THE VANHAL MANUSCRIPT PART TWO











WARNING: These articles do not represent scientific, academic musical research. My aim is to provide the reader with some useful information that may help him or her in finding tools for expression when performing, be it this specific concerto or any other piece of music. Therefore i'm not proposing an in-depth analysis that covers every minuscule detail, but only such elements as i feel may benefit the practicing musician and that may give an impetus towards a better connection with the listener through an increased awareness of the emotional power that this music contains. To help unleash this emotional and communicative energy, thereby reaching and touching an audience, is my primary aim. Contrary to academic research, this Artistic Research is meant as a pragmatic, practice-oriented tool for personal and inter-personal growth and empowerment.

SECOND MOVEMENT: ADAGIO

To me, the Adagio is simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the whole of our bass solo literature tout court. It seems to appeal directly to the heart of the listener with unaffected dignity, it is full of colour and variety. And here, just as we did in the opening Allegro Moderato, we find many opportunities to make the music speak and to do justice to the many subtleties that make it irresistibly appealing.

I find it fascinating how the Adagio's theme echoes that of the opening Allegro Moderato: it has the same general shape, but a different message. The falling fourth d-a of the opening movement has now become a fifth (e-a), which makes it into a heavier, more emotional sigh. The high f#, which is the same in both themes, serves a different function as well: in the Allegro Moderato it functions like a bridge, an upbeat to the second bar. In the Adagio, the first bar as almost self-contained, and the second bar is more like an answer. It's inspiring to play the two opening bars of both movements, one after another, and to compare their emotional contents.

Again we will not only look at the Bass Solo part. As we have seen before, the orchestral parts can help us grasp the meaning of certain articulations. If we only look at the solo part, we always run the risk of remaining at the level of conjecture whenever something isn't entirely clear. On the other hand, conflicting evidence from the orchestra parts can cause even more confusion... Exciting!


Bass Solo part, Adagio.


(For the time being i'm ignoring the 8va sign in the Bass Solo part here. I'll come back to those in a while. For now i'll pretend there are no octave displacements).

As we can see above, the Tutti introduction shows some very interesting articulations (red rectangle). Let's see what the other instruments play. 

Here's a look at the Violino Primo: there is a tiny slur, so small it's easily overlooked, in bar 1 (small red circle, Ex. 1). Since there are no dashes in this bar, this means that all three notes should be slurred. A very beautiful contrast with the Bass Tutti part, which has the three notes clearly separated (bass part, first blue circle, Ex. 2). 


Ex. 1 Violino Primo. First bar slurred (red circle).
Second bar: 2 slurred, 2 detached. This is
 different from the Bass Solo when it plays the theme later on.
Then: groups of three 8th-notes slurred (yellow circles).

Ex. 2 Bass Solo. First bar, accompagnato: detached. 
First bar Solo, 2+1.
The groups of three slurred notes in the Violino are semi-detached in the Bass (yellow circles).


Whereas the Violin has its theme in 3 slurred notes (Ex. 1), in the Basso Tutti the theme is completely detached, as we just saw (first blue circle), but the Basso Solo has 2+1 articulations (second blue circle, Ex. 2).

Then, in the following bars (those with the yellow circles), the Violino has 8th-notes grouped per 3, but in the Bass Solo's Introduction (remember that here the Bass is in an orchestral role here, playing along with the orchestra) we see slurs and dashes combined in a semi-detached articulation (compare the yellow circles in Violins and Bass, Ex. 1 and 2).

Here again, usual practice would be to imitate the Violino part, but the contrast is so effective (and intended, i presume) that i personally wouldn't bother to equalize the bowings here. Having a short, detached bass figure underneath a legato violin melody is very effective writing. It gives the bass line slightly more importance against the violins, because it creates a feeling of forward motion (also because it's an ascending bass line) against the more placid, less "dynamic" melody.

Now let's compare the thematic material in the bass and the top voices: when the real Bass Solo starts, after the orchestral introduction (line 4, bar 1, second blue circle in Ex. 2) it looks like a 2+1 note division. Let us see if this is confirmed by the presence of a dash on the third note (Ex. 3):



Ex. 3 Bass Solo, first bar of the Solo: 
stroke on the 3rd note.

