Friday, June 24, 2011

Handel Errata & Quantz's vertical lines

1. Tempo of Presto in Handel Sonta no. 2 G minor

Dear Jen,
Sorry to bother you but I have a question relating to a specific piece. I am playing Handel's Sonata No.2 from the book "Selected Flute Solos" , page 123"Everybody's favorite series" - Amsco Publication (copyright 1958).
It is the final movement of this piece that is confusing me. The tempo marking is this: "Presto. M.M. (quarter note)=108". Does this mean I am supposed to play the movement at 108? This movement is very rhythmic, with many staccatos and accents, and 108 seems very slow (it is in common time). Again, I am sorry to bother you and thank you greatly for your time.N.

Dear N,
I don't know if you've come across a lot of misprints before, but there are plenty in sheetmusic. Perhaps the sheetmusic copyists stay up all night, drinking espresso, and then fall asleep with their pens (or quills!) still moving. Or the printshop workers in the 17th and 18th centuries, (those late night workers who used to set the tiny metal characters into the printing presses )suffered an occupational hazard, becoming progressively more squinty with atomized ink in their eyes. As a result of such hazards, sheetmusic misprints have been occuring for centuries, and seemingly appear every 200-2000 pages of sheet music or so.

One day we hope, we will catch and correct them all.
But for now we just scratch through them with pencil. :>)

Metronome markings are always highly suspect too; you'll find musicians who slavishly follow written mm's, and others who denounce them as inaccurate due to the faultiness of early metronomes. Don't get them started on Beethoven's metronome. Ha ha!
So, in general, every possible tempo that feels and sounds musical to you is worth considering when you first approach a new piece of music that you've never heard before.

And you are very clever to have spotted this misprint yourself, so serious kudos for you. 108 is definitely not "Presto", and makes a dirge from this exciting Finale movement.
So good instincts.

And since you've written to me online, I'll share that it's very interesting to consider how the internet can change the way we research tempo and where we turn when we have misprint/edition questions.

In the old days, pre-internet, you may have waited until your next flute lesson to check the tempo with your teacher, or tried to purchase a recording.
Most likely, as you're already doing, you would have had simply trusted your marvellous musical instincts, read through the score, played through (or outlined mentally) the keyboard accompaniment, and decided on the best tempo on your own, while waiting for another musician's corroboration.

Finally you would have run through the piece with your teacher at a dress rehearsal, and/or at a masterclass and perhaps discussed the various tempo ranges that would be appropriate depending upon the instrumentation and the sound in the hall you were performing in (echo-filled churches require slower tempos for clarity, for example).

But nowadays, you can easily find out a generally accepted tempo range in about twenty minutes or so, using a google search for online sound samples of the exact piece you're working on.

First thing to do, because it's a flute piece, is to check the printed flute sheetmusic "Errata" page created by Flutist John Wion: This is mostly for more advanced works.

Using the "Find on this page"( hit: Control-F or drop down the Edit menu to see "Find"), look on the Errata page for Handel, or look for "Selected Flute Solos", or look for Amsco.

I don't actually find anything on Handel Sonatas on the errata page, (probably because there are about a hundred editions and 48.2 errata per edition) so then I move on to looking for recordings to see if I can hear the full sonata and make an educated guess from the various tempi it has been recorded at.

From a google search of Handel's Flute Sonatas, and a quick look at the title and key-signature, I find that this is Sonata no. 2 in G minor, originally for alto recorder.

If looking up other Baroque Sonatas, you also can check the numbering of all pieces written by composers such as Handel, CPE or JS Bach or Vivaldi (several of whom can have re-numbered and confusing titles to their sonatas) by googling the composer's complete list of compositions to insure you have the most widely used title numbered or named correctly for your search. For example, here is Handel's list.

Next, you've got the name of the Sonata, but you want to hear recordings to guage the tempo typical for the final movement, the Presto or IV.
So you google that, plus the word "listen" or "mp3" or "sample".
See below:

Checking your tempo on the fourth movement of Handel's Sonata no. 2 in Gminor by listening to a professional performances on mp3/CD: Example:
Scroll down to track no. 22.

