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I would encourage you to take this piece with your teacher if you have one. You are pretty far away from how it should be played. It seems you are pretty confused with the ornaments but also the general style and the rythmic flow.


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Originally Posted by Sidokar
I would encourage you to take this piece with your teacher if you have one. You are pretty far away from how it should be played. It seems you are pretty confused with the ornaments but also the general style and the rythmic flow.
I appreciate and anticipated the constructive criticism. Rameau includes an ornament table with the volume this piece appears in. I take those ornaments literally. In other words, an eighth note in the ornament table is played as an eighth in the piece. A sixteenth note in the ornament table is played as a sixteenth note in the piece. A sixteenth-note arpeggiated chord is played with sixteenth notes, not as a suddenly rolled chord of 64th notes, because the ornament table specifies 16th notes for arpeggiated chords, not 64th notes. If the piece was at triple the tempo it is, the sixteenth-note arpeggiated chords might sound like 64th-note arpeggiated chords, but it's not. Generally accepted practice is to turn the eighth notes in the ornaments into sixteenth notes, and sixteenth notes into thirty second notes, or worse, because the slow tempo of the piece allows time for this. It sounds herky-jerky to me, and I can't bring myself to play it that way. Generally accepted practice is to accelerate the ornaments and alter the timing of the piece to compensate for the accelerated ornaments as needed. How that became generally accepted is beyond me. The full rationale for how I play this piece is discussed at length in its YouTube description. I wrote 5,000 words on that because I knew dogma would take issue with it. I play it how it's laid out in the Barenreiter urtext edition, including the ornament table, note by note. I don't double or triple the ornament speed, as compared to the ornament table, like others do simply because the piece is at a slow tempo and there's time to throw in more notes for the listener. You call that "confused," which is fine, for I am confused about how it's generally played having listened to many other recordings. They don't flow. They herk and jerk around and sound so spastic it's as if C-3PO is playing it. I don't find that musical, no matter how it "should" be played.

Virtually every non-musician I've played this piece for adores the way I play it. That is all that matters to me. I could care less how others say it's "supposed" to be played.

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It is true that we very rarely if ever hear the rhythms played literally. For example:



Those ornaments certainly don't sound the way you play in your video, thus they do not follow the ornament table literally. That is why the first image that these ornaments conjure up in my mind is a spastic C-3PO twitching uncontrollably. And those quavers don't sound even at all. I wonder where this habit of not playing things literally as written on scores and especially tables come from. Some people would say it comes from the era in which that music was written, but what do they know.


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Originally Posted by Rubens
Those ornaments certainly don't sound the way you play in your video, thus they do not follow the ornament table literally. That is why the first image that these ornaments conjure up in my mind is a spastic C-3PO twitching uncontrollably. And those quavers don't sound even at all. I wonder where this habit of not playing things literally as written on scores and especially tables come from. Some people would say it comes from the era in which that music was written, but what do they know.
Exactly, thank you. For discussion purposes, here is Rameau's ornament table:

[Linked Image]

And here is the score (my fingering of ornaments only shows key notes, e.g., 3-2-3 over a trill means 3-1-2-1-3-1, as I'm a big fan of alternating fingers as much as possible to not lose the accent on the beat):

[Linked Image]

I may have changed some of that fingering since it was written down.

The ornament known as the pincé et port de voix is found throughout this piece. Here is my rationale for how this, and the rest of the piece are treated, as per the discussion under its YouTube title (~5,000 characters, not words as stated above):

As with much of Rameau's work, the ornament known as the pincé et port de voix (lower appoggiatura with a mordent between the two notes of the appoggiatura) figures prominently in this piece. The ever-meticulous Rameau included an ornament table in his 1724 and later publications (thanks, bro!) not far behind the cover page, leaving little doubt as to how he intended each type of ornament to be played.

The pincé (mordent) is listed in that ornament table, as is the port de voix (lower appoggiatura). With the port de voix, a melancholic dissonance is created because the first note is held while the note a half step above it is played. Thus, it can be argued, there is no port de voix without this held-note dissonance; and clearly there is no port de voix if the second note is omitted (obviously...but hold that thought).

Further down the ornament table, Rameau combines the pincé and the port de voix in the form of a "pincé et port de voix." This is not a mordent followed by a held-note appoggiatura. Rather, it is a mordent between the two notes of a held-note appoggiatura, but with a caveat: the first note of the appoggiatura must be released and replayed throughout the mordent (otherwise there would be no pincé). Furthermore, at the end of the mordent, when the first, lower note is replayed for the last time, that note must be held (otherwise there would be no port de voix). Lastly, and to repeat what was stated earlier, there is no port de voix if the final, upper note happens to be omitted (more on this below).

