<Music: “Il Sonno” from Vivaldi's bassoon concerto "La Notte">

Naturally Baroque compositions don't occur in a vacuum. They take place in the midst of a culture
and in the midst of traditions.

So it's important to understand that the Baroque culture, the Baroque compositions are really quite different than the culture we find in Classical and Romantic music and later music into the 20th and 21st centuries. The Baroque solo sonata really can be considered a two part composition [with] two melodies. There's a solo line and then there's a bassline that really acts as an independent melody. These parts often are in dialogue and when they speak to each other you should consider when you make ornamentation to have the ornaments participate in the dialogue between the two voices.

Let's take a close look here at the Galliard Sonata, the very first of the six sonatas. I think we can very clearly see the dialogue here. The top voice, this being the bassoon part. starts <singing>. Then the bassline picks up <singing> picks up the other line.  You can see the imitation that goes on between these two parts. So when I play this with a colleague and I make an ornament in my part and its answered by the other part, then I have the colleague answer me, and consider how the ornaments are placed. So we are dialoguing with each other, we are playing chamber music with each other.

[Speaking to] one of the great misconceptions that instrumentalists have as to how to play the Baroque concerto:

The Baroque concerto is more like chamber music than a Romantic view of the concerto. If you want to find more information on that please see my article "Playing those Missing Notes in Baroque and Classical concerti." This will give you a little bit of background which we don't have time for here.

You can see if you watch the video that I've produced on "La Notte" by Vivaldi, you'll see that there are cadenzas shared among several instruments. There really is a dialogue that occurs as part of our performance of this Baroque concerto. I think it's important consider that. Don't consider that you as soloist are apart from all the other musicians, but instead you have to consider how your part fits with the whole.

Here are some ideas of what I think is part of the purpose of ornamentation besides the fact it's historically correct. One purpose of ornamentation is to lend variety. The music should be just full of pleasure, and surprise, and interest. As a performer you should be giving variety to these compositions.
There should be an expression of emotion or pathos, an expression in the slower movements; [an expression] of longing and more serious emotion. In the faster movements [there is] much more virtuosity and joy.

One of the things I love of course about this [Baroque] period, is it that it allows on each performer to give a unique expression of their interpretation of the music as well as their abilities as a performer. So use this music as a platform to express yourself.

Now when you consider the context of where you're going to be placing your ornaments and your ornamentation you must understand figured bass. Often we will have with modern arrangements of this music a realization of the figured bass.

This piece I showed you of the Galliard [Sonata] was an original printing or offset of that is printed by the Bassoon  Heritage Edition. This is the best edition of this work.  Notice here the continuo part, the other parts are only given as a single line. At that time the harpsichord player and a cellist would play this bottom line. They are called "continuo." Continuo was more than one instrument, it's actually usually two. You usually have a keyboard instrument and then a bass instrument. The keyboard player would then improvise chords above this bassline and these numbers and these symbols--sharps, naturals, and flats--would indicate the notes above that bassline that would be played.

Let's take a look at this particular edition here. This is an outstanding edition of the Telemann Sonatina published by Schott. In this sonatina by Telemann for bassoon or cello we see here what we call a "realization." A realization is when a modern edition, or an editor of a modern edition supplies the upper chords that were not originally in the piece.

The original piece, the original composition by Telemann was again two parts. You had one part up here and one part down here. Melody here, melody up here. This melody, of course, supports the harmony and then down below here we have the figures; the figures that indicate the chords above. 

So with this edited version we see it realized. We see the chords put in there. But these treble clef chords are not original to Telemann but that is supplied by our editor.

When you work on your ornaments you need to be aware of chords. You can look at the harmonies given by the editor in order to decide which notes would best fit. Or you can look at the figured bass if you know how to read that. So it is quite critical that you understand the harmonies. You cannot ornament a bassoon part, flute part, whatever, [by] only looking at the solo part. No, you must look at what the other part [contains] so that you know how to harmonize it.

Going back to our original printing, here the offset, the bassoonist would actually at this time--during Galliard's time--be reading of the music off this page. The bassoonist would read here, the harpsichordist and cellist would read here. So the bassoonist would see what the other part is like. That would be the context for Baroque music then. Unfortunately our context now is you get a solo part which does not have the accompanying part and as a result many of the soloists don't understand what the other part is doing. So is very important that when you create your ornamentation you understand the context of your solo part with the accompaniment.

Now I don't have time in these videos to give you a detailed explanation of figure bass, but I have put a couple of links here that may be helpful for you: Music Theory Online, Wikipedia have some further information for you.

We will close now with an examination of the cadenza movement from Vivaldi's "La Notte." When I wrote the cadenza for this I considered the music before it and the music after it. I considered the harmonies that were given. And then of course I wanted to make some sort of artistic statement. These were those "famous: three chords that I showed in the introductory video that make up the entire Adagio, for that concerto, and which form the chords around which I do my cadenza. 

<Music. Vivaldi's "La Notte," Adagio>