Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wherefore Number Ten?

As you can see from my previous post, I am 8.33% of the way through this project with the completion of my recording of Fantasia #10. If you consult the chart I posted the other day, you'd see that #10 was originally in the key of F# minor, and I played the Raph version, which is in A minor.

The first movement, (which I have twice erroneously referred to as a giusto tempo, and which is actually a tempo giusto), has the following form: A - repeat A - B - A - coda.

The repeat of section A is written as a straight repeat; however, I've added some ornamentation. I believe the practice of Telemann's day was to add ornamentation or even do some broader improvisation on those repeats. I expect to be sticking with the practice of using modest ornamentation on the second passes of these pieces. I don't have anywhere near the knowledge or expertise to pull off a successful Charlie Parker/JS Bach improv, and I'm sure I'd fool no one if I tried. Section B slightly develops the theme from A but starts it a whole step higher. It then returns to restate the theme with the original tones from A. The coda is really the last 5 measures beginning with a surprise low F, which does a good job of signaling that you're just about home.

If you were just looking at repeats in the movement, the form would be AABB; however, I play it AAB, i.e., without repeating the second section. A couple of reasons for that--first, a mundane one: the Raph edition which I'm using doesn't have a repeat in section B--not sure if that was an error or if it was intentional. The second reason is that low F I mentioned in the previous paragraph (D in the original key). It catches you off guard like a clock striking one. It just doesn't work the same (for me) the second time through. Usually, if the music is AABB I play it that way, but I'm always open to a reasonable argument for AAB or just AB. By the way, when I first described the movement above, I described it as AABAC. I did it that was because I was parsing the B section as BAC, which shifts up a step (B), then back to the original statement (A), then to the ending (C) with the low F.

The tempo marking in the first movement, a tempo giusto, is defined in the New Harvard Dictionary of Music as
"an appropriate tempo or the usual tempo for the type of work at hand, or a return to regular tempo after a passage in which tempo is flexible."
Obviously, since these are the first notes of the piece, Telemann's not talking about a return to a regular tempo. He's saying, just play it the right tempo. "You know," would have been as useful a marking for me. However, I guess to a set of Baroque ears, the tempo would have been obvious.

The second movement, a cut-time presto, sure feels like a lively dance to me, and yet I can't resist the urge to insert a slight lift, a pause, every time the theme re-introduces itself. Although there are no repeats in this movement, I add some small ornamentation toward the latter half--the last time that the original, choppy statement (E-E-A-A-F-F-E) is repeated, it is written an octave up. At that point, I turn the second E into a triplet arpeggio down to the A, and then the second A becomes a triplet up to the F. I also add a baroque turn two measures later. I only know a small amount about the theory behind ornamentation, but it seems to me that by that point the listener has heard that choppy motif maybe five or so times in the movement, and they can hear the theme quite well through the ornamentation at that point.

The final movement, moderato, caused me a surprising amount of difficulty when I tried to record it the other night. I sat down with it the next day and got a clean take the first try. Silly brain. It's a little movement with repeated A and B sections. Again, the first passes are pretty straight, while I drop some trills into the repeated sections.

As to the title of this post: why did I start with number 10 instead of plain old number 1? The reason's pretty dull actually. It's the first one in Alan Raph's edition and was therefore the first one I worked up. As I thumb through the rest of the volume, I'm thinking my guess that Raph ordered them progressively is correct. For the most part they seem to get harder as the book goes on. So I have my work cut out for me.

One down. Eleven to go.

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