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What does "espressivo" mean?
#1292962 10/24/09 01:37 PM
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In particular, what does it mean you should do? It's non-specific; it doesn't indicate tempo, dynamics or articulation.

What kind of expression, expressiveness or feeling, then? What should be conveyed or projected, and how? Is it just a cue that the performer should feel something distinct from elsewhere in the music, and respond accordingly in any way that's natural?

Obviously there are other indistinct and non-musical directions, too, like the relatively common dolce. There are surely many more, though most composers didn't employ them with the extravagance of Scriabin or the archness of Satie.

Or maybe I'm on the wrong track, and espress. means to go get an espresso ... and dolce means to have a pastry. grin

Steven

Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
sotto voce #1292966 10/24/09 01:41 PM
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whenever I see espressivo in the score, I always think broader and sometimes more dramatic (depending on the piece.) So I guess I tend to slow down a bit and play with extra rubato when I see it.

on that note, it does seem like a redundant marking. Usually where ever I see espressivo I would probably already be playing that section more expressively anyway; it usually shows itself in the music.

Last edited by Synapse; 10/24/09 01:43 PM.
Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Synapse #1292979 10/24/09 02:45 PM
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I've wondered about this too, Steven. smile Kind of mid-boggling, really. crazy


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Horowitzian #1292985 10/24/09 03:01 PM
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It means you should sip some steamed coffee before you play.

Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
sotto voce #1292988 10/24/09 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by sotto voce
It's non-specific; it doesn't indicate tempo, dynamics or articulation.


I think it's basically saying you can interpret it any way you want. Personally, I tend to put a little more rubato in and slow down a little as has been said. Also, I think over exagerated movements help too...


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Chopin4life #1292992 10/24/09 03:09 PM
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It means "Turn off the metronome, and turn on your ears."


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
BDB #1293125 10/24/09 07:50 PM
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Perhaps the composer wrote that in there because it's possible to play that section a bit too strictly, and so almost as a warning that they want it with rubato.


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Morodiene #1293238 10/25/09 02:17 AM
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It means "play with expression".


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Studio Joe #1293239 10/25/09 02:24 AM
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From a composers point of view: It's so pretty to have it in score in Italics that we use it regularly! laugh LOL!

For me, it actually means that the music takes a more 'strict' form, and allows a more liberated idea of the performance. It's a restricted form of 'freedom' as opposed to a dead 'ad lib' and other more contemporary notation techniques.

It's juts a way to remind the performer "Add a tiny bit of yourself in there", I think...

Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Studio Joe #1293394 10/25/09 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Studio Joe
It means "play with expression".


Yes, that goes without saying. But, as Steven asked in his opening post, what differently should the player do when the composer writes 'espressivo', since most of us attempt to play - or think we are playing - with expression, anyway. Or, in other words - and as others have attempted to address - what does "play with expression" mean and why does a composer insert that direction at a certain point in a piece?

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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
BruceD #1294063 10/26/09 11:57 AM
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I conclude that indications given in the score that are not specific directions to do something are purely descriptive of something the composer wished to call attention to and to characterize; to the extent that it would already be noticed or would be assumed anyway, the terms are redundant.

A case in point regarding dolce is James Huneker's description of the main theme of Chopin's Fantaisie Op. 49 (the one presented successively in A-flat, G-flat and D-flat at various stages of the piece):

Quote
... that heroic love chant, erroneously marked dolce and played with the effeminacies of a salon. Three times does it resound in this strange Hall of Glancing Mirrors, yet not once should it be caressed. The bronze fingers of a Tausig are needed.

Actually, it's Huneker's claim that's erroneous: the episode and its repetitions are not marked dolce in any edition I'm aware of, including the first published ones. And yet, in his defense, it is exactly the sort of melody one would expect to be marked dolce even though it's not.

So what was Huneker thinking? How, exactly, would this section be played differently depending on (1) whether it were marked dolce or not, and (2) if it were played with "the effeminacies of a salon" as compared to the "bronze fingers of a Tausig"?

Similarly, if one really defines espressivo as turning off the metronome and turning on the ears, that's surely a direction that applies to the entire piece. I don't think espressivo is a direction so much as a depiction: the composer calls attention to the spot so designated to signal that the music expresses something out of the ordinary, but one needn't do anything other than incorporate one's natural response to the music.

Steven

Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
sotto voce #1294094 10/26/09 12:23 PM
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One should apply the expression to speaking to get an idea of what it means in music. Most people know the difference between expressive speaking and unexpressive speaking. One adds inflections in meter, tone, and volume to make speaking more expressive. While you cannot change the tone without changing the piece, even though that may be a good idea, you can make inflections in the meter and volume. These inflections may be too slight to notate accurately, but the sense should come from the way we use our voices.


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
BDB #1294139 10/26/09 01:25 PM
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One can certainly play more or less expressively.


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Morodiene #1294160 10/26/09 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
One can certainly play more or less expressively.


Indeed -- but does that mean that the direction espressivo should be taken that the rest of the piece should be played without expression? And, if not, does it mean `_more_ expression here than usual'? The problem is that I find it hard to conceive of a scale of expressiveness that I could actually articulate at the keyboard.

Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
kevinb #1294203 10/26/09 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Morodiene
One can certainly play more or less expressively.


Indeed -- but does that mean that the direction espressivo should be taken that the rest of the piece should be played without expression? And, if not, does it mean `_more_ expression here than usual'? The problem is that I find it hard to conceive of a scale of expressiveness that I could actually articulate at the keyboard.

As I said, I think of it as an indicator that one might tend to play that section too "legit" if you will, and so it is a cautionary indication.


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
sotto voce #1294239 10/26/09 03:57 PM
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[quote=sotto voce]In particular, what does it mean you should do?

"espressivo" means "with espresso", you should be playing having a strong cup of coffee called "espresso".

Now if you want to play "expressivo" then you have to play having a particular meaning, feeling or force, in other words play the way you feel at that moment.
For example if you feel angry play "angressivo", if you feel in love, play "lovessivo", if you feel low, play "depressivo", and if you feel suicidal play "bangessivo"............

By the way if you are a pianist, do you think the best way to commit suicide is to let a piano fall on you?, or listen for a week to some of the members in this piano forum???????????........I rather have a piano fall on me................

Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Morodiene #1294241 10/26/09 04:00 PM
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With feeling, not mechanical as a computer would play, slightly rubato... Make the music your interpretation...
That's how I see it at least.



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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
sotto voce #1294244 10/26/09 04:05 PM
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It is a stage direction, not a musical one, and it means you should have a Lang Lang moment at that spot.

Joking aside, I think it simply means you should make sure to bring out the expressive nature of the music at that spot, and possibly in contrast to the music surrounding it, if it makes sense in the context, e.g., a lyric outburst in the middle of more abstract music. If it seems redundant in a certain piece because it is so obvious, perhaps it is the composer's way of encouraging you not to hold back.

Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
wr #1294399 10/26/09 08:19 PM
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I think it's difficult to assign a particular meaning to "espressivo." It's a matter of interpretation, and as such, may change depending on context. (The context of many things, actually - the piece, the period, the composer, the performer's own thoughts, etc...)


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Re: What does "espressivo" mean?
Kreisler #1294413 10/26/09 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
I think it's difficult to assign a particular meaning to "espressivo." It's a matter of interpretation, and as such, may change depending on context. (The context of many things, actually - the piece, the period, the composer, the performer's own thoughts, etc...)


True. I was thinking if we knew what piece in particular Steven was inquiring about it would help us give some ideas as to what to do.


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