Those are all the elements of the pincé et port de voix per the ornament table. Thus, any problems of execution for this mysterious, esoteric ornament so loved by Rameau should now be solved.

Except, from the perspective of this piece, they're not.

Why not?

In the ornament table, Rameau illustrates use of the pincé et port de voix over the span of a half note. In this piece, however, Rameau didn't give the many instances of this ornament rhythmic (or time) values of half notes but rather dotted-quarter and even as little as quarter notes.

The first case, with a rhythmic value of a dotted-quarter note, is simple enough: abbreviate the mordent part of the pincé et port de voix laid out by Rameau in his ornament table by removing two sixteenth notes from it. Having done so, there is enough time to complete the ornament with all aforementioned elements in place.

The second case, with a rhythmic value of only a quarter note, is another matter. There is not enough time to include all elements of the ornament in the allotted quarter note of time without altering it. By and large, keyboardists deal with this problem in one of two ways, neither of which I find to be musically appealing. The first is to accelerate the ornament to make it "fit" into the allotted space. I believe this gives the piece an unpleasant, herky-jerky feel. The second is to leave the timing alone and omit the final note of the ornament. However, as stated earlier, if there is no second note of the appoggiatura, there is no port de voix and thus no pincé et port de voix. Why would Rameau write pincé et port de voix ornaments he didn't intend to be completed into a piece? If that was his intention, other ornaments in his table would fit the bill.

I struggled with this while learning this piece. What is a keyboardist to do? What did Rameau want us to do with these (many) pincé et port de voix ornaments written for half the time shown in his ornament table?

Then came the thought: rather than accelerating or abbreviating the ornament, what if one treats each pincé et port de voix having a rhythmic value of a quarter note as if it had a rhythmic value of a dotted-quarter note? In other words, what if each "quarter-note value" pincé et port de voix ornament is played with minimum number of notes needed to include all the required elements: the appoggiatura; the mordent; and the final, held-note dissonant pair?

This turns each "quarter-note value" pincé et port de voix ornament into a "dotted-quarter-note value" ornament, so that the integrity of the ornament's elements can be maintained and fully resolved.

One by one, I tested each "quarter-note value" pincé et port de voix in this piece using this deemed "dotted-quarter value" method. In every case, beautiful harmonies were created. In essence, this method allows the ornaments to overlap a little with what follows them, thus creating melodic consonances along the way.

Other than that, in general I treat the ornaments in this piece literally. If Rameau's ornament table specifies, for example, an eighth or sixteenth note in relation to a quarter note, then that's what's played. Many keyboardists like to turn what are eighth or sixteenth notes in the ornament table into, respectively, sixteenth and thirty-second notes for this piece because it's at a slower tempo and there's plenty of time to do so. I, however, feel that doing so detracts from the courante's timeless elegance.

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This piece appears at 34:35 in this video:


That video of many of Rameau's keyboard works is what got me interested in him. The artist is a fine pianist, too. However, he takes great liberties throughout the video with virtually all of Rameau's pieces. In the Courante at 34:35, which is the subject of this thread, for example, he leaves out many ornaments, accelerates ones he doesn't, and alters the time values of other notes to make it all work. In my opinion, it's much more musical than most renditions, but it's not what Rameau wrote. It doesn't conform to the score. I tried to agree the two by slowing the video to quarter speed while reading the score, and couldn't.

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About the table. Many teachers would say that the goal of such tables is to inform the player on WHAT NOTES to play for each ornament, but that the written rhythm is only an approximation and should not be taken literally. What do you think of that?


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Originally Posted by Rubens
About the table. Many teachers would say that the goal of such tables is to inform the player on WHAT NOTES to play for each ornament, but that the written rhythm is only an approximation and should not be taken literally. What do you think of that?
I think it's relative to the tempo of the piece and the time values of the notes in the piece. For example, Courante conforms with the time values of the notes illustrated in the ornament table. La Vilageoise (The Villager), however, which is another Rameau piece I plan to record, soon, is another matter. It's a Rondeau, so, fast-paced. Take the first trill in the piece, which is in the 3rd measure. It's on an eighth note, which is immediately followed by another eighth note, so the sixteenth notes shown in the ornament table for a trill (cadence) aren't going to work, as two notes don't make a trill. Eight 64th notes would be ridiculous, so it has to be four notes, and thus four 32nd notes, instead of the 16th notes used to illustrate the ornament table. These trills are quick shakes, dat-dat-dat-das, so no time to alternate fingers:

[Linked Image]

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Originally Posted by MrSh4nkly
In my opinion, it's much more musical than most renditions, but it's not what Rameau wrote.
If you want to be a purist about ornaments, the piece was composed for harpsichord. There would be liberal use of articulations when interpreting French harpsichord style that are not included in the score. Trying to render the score with a literal interpretation using what is in the score and Rameau’s ornament table will not render the piece in the French harpsichord style that Rameau would have expected.

