2.19.2011

HDM: Abbassare and Abbellimento



PictureAbbassare
To lower, as in the pitch of a string. (Italian)
I'm definitely due to reveal my appalling lack of knowledge when it comes to string instruments. I do now know whether this is something one does before, during, or in between pieces. I'm assuming it's done on an instrument such as a violin or guitar with easy tuning pegs for just such a purpose. It also reminds me of my momentary foray into the world of piano tuning: just me and my blue tuning wedges, a trusty tuning hammer, a rusted old beater of a piano, and one horrific "wolf note" at the end of my 30 minute/3 octave attempt. Thank goodness there are professionals to abbassare my piano when it goes sharp.
The word also pops up in the Italian phrase "Scusa, potresti abbassare la musica?" (Could you please turn down that music?) The most likely scenario involves me listening to the Shostakovich Quartets on ear buds and some old Tuscan Nonna can't stand the assault of overtones. If you know anything about this word please let me know.
PictureAbbellimento
Ornament (Italian)
A large part of Jane's Historical Performance Practice class deals with ornaments of all kinds. Our final project involves researching a piece of music and figuring out how to play it in a H.I.P. (Historically Informed Performance) way. I alighted upon G.P. Telemann's 36 Fantasias for Clavier from 1732-33. Twenty-four of those are in the Italian style (Fantasia) while the other dozen are French (Fantasie). The style of ornamentation will depend greatly on which national style I choose. Italian treatises on abbellimenti include those by Silvestro Ganassi dal Fontego (included in his treatise on playing the recorder) and Giovanni Bassano (too bad I can't read Renaissance notation, yet), while I'd say F. Couperin's L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin will prove invaluable for the French side. But I think it's important to realize that Telemann is a German, translating the styles of two different nations, a codifying effort that will emerge with the eponymous German style in the Baroque and Classical eras especially. Quantz, a most cosmopolitan musician has some great things to say on these styles, translated through the stylish court of Frederick the Great. I'll let you know what abbellimenti I end up employing.
Pralltriller attack!

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