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absoultypebeat:   Followers: 0 ; Following: 0

Period Instruments and Performance

Ab-Soul Type Beat
Ever since the baroque revival from the 1970s, there has been much discussion in the use of so-called period instruments. A lot of people have argued the music of the baroque composers, and even that of the classical composers, can't be performed properly on modern instruments. What reasons would someone have for saying this? What follows is a discussion of the instruments of the orchestra and how they changed drastically during the nineteenth century. I am going to leave out any discussion of the piano because I am limiting this discussion to instruments that became standard from the orchestra, and because the evolution in the piano is such a tremendous topic by itself.

Ab-Soul Type Instrumental
In the middle of the nineteenth century there were a great revolution in instrument making. Actually, many of these changes had been slowly happening over the course of a century or so, especially with the string instruments. However, the appearance of music in the late eighteenth century probably had some affect on the evolution in the instruments of the orchestra. Extreme contrasts of dynamics were required in the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Although, that has been, no doubt, an important factor behind the desire to manufacture louder instruments, with more dynamic range, I have faith that it was not the only factor.

There were another reason for the nineteenth century preoccupation with improving the dynamics of instruments. Audiences were getting larger and concert halls were getting larger so that you can accommodate these larger audiences. Orchestras were required to produce a greater amount of sound to fill the modern concert halls. Making orchestras larger was not the answer. Larger orchestras have a hard time playing fast tempi with precision. This is why Beethoven preferred a forty-piece orchestra for his symphonies whilst could have had them completed by a sixty-piece orchestra. The option between using a small or large orchestra to perform a given composition, naturally, boils down to how big the string section is. The volume of woodwinds and brass depends upon the score, nevertheless, you can have as big or as small a string section as you wish. The standard orchestra of the late eighteenth century contains: first violins, second violins, violas, cellos, string basses, two oboes, two bassoons, two kettle drums, sometimes two or three horns, sometimes a trumpet or even two, and two flutes. By 1800 two clarinets had also be a standard part of the orchestra. What follows is a discussion of the differences between modern orchestral instruments as well as their earlier counterparts, by having an emphasis on the development of the string instruments.

The Violin

First thing I would like to discuss could be the violin bow. The main violin bow, once the instrument was fist invented by Amati, in 1550, was shaped approximately like a hunting bow. It stood a pronounced arch into it, and the hairs fairly slack. The tension of the hairs was controlled by subtle movements of the bowing hand. This made it easy to bow all strings at the same time, or one at a time when necessary. If the player wanted to bow 3 to 4 strings, he would slacken the bow hairs somewhat. When he wanted to bow one or two, he would increase the tension a little. This type of bow had changed little inside the time of Bach.

Another thing that made it easier to bow all four strings at once, was the fact the bridge wasn't quite as arched as exactly what a modern violin, thus putting the strings better being in the same plane. With a modern violin, you can bow three strings simultaneously, but it's difficult to do this without giving greater pressure, and so greater loudness, towards the string in between another two. Modern violinists ought to sort of fake it, whenever they play Bach's sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin. When Bach demands four notes being played simultaneously, the player of a modern violin will rapidly move the bow, one string at the same time, causing the notes being heard in rapid succession, one by one, closing approximating the sound that one would get from bowing all notes at once. Around the violin of Bach's day, this system wasn't necessary, because bow could be easily moved across all four strings simultaneously.

The violin bow underwent a gentle change throughout the eighteenth century, becoming less and less arched. After the eighteenth century a guy named Tourte created a new design of bow. This bow actually curved slightly toward the hairs, as opposed to away from them. This new bow could play much louder compared to old baroque bow. Also, unlike the baroque bow, this new bow could provide an equally loud volume along its entire length. With this new bow, a talented violinist could make the change from upbow to down bow almost imperceptible. It was perfectly suited to the newest style of music, using its broad, sweeping melodic lines. Exactly the same reasons that make the Tourte bow so well suited for nineteenth century music ensure it is somewhat unsuitable for 18th century music, especially early 18th century music.

The old baroque bow produced a strong sound in the middle of its length, the sound getting much weaker because the string was approached by either end from the bow. This is actually a bonus when performing baroque music, featuring its highly articulated phrasing and lean texture. The existing baroque bow allowed more how to go about shaping a note. Together with the Tourte bow, it is hard to shorten a note without making it sound chopped off. Sufficient reason for most baroque music, it is advantageous to make the up-bow sound distinctive from the down-bow. The old baroque bow is more effective suited to the lean, transparent textures of baroque music. In polyphonic music, it's easier to hear each of the individual lines if each player will not smoothly connect his or her notes, but allows a little bit of "space" between them. This is possible on a modern violin, but comes naturally using a baroque violin.

The body of the violin went through major modifications in the middle of the nineteenth century. A chin rest was added by Louis Spohr at the beginning of the nineteenth century, causing a whole new technique of playing. The strings were created thicker, and eventually were wound with metal, the sound post appeared thicker, the bass bar appeared thicker and stronger, plus much more tension was put on the strings. With the thicker strings, the bow must be drawn over the strings with far more pressure in order to get them to vibrate, but the sound is significantly louder. The neck, as an alternative to coming straight right out of the belly, was glued on within an angle, which makes the angle from the strings across the bridge more acute.

