
[To John Pike] I guess we disagree. I want to like the Beecham performance, and would like to hear the Wagnerian-orchestra approach executed well. But to my ear, this just isn't it. Compare the orchestration to the breathtaking effects gained by Mahler and Tchaikovsky, let alone Wagner. With the Beecham recording, it's just not there. IMO it almost seems as if the instruments are brought in by lottery.

Regarding Hallelujah, it certainly starts with a bang -- i.e., a dramatic cymbal crash. But after that, I don't hear anything that fires me up. My favorite is Marriner 2, with the final Hallelujah from Andrew Davis spliced on at the end. Scimone is also superb, the "thinking person's Hallelujah."

Doug Cowling wrote (March 30, 2005):
Händel vs. Bach orchestration ( was: Double-dotting)

Robert Sherman wrote: < Playing any part of Messiah well on a true natural trumpet (no finger holes) isn't difficult, it's impossible. At least to the extent that nobody has been able to do it into a recording device. >
Händel's use of the trumpets in Messiah is masterful. As we approach the Hallelujah Chorus, the brass have been silent for nearly an hour. When they finally enter, the effect is electrifying. It is my theory (supported by no facts whatsoever!) that early audiences were so excited that they jumped to their feet and applauded DURING the chorus -- hence our modern custom of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus. Lots of examples of applause duriarias for a "bomba". Reminds me Marilyn Horne taking on four trumpets in "Rinaldo" and WINNING!

Dale Gedcke wrote (March 30, 2005):
Double-dotting: Large vs. small forces

[To Robert Sherman] I have a CD of the Messiah that was recorded back in the 1950s by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. I bought the original vinyl version back in the early 70s, and replaced it with the re-mastered CD a few years ago.

This is the Mozart arrangement of Händel's Messiah. I don't know the exact size of the orchestra and choir, although you can look at a photo taken circa the time of the original recording. It appears to be a moderate choir size and a slightly trimmed-down symphony orchestra. This might be close to the size of orchestra originally used by Händel in the premier performance in Ireland.

To my ear, this recording sounds well balanced and clear. I certainly don't perceive any muddying of the sound caused by large forces. The arias are clear and well done. The drammatic choruses come through very strongly, yet beautifully.

The Trumpet Shall Sound was played on a valved, D trumpet (not a piccolo trumpet), and it sounds just great!

Adrian Horsewood wrote (March 30, 2005):
Dale Gedcke wrote: < I have a CD of the Messiah that was recorded back in the 1950s by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. I bought the original vinyl version back in the early 70s, and replaced it with the re-mastered CD a few years ago.
This is the Mozart arrangement of Händel's Messiah.
<snip>
The Trumpet Shall Sound was played on a valved, D trumpet (not a piccolo trumpet), and it sounds just great! >
That's interesting... In the Mozart version, the trumpet in 'The trumpet shall sound' is replaced by a horn! And the German words say 'The trombone shall sound' ('Er tönt die Posaun'')... All very confusing...

Robert Sherman wrote (March 30, 2005):
[To Adrian Horsewood] I attended that Phila performance live. Gil Johnson played the trumpet, quite well. For that matter, George Eskdale on the 1954 Scherchen recording used a D trumpet and sounds terrific. That said, most of us do a lot better on picc.

Mozart screwed up a lot of Messiah, but he didn't change the trumpet part in TTSS.

Dale Gedcke wrote (March 30, 2005):
RE: Adrian's comment, viz., "That's interesting... In the Mozart version, the trumpet in 'The trumpet shall sound' is replaced by a horn! And the German words say 'The trombone shall sound' ('Er tönt die Posaun'')... All very confusing..."
MY COMMENT:

There is another perturbation to add on top of the re-orchestration by Mozart. That is the arrangement that was originally published well before I was born. I don't have the recording jacket in front of me at work, but I recollect it is a name something like "Schumer". I probably have that name wrong. Hopefully someone who knows the correct name will update this posting.

In any case, I understand that this latter published score is the one commonly used today. It was certainly used by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the soloist definitely sings the words "The trumpet shall sound." And it is obviously a trumpet not a French Horn playing the counter-melody.

This subject is becoming OT for Bach Cantatas, but I would certainly be interested in more information on the "trombone" version with the horn replacing the trumpet. That is uncanny!

Robert Sherman wrote (March 30, 2005):
[To Dale Gedcke] In the live performance, they used the more or less full Phil Orch, and the Mormon Tabernacle choir was quite large, at least 100. Don't know if the recording was different.

Jason Marnaras wrote (March 30, 2005):
HIP with large forces(!) -- was: Double-dotting

There are no 'HIP' groups or recordings with large forces, are there? No huge baroque orchestras playing the Messiah? That would be quite HIP, no?

PS: Aryeh, I press being myself pressed by my desire :-) ; what is become of the BGA?

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: HIP - Part 15 [General Topics].

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 30, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] I'll second Doug's opinion. I have a DVD of the Cleobury/Kings/Roy Goodman Messiah which is a fine work all around. When the trumpet players come out, carrying instruments the size of bazookas, and then start blazing away the impact is quite dramatic. I could certainly see the audiance getting into the swing of things.

Dale Gedcke wrote (March 30, 2005):
RE: Eric's comments:

It's amazing how trumpet players get the parts with all the glory!

I am beginning to believe I chose the right instrument to play. Now, if I can only learn how to play the trumpet perfectly, I'll be guaranteed a glorious career. (Only in my dreams, I suspect.)

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Last update: řApril 2, 2005 ř08:03:29