My goal when playing organ or harpsichord music on piano is to find a pianistic interpretation that I find pleasing. I think the pianist recorded in the video in question has the same disposition.


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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
My goal when playing organ or harpsichord music on piano is to find a pianistic interpretation that I find pleasing. I think the pianist recorded in the video in question has the same disposition.
IMHO, this is more than acceptable, and at least part of why that fine pianist's video has nearly 60K views. I chose to play a "literal" interpretation of the score. The only reason for stating "it's not what Rameau wrote" vis-à-vis that pianist and for emphasizing my "literal" interpretation of the piece vis-à-vis the ornament table and the score was to counter the above (and, in my opinion, pretentiously arrogant) claims that I'm "pretty far away from how it should be played," and that I'm "pretty confused with the ornaments but also the general style and the rythmic [sic] flow."

From what I understand, it was common practice in the baroque era for keyboardists to take great liberties with not only ornaments but also the scores themselves. That pianist does this and he does it very well.

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The issue is that these ornaments are also described in a ton of manuals written by other composers and theorists so we have a lot of indications about how the style should be played. Rameau was composing in continuity with the style of his time. The indications in the table provide a simple model, but are not meant to be taken literally from a rythmic perspective. Thats what makes the difference between an amateur trying to figure out how to play on his own and a skilled and knowledgeable performer. That is why if you want to really play baroque french music you should take a good teacher. Just listening to your recording, you could realize you are completely breaking the flow. And btw no other known harpsichordist is playing it like that..
Just listen to a couple of examples.


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Originally Posted by Sidokar
The issue is that these ornaments are also described in a ton of manuals written by other composers and theorists so we have a lot of indications about how the style should be played. Rameau was composing in continuity with the style of his time. The indications in the table provide a simple model, but are not meant to be taken literally from a rythmic perspective. Thats what makes the difference between an amateur trying to figure out how to play on his own and a skilled and knowledgeable performer. That is why if you want to really play baroque french music you should take a good teacher. Just listening to your recording, you could realize you are completely breaking the flow. And btw no other known harpsichordist is playing it like that..
Just listen to a couple of examples.
Nonsense. I don't care how many "composers and theorists" have butchered the piece over the centuries. I've listened to plenty of examples and disliked almost every one of them. It's their prerogative to ruin the piece with "theory," but the OP comports with the score note by note, note duration by note duration. Thus, it's impossible for it to be "breaking the flow." You hold yourself out as if you're some sort of expert on what that is but again can't even spell "rhythmic." In each and every measure the play conforms to the score and the ornament table. Both are reprinted above. I challenge you to find one measure where it doesn't. This is a slow, elegant dance. It's not meant to be herked and jerked to heck and back with ripped chords and goofy ornaments riffed in 64ths and 128ths. Playing it that way completely ignores and buries the dissonant harmonies and consonances Rameau built into the piece.

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In my opinion, this performance could benefit considerably from:

1) treating the ornaments as ornaments, whatever the number of notes involved. I believe that an ornament should be a figure that leads to the main note, not a series of notes that are as loud as the note they tend to lead towards. To me, they sound laboured and obtrusive where they should be relaxed and directed towards the main note. Often you start the ornament with a strong accent and even if you subscribe to the theory that ornaments begin on the beat, I don't feel that an ornament should start with a strong accent. Even your physical approach to many of the ornaments emphasizes this; you come down rather heavily on the first note of many of the ornaments.

2) creating a sense of direction and structure through phrasing. I don't hear any of this in this video recording, as it all comes across as a series of notes without direction, which is particularly significant when playing this work on a modern piano. It needs both flow and direction.

3) creating a balance between the two hands. There may be times when you feel that either the right or left hand line needs to come to the foreground, but at the moment both hands come across at the same level throughout which tends to a perceived lack of focus and structure - at least to this listener.

4) creating a more relaxed sense of flow by being more attentive to ongoing movement - and phrasing - without being mechanical or static. You seem to be, both musically and physically, to be working too hard; a less percussive tone and a more relaxed approach to the keyboard could really benefit this performance.

