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What is the difference between sf and > #1225607 07/01/09 12:13 PM
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Arghhh Offline OP
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In Mendelssohn's Variations Serieuses, he uses both > and sf. In ms. 1 (of the theme) he uses > and in ms. 9 he has sf. I've eliminated the possibility that > is used for specific notes and sf for all the notes because there is an instance where sf is placed above the staff, meaning that it is intended only for the top note(s). What is the difference?

For that matter, what is the difference between sfz and sf?

Are there resources available where I can find the answers to these questions instead of just asking PW members?


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Re: What is the difference between sf and > [Re: Arghhh] #1225616 07/01/09 12:30 PM
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This is a good on-line resource : Music Dictionary

You'll find your answer to your question(s) there. Keep in mind that occasionaly some signs, symbols and abbreviations are synonymous, depending upon what was most commonly in use in a given area at a particular time in history.

Regards,


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Re: What is the difference between sf and > [Re: Arghhh] #1225626 07/01/09 12:53 PM
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You'll find that the meaning of the notation will vary depending on the composer in question and players may interpret them differently. From my understanding, > simply denotes an accent, which could be accomplished by making the note louder, giving it different articulation, or changing the timing ever so slightly (again, this depends on the composer and the style). sf is more specific because it instructs us to express the accent using a sudden increase in dynamics.
Some composers may think of > as being less strongly accented than sf, and this may be the case here. Listen to some recordings of the piece and see if you can find any trends. I haven't played much Mendelssohn myself so I can't tell you for sure. Hope this helps!

Re: What is the difference between sf and > [Re: Cantabile_affettuo] #1225656 07/01/09 01:38 PM
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Arghhh Offline OP
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OK, I looked in the dictionary, sf is Sforzando, sfz is sforzato. So sf is forte (f) + >. sfz is forte + (^_). That goes against what one of my teachers told me, that sfz should be not be played f in a piano passage.

So what is the difference in playing between the sforzato and sforzando?


I agree with Cantabile that the notation varies according to the composer, which is why I'd like to know if there are any specific references on how to decipher different composer's music.

Recordings cannot always be trusted. Ralph Kirkpatrick was both a scholar and a performer, and he warned against taking whatever you hear on a recording as how things should be played. I've followed the Mendelssohn score with a Murray Perahia recording, and there are places where he ignores what is written in the score for dynamics or tempo.


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Re: What is the difference between sf and > [Re: Arghhh] #1225666 07/01/09 01:46 PM
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Keep in mind that it is not likely that every composer knew the precise difference between nuances in the notation, nor that what they thought they were saying meant what someone else thinks they were saying, nor that they were consistent.

At some point, you need to play it the way that you feel it should be played. The notation is only a guideline.


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Re: What is the difference between sf and > [Re: BDB] #1225724 07/01/09 03:11 PM
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BDB brings up a good point. There is such a dizzying array of terms to indicate performance practices, that it is quite possible - and even quite likely - that all composers didn't agree on them or that all composers knew all of them and used them discriminately.

Groves says : "Sforzando : (It: 'forcing', 'compelling'; gerund of sforzare). A strong accent. Like the past participle of the same verb, sforzato, it is abbreviated sf or sfz; fz is an abbreviation of forzando or forzato. In Beethoven and most other 19th-century composers it is used for an accent within the prevailing dynamic and need not necessarily be very loud; but in the work of many 20th century composers it is intended as an exceptional mark; irrespective of its context.

Virginia Tech's Online Musical Dictionary says : sforzando - A directive to perform a specific note or chord of a composition with particular emphasis. The note or chord would be performed as if it had an accent [...] and performed at the dynamic level indicated. It is typically shown as the abbreviation, sf, sff, or sfff.
This term can be confused with sforzato which has a similar effect and is indicated by the abbreviation sfz, sffz, or sfffz. In fact, many music dictionaries show both sforzando and sforzato as having the same meaning.

I wouldn't worry too much about trying to distinguish which Mendelssohn wanted; use your judgement to decide which works better in the context of the piece.

Regards,


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Re: What is the difference between sf and > [Re: Arghhh] #1225856 07/01/09 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
I agree with Cantabile that the notation varies according to the composer, which is why I'd like to know if there are any specific references on how to decipher different composer's music.

Recordings cannot always be trusted. Ralph Kirkpatrick was both a scholar and a performer, and he warned against taking whatever you hear on a recording as how things should be played. I've followed the Mendelssohn score with a Murray Perahia recording, and there are places where he ignores what is written in the score for dynamics or tempo.


That's why I suggested listening to some recordings and finding the trends among them to give you a starting point, but of course you shouldn't be following them exactly without first thinking it through yourself. It's something that I myself find very helpful. Even if I don't choose the adopt the performer's interpretation, I find that listening to someone else play the piece gives me inspiration in my own performance. The great thing about music is that there's no definitive "right" way to play a piece. Even when you listen to recordings of composers playing their own works (for example, trying listening to some Bartok or Debussy and following along with the score) you find that they ignore a lot of their own instructions!


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