This is interesting. There is a dash on the third note in the Bass Solo part, but there is no dash in the Violino Primo. Still, the orchestra introduction is usually played as if there were. Like i said, the options are open: the violins can either play the figure slurred, or as 2+1, just like the Solo Bass. I think both possibilities are valid, and are a matter of taste. I would advocate trying both without prejudice. Both result in slightly different characters.

This is as good a moment as any, to stress once again the fact that the dots, dashes, strokes and other musical signs in ancient music don't necessarily always have the same meaning they have in our 21st century. Our musical "shorthand" has been in use for several hundred years, but that doesn't mean that all the symbols we use have one unchanging significance. All too often we bring to the music we play a set of learned responses that simply cannot fit all the music from all periods and from all composers.

There is a close connection between bowing and fingering, and this connection influences the expression (which is what it's all about), especially in Viennese Tuning: when we play 2+1 in the Solo Bass, it's really nice to play the first two slurred notes (e-a) on the 1st string, and the last, detached note (f#) as the octave harmonic on the 2nd string. When the first bar is bowed lightly and rather short, with a diminuendo and with resonance, the second bar suddenly becomes more "speaking", especially if we play the two tied 16th-notes with a "sighing" character, and the following two 16th-notes clear and short.

This is a long explanation for something that can be demonstrated very easily with the instrument in hand... For this reason i will also make a series of videos that will hopefully show all these subtle differences.

Now let's look at what all the instruments do in the introduction. We have seen the Solo Bass (Ex. 4):

Ex. 4 Bass Solo. First bar, accompagnato: 
detached. First bar Solo, 2+1.
The groups of three slurred notes in the Violino are semi-detached here.


We have also seen the Violino Primo (Ex. 5):

Ex. 5 Violino Primo. First bar slurred, thematic (red circle).

The Violino Primo Ripieno (Ex. 6):

Ex. 6 Violino Primo Ripieno (thematic): first bar slurred


Here is the Violino Secundo (Ex. 7):

Ex. 7 Violino Secundo: first bar slurred.
After that, unlike the Violino Primo, 

one group of 3 slurred, one group detached...

And the Violino Secundo Ripieno (Ex. 8):

Ex. 8 ...Violino Secundo Ripieno:
first bar slurred but... 
semi-detached 8th-notes further on.
Maybe the tie is missing 
in the Violino Secundo part above,
or is it this one, that shouldn't be there?

So far, we can conclude that the first bar of the theme is slurred in all instruments (3 note-slurs?), except for the Bass Solo (2+1). When the three first notes are merely an accompaniment, they are in detached or semi-detached notes (Ex. 9): 



Ex. 9 Basso Tutti. First bar detached (accompaniment)


In the Viola we find this (Ex10):

Ex. 10 Viola: detached first bar.
Further on, we find clearly detached 8th-notes,
as opposed to the Basses which have these notes semi-detached (see Ex. 4 above).

In the re-exposition the three-note motif (as an accompaniment) seems to be uniformly detached for all instruments as well.

So far, so good. We have gathered interesting information from all the existing parts. We can now make an informed choice as to how we will play the first bar. And again, as soloists we more or less have the freedom to do as we want. We can also play the re-exposition differently from the exposition, which i personally like to do and which would be in keeping with Vanhal's general inclination towards varying similar material by means of different articulations throughout the work.

I would also maintain the differences between the detached and the semi-detached eight-notes in the Ensemble voices as they are. Having different articulations going on simultaneously isn't always a bad thing. It can add depth to the music. One can focus on the different instrumental voices as they are layered more perceptibly than if everybody played exactly the same way.

Smoothing things over is an urge that stems from the Romantic Period and that must be kept in check now and then. We tend to automatically and unthinkingly consider articulation differences in different voices (or in different places within the same voice) as errors. Nikolaus Harnoncourt already mentioned as much in his book "Musik als Klangrede", talking about Bach's music. Let's always carefully consider the possibility that what is in the manuscript might really be what the composer wanted, even (or especially) if it seems suspect.