This is all just the view of one listener; take it as you see fit.

Thanks for sharing.

Regards,


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That is very specific and thus helpful criticism. Thanks, BruceD. I will work on items 1-4.

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Originally Posted by MrSh4nkly
Originally Posted by Sweelinck
My goal when playing organ or harpsichord music on piano is to find a pianistic interpretation that I find pleasing. I think the pianist recorded in the video in question has the same disposition.
IMHO, this is more than acceptable, and at least part of why that fine pianist's video has nearly 60K views. I chose to play a "literal" interpretation of the score. The only reason for stating "it's not what Rameau wrote" vis-à-vis that pianist and for emphasizing my "literal" interpretation of the piece vis-à-vis the ornament table and the score was to counter the above (and, in my opinion, pretentiously arrogant) claims that I'm "pretty far away from how it should be played," and that I'm "pretty confused with the ornaments but also the general style and the rythmic [sic] flow."

From what I understand, it was common practice in the baroque era for keyboardists to take great liberties with not only ornaments but also the scores themselves. That pianist does this and he does it very well.

The great thing about performing music is that you have the freedom to choose your interpretation, including choosing to use a literal interpretation of what Rameau included in the score if that is the interpretation you like when playing the piece on a piano.

Such a rendering, however, should not be justified by assuming that a literal interpretation of what Rameau included in the score is how Rameau would have played the piece, or would have expected it to be played, because that is unlikely to be true.

The name courante comes from the French verb courir, which translates to “to run”. Courantes usually are not slow dances.

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Originally Posted by MrSh4nkly
This is a slow, elegant dance. It's not meant to be herked and jerked to heck and back with ripped chords and goofy ornaments riffed in 64ths and 128ths. Playing it that way completely ignores and buries the dissonant harmonies and consonances Rameau built into the piece.

Yes it is and unhapilly it does not sound at all like that in your version. I am not trying to be mean here, but it is far off from what it should be musically. I am pointing out some obvious issues. I dont have access to a computer and typing on a small mobile isnt practical, but i would be happy to give more detailled feedback.

The ornaments must highlight the main note not take its place, so that the melodic flow is audible. So there is an issue of how you accentuate the ornament, the lightness and speed. I pretty much agree with BruceD observations which sums it up. I would add that the french courante has a particular style which must be audible, irrespective of how many notes are played in the ornaments. The ornaments are just there to service the music, they are not an end in themselves. It all starts with the understanding of the style, the ornaments and the way to play them being just a piece of the puzzle.

Here is an elegant version of another courante, from the first book. That said if you believe that you are playing the piece better than Scott Ross, Kenneth Gilbert, Landowska and a few others, then ........



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Originally Posted by Sidokar
The ornaments must highlight the main note not take its place, so that the melodic flow is audible. So there is an issue of how you accentuate the ornament, the lightness and speed. I pretty much agree with BruceD observations which sums it up. I would add that the french courante has a particular style which must be audible, irrespective of how many notes are played in the ornaments. The ornaments are just there to service the music, they are not an end in themselves. It all starts with the understanding of the style, the ornaments and the way to play them being just a piece of the puzzle.
BruceD's advice clicked with me. These comments of yours are also far more helpful than the earlier ones, thank you.
Originally Posted by Sidokar
Here is an elegant version of another courante, from the first book. That said if you believe that you are playing the piece better than Scott Ross, Kenneth Gilbert, Landowska and a few others, then ........
Absolutely not. In general, I don't like the start-stop-start-stop phrasing, tempo, or whatever it is and the, in my opinion, over-the-top ornamentation of what's generally accepted, stylistically for this particular courante, but, as a very amateur keyboardist, I've no illusions. The names you mentioned are all light years beyond me.

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This is just gorgeous, so thanks for sharing:

Originally Posted by Sidokar

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One other point is that the time values of notes in Rameau’s ornament table cannot be used literally. The same applies to the table Bach made as a teaching aid for one of his sons. Using the time values of the notes would lead to the speed of the trills being dictated by the tempo of the piece.

The purpose of the ornament table is to provide the general structure of each ornament in terms of how they differ from each other, whether they start in the note or note above etc. How the ornament is shaped into the phrasing of the melody and voices should be part of the articulation of phrases into musical gestures. The time values of notes for a particular ornament in the ornament table are only meaningful within the definition of that ornament to specify the structure of the ornament. These are not intended to be superimposed into a piece containing an ornament so that they become part of the piece using the time values of the notes in the ornament table. The ornaments are an embellishment, not individual notes to include as part of a melody.