Or look up and listen to:

You tube performances of the work by title:
Go to minute 5:30

Or find to listen to and play along with:

Playalong backing track and midi: Handel Sonatas are likely midi-playalongs.

Hear also recorder playing same sonata mvmt: Amazon CD recorder Sonata.

In conclusion, you are absolutely correct.
That 108 to the quarter note tempo marking is far too slow.
Printing errors in metronome markings are fairly common.
The tempo should be anywhere from 138 to 168 depending on the instrumentation, the venue and the player's skill level.
So good for you!
And hopefully this new method of finding the answer will help everybody looking for tempi as well as errata!
Best Jen

2. Vertical slashes in Quantz

Dear Jen,
I just purchased an edition of Quantz Sonatas that have the occasional vertical line above a note, but there's no explanation
as to what they mean. How do I find out how to interpret those vertical lines?

Dear Student,

You may find most music symbols, articulations and other markings here: Music Theory online (free):
Scroll down about 1/8th of the way at the above page, until all the articulation notation types are shown.
Do you see your vertical line listed? If not, then it is possibly a marking that has found its way to the particular printers
of the edition that you have. It could mean marcato, staccato, or it could mean simply "tongue-this-note" while all other notes should be slurred (legato).
Very often the printer of a particular version of a piece is using a faulty copy, a faulty type-setting, or is trying to create a marking that they are not sure of either.

I researched Quantz's book on markings such as these online, using the preview at googlebooks, and I've discovered that there was confusion even in the time of Quantz as to what a vertical slash above a note was supposed to mean.
So feel free to interpret it as musically and convincingly as you can, until more definitive resources become available.

Articulated (tongued) clearly would be my first guess. But making the vertical-slash marked notes stronger, shorter, or more detatched should all be good options to try.

Best, Jen

Note: The student scanned in the markings and here is the sample below.
Any additional teacher-input appreciated. Just click on COMMENTS below.

click on picture to enlarge.
Comments (5)
Blogger jen said...

From Jen P.S.
I found the book in which I'd previously seen an erudite quote about Quantz's vertical line usage:

Page 47, Method for the One Keyed Flute by Boland.

Quantz is quoted as saying that he wants the player to tongue a short note by saying "Dood" or "Tut".
This is not a typical modern day practice, but it does explain that he wanted a shorter note length with silences between notes marked with vertical lines.

Best, Jen

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:46:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about to ask the author of the music what are those strokes over the notes?

In Quantz's Method "On Playing The Flute" 1752, page 73 (Faber&Faber edition 1985) you can read: if strokes are placed above the crotches, TI is kept.

That is, the player can't follow in this case the general rule (for the baroque flute) to alternate TI-RI pronunciation of near notes.

On modern flute, where articulation is no more a matter of pronouncing syllables into the instrument, the interpretation of the stroke can follow again Quantz's words (page 71): TI is used for short, equal, lively and quick notes

Andrea Primiani

Friday, July 01, 2011 12:46:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Andrea.
Totally helpful.
Best, Jen

Friday, July 01, 2011 3:08:00 PM

Blogger Triduana said...

Handel didn't use metronome markings! I have a vague recollection that Beethoven was the first composer to put in metronome marks in his music (and something about those having to be adjusted because the way Beethoven read his metronome he came up with a number either below or above the tempo at which the machine was actually playing).

Thursday, August 18, 2011 4:51:00 AM

Blogger Dixie Bob said...

Playing Handel, or any music of the Baroque, on the modern flute makes the composer's intention in the areas of tempo and articulation, much more difficult to remain faithful to.

So many recordings of Baroque Sonatas, especially Handel's, are played so terribly fast. While it is great fun to whiz through Handel (because we 'can'), it is usually less than the composers' intent. I recall many wonderful Baroque recordings by Ramphal that are simply way too fast!

Dr. Robert Hawkins

Saturday, August 20, 2011 5:19:00 AM


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