Before we go on to the second bar (at this rate we're in for a long ride...), let's have a quick look at the cadence (Ex. 11):


Ex. 11 Cadenza: separated notes in the first bar, 
tied notes in bar 2.

Here the Bass Solo plays the first bar, after the fermata, in detached notes. But the second bar (orange circle) has a slur over what seems to be four or five notes. And this brings us, at last, to our second bar. 

GOING AROUND IN CIRCLES

Bar 2 brings us similar questions as bar 1. Let us examine what everybody plays there (orange circles, Ex. 12 to 15):



Ex. 12 Bass Solo: 2+2

Ex. 13 Cadenza: 4 notes tied


Ex. 14 Violino Primo: 2 tied, 2 detached


Ex. 15 Violino Primo Ripieno: idem

In all, we find three different articulations in the exposition.
(The 2nd Violin and the Viola have a different figure: two tied 8th-notes).

But it gets even more interesting. In the re-exposition, the Bass Solo changes articulations. Instead of 2+2, it now has 4 slurred notes (Ex. 16). (The Violins either play 2 eight-notes now, or have Tacet. This is not unimportant because it shows us how meticulously Vanhal constructed this concerto and how he always seems to vary the music's building blocks in order to tell his story. The Solo Bass changing articulations is not a coincidence, nor the result of carelessness. On the contrary: there is an organic evolution here, a storyline with a beginning, middle and end ).


Ex. 16 Bass Solo, re-exposition. 
Here too, the stroke on the F# 
which leaves no doubt 
as to the desired articulation.

VIVE LA DIFFERENCE /
SPECIAL AFFEKTS

We have now arrived at what is, in my opinion, a key element in Vanhal's concerto. I have mentioned before how Vanhal often uses subtly different articulations for similar or repeated material. In many (if not most) modern editions these differences have been "corrected" because of the conditioned reflex we musicians suffer from: we want to make these figures uniform. I think that's a mistake. The differences are there for a reason. They change the character and the expression, the emotional charge or "Affekt"And as players we need these emotionally charged figures in order to touch our listeners. 


Have a look at these examples, that i also used in the "Vanhal Lecture" you can find elsewhere in this blog:




 Ex. 17 Adagio, first time with short, sighing articulations...

Ex. 18 ...and the second time, more legato. And an appoggiatura added.

Ex. 19 Again: shorter, sighing articulations...

Ex. 20 ...and longer ones, slurred per four notes. A different character.



Why would a composer (or the performer for whom the music was written) go to the trouble of making these differences, if not with the purpose of stirring the emotions of his audience?

From what we think we know about the classical Viennese music idiom, the figures of two falling, tied notes (especially when they start on a dissonance and resolve to a consonance) should be played with a "sighing" character, just as they usually are in baroque music. We modern players tend to play such figures way too legato, with two strictly equal note values, smoothing over the inherent and intended hierarchy between them. It's good to experiment in order to find the right balance between both notes. The best way to develop a feel for this, is to practice by exaggerating, preferably ad absurdum, the "sighing" effect. Going too far is often the only way to tell how far you can go. In music anyway...

The longer four-note slurs, on the other hand, do have a legato, sustained character and convey an emotion that is very different from the sighing figures. So instead of turning these two characters into one bland, "pretty" music devoid of interest, it's a good idea to see how much we can differentiate them as to their emotional content. 

This can not only be accomplished by changing the dynamics, but also the attack and even the timing: gradually shifting the length of the first note from (mathematically) "too short" to "too long" will heighten your sensitivity for the interplay between timing and emotion. Timing as a tool for expression doesn't always get the attention it deserves in classical music. And when you succeed in combining and balancing the subtler parameters of attack, timbre, resonance, timing, vibrato, and dynamics, a whole new world of emotional expression opens up.

We see how Vanhal uses longer articulations when he repeats the same material towards the end of the Adagio. We have the exposition with its short, sighing figures, then comes the middle part with uncommon passion (Vanhal is sometimes called the first Romantic composer), and near the end we can feel something like tender resignation.