These changes resulted in an enormous loss of overtones, resulting in a much dryer sound. That is why the old baroque violin has this kind of sweet, pretty sound, compared to a modern violin. This is the price that was paid in order to increase the volume of the instrument. Together with the new instrument, dynamics had become the dominant means of achieving number of expression, while nuances of articulation were the principle means of achieving expressive variety together with the baroque violin. Also, a musician playing a modern violin, as a way to compensate for the inherently dry sound, could make almost constant using vibrato, a technique, which was only used sparingly, simply for special effect, three hundred years ago.

Eighteenth century books on violin playing, such as the one by Leopold Mozart, tell us that vibrato should be used to add spice with a note. Vibrato is the daily bread and butter from the modern violinist. It is used almost constantly. With out them, the sound can be dull and dry. I should mention here that i'm speaking of the fingered vibrato, not the bowed vibrato. The bowed vibrato is made by a rapid pulsation of the bow across the strings. This effect was rather common within the baroque period and is meant to imitate the tremulant in organs.

During the nineteenth century great instruments built from the great masters of old, including Stradivari, Gaunari, and Stainer, to name the three most important, were disassembled and rebuilt so that you can make them like the newer violins. Most of them literally broke by 50 percent from the strain. There isn't any instruments built from the great masters, who have not been rebuilt, many of them many times over. In my view this is a great tragedy.

Exactly what has been said above about the violin is also largely true of the viola and cello. The bass violin stood a somewhat different history. In Germany, in the eighteenth century, a three stringed bass was popular. The Germans discovered that a bass with three strings, stood a beautiful, more pure sound than a single with four. However, the greater versatile four string bass become the norm and the three string bass became obsolete.


The woodwinds also underwent a whole makeover in the nineteenth century. The taper in the internal bore also was changed. This led to a louder instrument which has a different timbre than the original documents. The old baroque woodwinds had seven or eight holes. Six holes were closed directly by the fingers and the others were closed by keys. Nowadays in this woodwind, all of the holes are closed by keys. Due to the nature of the arrangement of the holes, and mostly because of the fact that they are closed directly from the fingers, each woodwind is readily playable in one certain key and is progressively more difficult to play in keys which are more and more distantly related to the fundamental key of the instrument. The modern woodwinds, with the key mechanisms employed to cover the holes, as opposed to being covered directly with the finger tips, are just as easy to play in one key as with another. Besides equal easy playing in all keys, another critical difference it that all note on a modern woodwind has basically the same timbre, while on a baroque woodwind, especially the flute, each tone have a noticeably different timbre.

Within the clarinet and oboe the internal bore was widened. The end bell of the clarinet became less flared. This ended in a different sound. The bassoon from the eighteenth century was constructed differently too, the real difference being the walls of the instrument were thin enough to vibrate. This is an important difference. The laws of acoustics dictate that this timbre of a wind instrument is not affected by the material it really is made from as long as the walls in the instrument are too think to vibrate. The thinness from the wooden tube of that the old bassoons were made gave it a sweeter sound, nevertheless the new bassoons were much louder.


The main change in the brass instruments was the invention of valves which are operated by pressing levers together with the fingers. This made the instruments much more versatile. With the old brass instruments the gamer had to change the tension of his lips to create different notes, the one notes being available is the ones of the harmonic overtones. Horn players employed short lengths of tubing called crooks. As a way to play in a different key, the horn player removed one crook and inserted another. This became a bit cumbersome and composers rarely requested horn players to change crooks in a movement, though they usually had to change crooks between movements.

Horn players in Mozart's day had determined that they could change an email by a semitone by inserting their fist carefully in to the end bell and holding it right. This gave them the ability to play things that they cannot otherwise play, however, this technique was used sparingly because of the difference in timbre of the not thus produced. The invention of valves gave all of the brass much more versatility. Inside the late eighteenth century the trumpet was outfitted with one valve, that was controlled by the thumb. This enabled the trumpet player to try out a lot more notes. It turned out this type of trumpet for which Josef Haydn composed his famous trumpet concerto. Inside the nineteenth century three valves which control the airflow through sections of tubing were included with the trumpet, allowing you much more versatility. The trombones, obviously did not need to be outfitted with valves since they always had a slide which changed along the vibrating column of air, thus changing the note.

Smaller internal bore of the old brass instruments gave them, well, no pun intended, a brassier sound. The trumpets had a greater portion of a bite on their sound. The horns were a lttle bit harsh compared to the smooth sounding modern horn. The trombones a slightly harsh edge to their sound compared to modern trombones.

Advantages and disadvantages

So which is better, that old baroque instruments of modern ones? I don't think either is best. They are only different. The previous instruments have a sweet sounding quality that comes through even in recordings. These are perfectly suited to the background music of Bach and Handel. They may be great on recordings but they will never have an important place in the modern concert world his or her sound is too weak to fill a huge concert hall. While it's possible to do justice for the music of Bach and Handel on modern instruments if the musicians have an intimate knowledge of the style, it would be sheer madness to experience Strauss or Debussy on baroque instruments.

When it comes to music of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, you can easily make the argument which it should be played for a passing fancy type of instruments they had in their time, as well as perhaps certain aspects of their music are available through more clearly about the old instruments. But it's also easy to debate that their music pushed the instruments of time to their limits, and also beyond. Their music was revolutionary. It had been ahead of its time often, especially the music of Beethoven. Why must we have to put up with the constraints that were forced on them when we can hear their music played effectively with modern instruments?

Ultimately, it does not take skill, understanding and sensitivity of the musicians to the type of music that they are playing that produces the biggest difference, not the instruments they are playing.

Post by absoultypebeat (2015-12-30 12:42)

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