BDP # 58, Ornamentation, Introduction

<Music: “Il Sonno” from Vivaldi's Concerto for Bassooon “La Notte”>

Hello this is Terry Ewell, I am glad that you are joining me for this series of videos on ornamentation.

Some of my favorite music is from the Baroque period, that is music from 17th and 18th centuries.

One of the things I like most about this music is not only that we have a lot of concertos for bassoon and several sonatas, and there are certainly masterworks but one of the things I like most about this music is that it gives me a chance to express myself not only as a performer but also as a composer. In Baroque music the lines blur between performer and composer much as lines blur for Jazz artists today. They're both performers on their instruments as well as creators of the music they perform. Baroque music give you the chance to do that (perform and compose). So let's begin our introduction.

Ornamentation is adding notes to Baroque music. The Italians had another term for that is called "diminution." With diminution you take quicker notes or faster notes and substitute them in the place of larger notes.

"Free ornamentation" is a term I really like because it gives the connotation--the idea--that ornamentation goes beyond just adding a trill or a mordent here or there, but it really changes the music and we will see some examples here.

One of the outstanding textbooks on ornamentation by Johnann Joachim Quantz and it's called, "On Playing the Flute." This is a historic text Quantz wrote on music and playing in his period of time.

Here we see an example of where he gives three notes, C-D-E. He gives the chord or the notes that would appear in the accompaniment and then with that, he then shows all different sort of ornaments that can be given. Notice it's not just playing the three notes and not replicating them but in some instances it's really quite varied.

Some places you can see the outline of the three notes, but in other places it is sometimes a little more free. You can see that we add many other notes. So there is really an infinite variety to ornamentation.

I mentioned earlier that the Baroque musician was a bit like the Jazz artist of today. The Jazz artist of today might practice scales and sequences, and certain patterns; and likewise the Baroque artist of Quantz's day also practiced scales and sequences. Here they are working on these three intervals.

His book actually contains a number of figures where he gives these sort of extemporaneous variations on different intervals.

So why do we ornament Baroque music? Well, it is the tradition of Baroque music and if you're interested in playing Baroque music (so that it is close to the tradition) you will need to ornament. It is also quite necessary to ornament in many places in Baroque music. Let me give you an example.

Here is an example out of the Vivaldi concerto "La Notte," and this is the, I guess you could say, the Adagio movement.

The Adagio movement only has three notes and the bassoon part. These notes represent what is given in the strings and the continuo part. (I think there should be a flat added here, at least I like to add one.) But you can see this is a very boring movement if all you did was play one chord, one chord, and one chord. Instead, however, I see this as an opportunity for a cadenza on each chord and I have written the cadenza out here, which you can see briefly. In one of the later videos you get to hear that played.

In addition, ornamentation in Baroque music enhances the music and it allows the performer additional expression. I like that because I can individualize my performance.

Here's an example of some ornamentation given by Besozzi.

Here is his original melody and next we see the ornamented and melody. Notice how much more florid the melody is. He does add a little mordent here, he adds a scale here that really does change the notes in many ways.

So you can see that the ornamention is quite free at times, particularly in the slower movements.

The ornamentation does indeed vary by composer. Different countries had different styles of ornamention. Naturally as time progressed ornaments changed.

Composers had different types of ornaments that they were fond of. So we can't really speak about a common practice of ornamentation, where each ornament would apply whether it's to Vivaldi, to Quantz, or to any number of different composers.

They [the ornaments] will vary. Frederick Neumann in his book. "Ornamentation in Baroque and Post-Baroque Music" does a good job of showing the differences between Italian, French, and German ornamentation and then in addition he gives special attention to J. S. Bach.

So what ornaments are common? Well, appogiatures are by far the most common type of ornaments you'll find in the music. You'll find trills, you will find turns, mordents, also runs. All of those you need to be aware of in order to play Baroque music.

Well, creating ornamentation could require a lifetime of study. I realize that you wanted it started with them right away so I'm giving you some suggestions here in these videos for how you can do that. But you need to study source documents, that is the writings as well as the music from the time.

Secondary documents are those that are written by those of a later period of time that have studied the source documents.