Parenthesis: the 8va signs

In this Adagio, as in the two outer movements, there is an abundance of passages that have the 8va indication. We don't know who is responsible for these. My guess is that they were Sperger's work, but there is no proof for that assumption apart from "circumstantial evidence".

Personally, having played this concerto in many different versions over the last 25 years, i am no great fan of these octave displacements.  The concerto sounds much more balanced and less hysterical in what i presume to be the original octave. There may be a few spots where the choice is open, musically speaking, but as a general rule i wouldn't recommend following all those 8va signs. They often sound clumsy, because they break the logical line of the music, and because the sudden changes in timbre don't fit the "story line". 

It's hard to go against the grain. To many bassists, the highest register is still inescapably alluring. I would gently try to convince my colleagues to give the original (?), more poised, intimate version an honest try and to find the emotional richness that can be obtained by staying in the register where the instrument sounds best. 

As we move further on, we keep encountering small details, little differences that we now know are not signs of authorial laziness or inattention but mostly intended subtleties. These should, if possible, be left untampered with. Some other minuscule differences that leave us with mental question marks are more open to discussion.

In the Basso Solo, for instance, we find this appoggiatura (line 5, green arrow, Ex. 21):




Ex. 21 Basso Solo: an appoggiatura (green arrow)...

In the Violino Primo however, in the Introduction, it's absent (Ex. 22):


Ex. 22 ...but not in the Violino Primo (green arrow).

There are two possibilities here: 

- either we add the same type of appoggiatura to the Violino part, so that the Bass Solo can echo it a little later. 
- or we leave the "plain" version intact, in which case the appoggiatura in the Bass will give a little extra emphasis to the expression. 

Whichever solution we choose, it's good to accentuate this 8th-note appoggiatura (on the beat) and to give the figure a sighing expression. If we leave the Violin version as it's written, it's a good idea to give a nice "shape" to the preceding phrase (starting with the two 16th-notes in line 2, bar 1) by way of a crescendo towards the first, warmly accented note "d" of bar 3, then tapering off.

The idea is to draw attention to the difference between the Violino and Bass phrases. Otherwise there's no point in writing them differently.

Once more, i find it helpful to think vocally in such cases, in the sense of a spoken phrase and of a spoken emphasis rather than as a singing style of playing. Imagine the same phrase spoken twice, the second time more pleadingly and with more emphasis or urgency.

For most of the Adagio, in spite of the idea that a slower tempo should induce a singing playing quality, i prefer to try and find a more narrative way of playing. The articulations in the manuscript give us ample opportunity to develop our ability to "tell a story" to our audience.

As we move on in our quest, we keep encountering questions regarding articulations, and whether to adapt some of them:



Ex. 23 Bass Solo

Ex. 24 Violino Primo

Several interesting things here, inside the red rectangles. Here we have the Solo Bass in its role as a soloist, with the Violino as a shadow going everywhere the Bass goes. This shadow is slightly distorted in places, however. The four 16th-notes (orange and purple circles) have different articulations going on simultaneously with the Bass line. 

These differences can of course be "corrected" so that both instruments play the same way, hand-in-hand as it were. But if we prefer to respect the written text, again we have two choices. 

- The first option is to make the differences almost disappear by playing "defensively". This means that we don't accentuate the differences between the tied and the detached notes in the Bass Solo part, we make them smooth. 
- The second option is to do the opposite: we bring out the differences in a more "offensive" way, so as to clearly distinguish the Bass Solo line from the Violino part.

These few examples show us that, throughout the concerto, subtle variations in the articulations exist. 

- These variations can occur horizontally, within single instrument voices and are thus separated in time. The most important of these are the ones in the Bass Solo line, because they change its emotional meaning: from a sighing, almost plaintive character, induced by short two-note slurs, to something like resignation in the longer phrases. The element of "time" and of evolution or development is important here.

- Other variations occur simultaneously, or vertically, between two voices. Here the main element is one of timbre, friction, and of "depth" that we can vary by exaggerating or minimizing the differences in articulation. 

(As i mentioned before, all of these parameters such as timbre, attack, release, resonance, timing, etc. are capable of conveying emotion, so their choice and the way they are applied do matter if we want to do more than just play a pretty melody).