Generally, when I play harpsichord music on piano, I omit the harpsichord articulations of arpeggiating the accompaniment, which Rameau would have expected but did not score, because piano has a thicker texture and more sustain. I also use less ornamentation because it can muddy things up a bit on piano. Instead, I think it makes sense to take advantage of being able to play different notes at a different dynamic level to achieve separation of voices— using dynamics and the shaping of phrases to create woven strands of separate voices.

I concur with BruceD. I think the recorded rendition would profit from a lighter touch and more attention to phrasing and voicing, better articulating the phrases, and using the dynamics of the piano to project the melody and create vocal separation. It may also be helpful to play it for a bit without using the ornaments, and then integrate them in a way that they do not interfere with the flow of the melody.

Some context for a Courante…

The Baroque dance suite in pure form has 4 movements— Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue. Most composers at times modified it, adding variations or additional dance forms, sometimes substituting a dance form for one of those 4, and sometimes with a prelude before the Allemande.

But you can see the structure in most suites and those that are modified in form are often described by how they differ from the dance suite in pure form.

An Allemande is a dance at a walking pace, basically an Andante. As I mentioned above, a Courante is faster, the name being derived from the French courir, to run. The Sarabande is a slow dance, and a Gigue (French for the English jig) is light and lively. Each of the four standard dances included is a dance form is from a different country/region— Germany, France, Spain, and England, respectively.

A Courante is triple meter dance and should be light and lively, played at a brisk tempo, Molto Allegro but not Presto would be how I would describe it.


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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
One other point is that the time values of notes in Rameau’s ornament table cannot be used literally. The same applies to the table Bach made as a teaching aid for one of his sons. Using the time values of the notes would lead to the speed of the trills being dictated by the tempo of the piece.

The purpose of the ornament table is to provide the general structure of each ornament in terms of how they differ from each other, whether they start in the note or note above etc. How the ornament is shaped into the phrasing of the melody and voices should be part of the articulation of phrases into musical gestures. The time values of notes for a particular ornament in the ornament table are only meaningful within the definition of that ornament to specify the structure of the ornament. These are not intended to be superimposed into a piece containing an ornament so that they become part of the piece using the time values of the notes in the ornament table. The ornaments are an embellishment, not individual notes to include as part of a melody.

Generally, when I play harpsichord music on piano, I omit the harpsichord articulations of arpeggiating the accompaniment, which Rameau would have expected but did not score, because piano has a thicker texture and more sustain. I also use less ornamentation because it can muddy things up a bit on piano. Instead, I think it makes sense to take advantage of being able to play different notes at a different dynamic level to achieve separation of voices— using dynamics and the shaping of phrases to create woven strands of separate voices.

I concur with BruceD. I think the recorded rendition would profit from a lighter touch and more attention to phrasing and voicing, better articulating the phrases, and using the dynamics of the piano to project the melody and create vocal separation. It may also be helpful to play it for a bit without using the ornaments, and then integrate them in a way that they do not interfere with the flow of the melody.

Some context for a Courante…

The Baroque dance suite in pure form has 4 movements— Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue. Most composers at times modified it, adding variations or additional dance forms, sometimes substituting a dance form for one of those 4, and sometimes with a prelude before the Allemande.

But you can see the structure in most suites and those that are modified in form are often described by how they differ from the dance suite in pure form.

An Allemande is a dance at a walking pace, basically an Andante. As I mentioned above, a Courante is faster, the name being derived from the French courir, to run. The Sarabande is a slow dance, and a Gigue (French for the English jig) is light and lively. Each of the four standard dances included is a dance form is from a different country/region— Germany, France, Spain, and England, respectively.

A Courante is triple meter dance and should be light and lively, played at a brisk tempo, Molto Allegro but not Presto would be how I would describe it.
This is very helpful and greatly appreciated. Thank you, Sweelinck. I will work on the piece over the next month or two in light of BruceD's, Sidokar's, and your comments, and then re-record and resubmit. I won't stop working on it until it's done properly. That's a great idea re: play the piece awhile without the ornaments, first, and then bring in the ornaments without destroying the melody. Once the ornaments are brought into play, I will work on keeping them nice and light while having them decorate and lead up to rather than detract from the notes on which they're based.

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by robablob - 08/19/22 08:04 AM
Zeitter & Winkelmann
by Steve Freides - 08/19/22 07:35 AM
Favorite headphones?
by Hummingbird - 08/18/22 09:42 PM
Recommendation for digital piano to take ABRSM exams
by galapogos - 08/18/22 09:17 PM
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