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Instrumental Recitative

Instrumental recitative

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 7, 2007):
< I have been looking for a place to sneak in a comment from my friend Dan Stepner, violinist and writer (and, aside to Steve Benson, music director of the summer Aston Magna series), from his program notes to a recent performance of Beethoven's Op. 131 string quartet (yes, the same performance where Lily said 'Hi, Babe' to Paulina, for those following the details):
'The listener is rudely awakened by No. 3 - really a brusque little recitative in B minor'
This is the first time I have seen 'recitative' applied to purely instrumental music, a nice extension of Bach's innovation? >
Nah; Beethoven also used instrumental recitative in the finale of the 9th symphony (cellos doing the melody), and in at least one of the piano sonatas long before that (#17, D minor, Op 31/2).

And Bach did it at least in the solo organ concerto BWV 594, which is an arrangement of a Vivaldi concerto c1716 (where the violin played melody over recit accompaniment). I have a section about that in my essay about Bach recit, here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm

Not to say that any of that by either Vivaldi or Bach was a "first" either.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 7, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< This is the first time I have seen 'recitative' applied to purely instrumental music, a nice extension of Bach's innovation? >>
< Nah; Beethoven also used instrumental recitative in the finale of the 9th symphony (cellos doing the melody), and in at least one of the piano sonatas long before that (#17, D minor, Op 31/2) >
Good thing I remembered to close with a ?; thanks to you and X for the additional info, all new to me.

Santu de Silva wrote (February 7, 2007):

Xavier Rist wrote (February 7, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And Bach did it at least in the solo organ concerto BWV 594, which is an arrangement of a Vivaldi concerto c1716 (where the violin played melody over recit accompaniment). I have a section about that in my essay about Bach recit, here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm
Not to say that any of that by either Vivaldi or Bach was a "first" either. >
Dear Brad, intrigued by your post, I rushed to read the Bach's organ concerto movement. I was able to listen to it as well.

You are right of course, but besides the fact that it is called recitative (which is very interesting in itself) and the role of the left hand that you explain perfectly in your article, it ressembles more to the numerous improvisation passages of the toccatas for harpsichord or organ, or a cadenza in a concerto (which it was originally), than to any form of vocal recitative wether by Bach or anyone else: a succesion of fast passages and scales covering all the range of the keyboard. One wouldn't be able to sing the line, much less put words on it. Isn't the very essence of a recitative to be strongly connected with language?

Beethoven, in the 9th symphony and the op. 110 piano sonata, does something very different and in this matter, I still think he is, in spite of your reference, once more an inventor. He succeeds in resolving this paradox : an instrumental line that immediately evokes the sung recitative, imitates its turns of phrase and sentences, a music of words that doesn't bear any. That's a brand new musical concept, an expressive device that will be used by Berlioz, Liszt and others...

Joel Figen wrote (February 8, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Don't forget the closing section(s) of the Chromatic Fantasia (BWV 903). It's more than a recit, it's a grand parody of grand opera, a whole mad scene, ranging from longing through love through disappointment, madness, and several of the five Kuebler-Rossian stages of Liebestod. You can miss this if you think of it as harpsichord music, but breathe like a singer while you play it and it becomes hilariously obvious. Perhaps the first tipoff of humorous intent is that pitch-establishing far-modulating chords come after the vocal lines they would normally set the pitch for, as though the vocalist were giving the pitch to the keyboardist. Bach even parodies short-style continuo accompaniment by having the number of melodic notes between accompanying chords rise to an absurdly high number. All this humor and great music too.

Extending this accolade to further flights of fancy, perhaps the opening sections of the Fantasia, comprising all the toccata- and prelude-like portions, can be thought of as an operatic ouverture, and the fugue a necessarily pious commentary on life after death. Three voices symbolizing the Trinity, and all that. Note how the last two bars of rhe fugue, after the climactic chord of the one-handed stretto, contain brief references to several sections of the prelude, as if to say: Reincarnation, baby! Life goes on.

Russell Telfer wrote (February 8, 2007):
Instrumental recitative - way OT

Joel Figen wrote:
re the Chromatic Fantasia.....
< It's more than a recit, it's a grand parody of grand opera, a whole mad scene, ranging from longing through love through disappointment, madness, and several of the five Kuebler-Rossian stages of Liebestod. You can miss this if you think of it as harpsichord music, but breathe like a singer while you play it and it becomes hilariously obvious. Perhaps the first tipoff of humorous intent is that pitch-establishing far-modulating chords come after the vocal lines they would normally set the pitch for, as though the vocalist were giving the pitch to the keyboardist. Bach even parodies short-style continuo accompaniment by having the number of melodic notes between accompanying chords rise to an absurdly high number. All this humor and great music too. >
I'm prompted to reply, Joel, by your real enthusiasm for yet another work I hold dear. I don't agree with all of what what you say, but I thoroughly agree with the sentiment.

If anyone is inclined to deconstruct your argument, I'll go in to bat for your side.

Joost wrote (February 19, 2007):
The finest exemple of an instrumental recitative is the third movement of Telemann's e minor sonata for viola da gamba and bc, from Essersizzi Musici (1739/40). This is really a 'recitative ohne Worte'.

Jean-Fery Rebel's 'Sonates à Violon seul' (1711) were "Mellées de plusieurs Recits pour la Viole" (mixed with several recitatives for the viola da gamba).

 

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Last update: żAugust 11, 2007 ż00:28:33