- Thirdly, here is the combination of variations that follow crossed paths, from one instrument to another along the time-line.

Being aware of these things can help the musician in fine-tuning his or her performance, and ultimately in building stronger emotional bridges towards the audience. 

In writing these words down, i do realize that many musicians have no interest whatsoever in intricacies like these. Moreover, things that are very easy to demonstrate and to understand in "real life", on the instrument, suddenly seem far-fetched and complicated in printed words. This is the contradiction and the great danger of written research: to musicians, artists who often "go by the gut" and who have a strongly developed musical intuition, theoretical explanations sound too cerebral and too far removed from their "hands-on" approach. That is why Artistic Research, at least in the musical field, should always have an important "practical" element: live playing, videos, recordings, masterclasses, even pictures are essential if we want Artistic Research to reach those for whom it's done in the first place.

But let's get  back to our sheep, as they say in French: "retournons à nos moutons". It's a bit hard to concentrate right now. It's summer and it's hot, and outside i hear police helicopters and sirens. Suddenly i realize that today there's a demonstration against the killings in Gaza. It brings back a strong sense of relativity. Artistic Research in times of Atrocity...

Right. Here we are again. In these examples you also see two green arrows, the one in the Violino part pointing to an appoggiatura (Ex. 24b) and the one in the Basso Solo (Ex. 23b) pointing towards its absence:



Ex. 24b Violino Primo




Ex. 23b Bass Solo


I'm not sure what to make of this. I have the feeling that the missing appoggiatura in the Bass Solo should actually be there, even if it's not written. Whenever i hear someone play it without the appoggiatura, it almost sends cold shivers down my spine (well, if emotion is our ultimate aim, it's mission accomplished).

Maybe this feeling can be avoided by the way we play the note. If we choose not to add the appoggiatura, it's a good idea to make the note "special" in its expression by preparing it, by giving it a shape and a meaning. The worst thing is to play it without expression, indifferently, as just another note in a legato line. 

The important thing is always how you play, more than what you play. (I blame music education for concentrating too much on the "quantification" of music. We all know those standard phrases, right? I remember some of them verbatim: "Een punt boven of onder de noot vermindert die noot met de helft van haar waarde" ("A dot over or under a note diminishes that note by half of its value"). 

It's such a pity that we don't learn from the start how to develop our artistry, our emotions and how to transmit them, our enormous potential to distinguish extremely subtle variations in all the elements that constitute music. Instead, we are taught abstract or nonsensical definitions and exercises devoid of any emotional content, that ruin music-making in people who could have become superb artists had their innate musicality been cherished and developed).

Sorry, had to get this off my chest. Feeling better now, thanks.

So, as i was saying, appoggiatura or not, it's the way you play the notes that matters. If you choose not to add the appoggiatura, it's a good idea to "shape" the c#. In Ancient Music, shaping the individual notes is an important tool of expression. After the Classical Period, the tendency was more to develop longer phrases and lines and to equalize the individual notes. Giving a nice shape to a note can and will improve its expressive qualities. Sometimes you can spend a lot of practice time getting note shapes and timbres right. It's absolutely worth it.

Moving on. Have a look at this excerpt:



Ex. 25 Bass Solo



















The red arrows here indicate the notes that are part of the 4-note slurs: no strokes in sight. Often the slurs are mistaken for 3+1 figures. Inside the orange circle you can see an example of less-than-perfectly written slurs. Clearly this is meant to be a 2+2 figure. 

There's another interesting articulation here, in bar 3 of the above excerpt (bar 3 in Ex. 25). Is this a sort of "flying staccato"? There are two horizontal dashes that seem rather puzzling. A look at the same figure as it comes back later clarifies things, but the first time the slur is over 5 notes, whereas the second time there are two bows (Ex. 26):


Ex. 26 : flying staccato

Once more, two different ways to play similar figures. Personally i prefer to play only the last three notes in three consecutive "flying" up-bows. The two notes before that, i play detached.

