Musical Ornamentation: (Part I.) by Edward Dannreuther

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Edward Dannreuther
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Musical Ornamentation: (Part I.)

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Book review

A DEBT of gratitude is due to the author from pianists and musicians generally for this complete and careful collection of facts respecting musical ornamentation. It is true that of the "graces," to use the quaint old English term, many are already obsolete, while others are gradually disappearing. But, if only for the fact that Sebastian Bach makes extensive use of so many, they cannot be ignored. For the sake alone of that great musician, some of them must be understood : for it is only through clear comprehension of the letter that we can arrive at the spirit of that master, whose works, in spite of some antiquated embellishments, seem to defy the ravages of time. It is strange that though several books contain explanations concerning the execution of "graces," yet, as Mr. Dannreuther shows, in the practical application of the same, many puzzling questions arise.

The history of the rise and progress of ornaments commences with Diruta's "Dialogo" and the Italian composers, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli and Merulo; and then a chapter is devoted to the famous "Parthenia, or the Maidenhead of the first Musicko that ever was printed for the Virginals." It is apparently among the early English masters that are to be found the earliest instances of a species of stenography to indicate ornaments in music for keyed instruments. Mr. Dannreuther has made an elaborate study of the "Parthenia" music, and his severe strictures on modern transcribers lead one to hope that he will one day bring out an ungarbled version of it. While ornaments constitute his special theme, he introduces many a pleasant aside: as, for instance, in the chapter on Dieupart's "Suittes de Clavecin," in which he demonstrates how Bach "transfigured and glorified" some of his predecessor's music. From Spitta we know how Bach admired Dieupart's "Suittes," but Mr. Dannreuther shows us what a practical form that admiration took.

It would occupy many a column were we to attempt even to notice the points of special interest in this volume, but we must hasten on to the last chapter on Joh. Sebastian Bach, which occupies close on a quarter of the book. Mr. Dannreuther deals with a difficult matter in an astonishingly simple way, and students of Bach will find it a wonderful help in interpreting his clavier music. The few general precepts with which it opens seem at once to make many a rough place plain. The very first, respecting the diatonic character of Bach's ornaments, is of the utmost importance : we could mention the name of an illustrious pianist who, by non-observance of this simple precept, has robbed one of Bach's Fugues of much of its quaint dignity. With regard to shakes starting ex abrupto...

The Academy and Literature, Volume 43 [1893]

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