OCTAVO LOCO

The "loco" indication on top (blue circle in Ex. 25) is referring to the 8va-sign that has been added to the concerto's beginning. It's important to feel the difference between the "high" and the "low" versions: 

- If we follow the 8va-indication, the previous phrase ends on a high "b" (the very last note in this excerpt, red circle, Ex. 27):



Ex. 27 Octave or not ?


The following phrase, the one with the "loco" sign, then starts on the exact same note (very first note in Ex. 25, below). In this case, although there is certainly a continuity between both phrases, there is no special change in emotion. It just goes on peacefully:


Ex. 25 Bass Solo




















- If, on the other hand, we have started in the low register (ignoring the 8va), then here we can create a moment of strong dramatic effect. This effect comes from the sudden change in register (an octave jump), but also from the change in timbre and perceived loudness that comes with it. There is a sudden increase in passion, which helps in the construction of this movement.

This is one of the main reasons why i prefer to keep most of the presumedly "original" registers intact: the emotional effect of a phrase can be heightened or lessened by its register in relation to what preceeds or follows it. I would urge the performer to carefully weigh the emotional impact of displacing passages to the higher octave, throughout the whole concerto. Careful consideration of the utility of octave displacements and of the right places to apply them can be a big help in the construction of the music.

There is just one irregular group in this passage, a 3+1 indicated by the stroke on the last note (orange circle, Ex. 28):



Ex. 28 Articulation of 3+1 and an octave jump down

By the way, since we're talking of construction within the music, this is one of the spots where no 8va-sign is written, but where many players choose to continue the line upwards instead of following the octave leap down. For my taste, that's unnecessary. If we want to play in the higher octave, this is not the right moment to do it. On the contrary, i love the way Vanhal composes the tension: he gives us the impression he wants to go up, then thinks better of it and changes his mind: it's too soon. Let's wait.

DRAMA...


Ex. 29 Adagio, Bass Solo 2nd page.

Here we have page 2 of the Bass Solo part. As usual i have indicated the notes that do or don't belong under the slurs with their appropriate arrows. 

The Violino is mainly in a pure accompaniment role, but it's always good to check: there are a few places where the Violino (Ex. 31) joins the Bass Solo (Ex. 30), and it's always interesting to verify those spots:



Ex. 30 Basso Solo: 
2 slurred (appoggiatura and main note) 
+ 2 detached notes

Ex. 31 Violino Primo: four slurred notes 
(including the appoggiatura)

But there is one slur that i particularly like (orange circle, below, Ex. 32). It's usually ignored, and for years i used to separate the two half-notes myself as well. Leaving the slur in place however, as it's written, gives us a splendid opportunity to milk this descending half-step for all it's worth. 


Ex. 32 Bass Solo: slurred half-notes

I start the phrase down-bow on the up-beat "b", where it says "solo" (one of the many examples of how the "traditional" bowing directions often have only very relative significance in this music. I'll come back to this later), so that the two half-notes further on are down-bow as well. Having both these notes in one single bow helps us nurture the emotion inherent in the note change from d# to d natural. Once you've tasted this heartrending, bittersweet near-slide, you'll never want to separate these notes again. They belong together.

(Again, it's not just the "notes". Musical notes in context are never abstract entities. It's supremely fascinating and satisfying work to give each note its timbre, its shape and so on. Here we have to experiment with bow speed and resistance, placement in relation to the bridge, the amount of "air" in the sound, the amount of hair on the string... all in connection with what comes before and after).

LIKE A BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER



Ex. 33  Shorter slurs for more urgency, and the last bar like a bridge over troubled water.

The emotions keep stirring. Shorter note values and the short 2+2 slurs give a sense of urgency (Ex. 33) Here too, i would start down-bow on the up-beat "f#" (blue circle), and the "asthmatic" slurs per two give us the chance to vary the degree of "inevitability" we give them as they push us along. 

We catch our breath in the bar with the orange circle. Here, since there are no dashes to be seen, the whole bar is slurred in one bow. Unfortunately, that sets us off on the wrong foot in the following measures, which will now all start up-bow. 

Also, the amount of bow needed to be comfortable enough to express the emotion in this turning-point bar would lead me to use at least two bow strokes here. It is a turning point because we come from these short, passionate slurs, and suddenly there's this "bridge over troubled water" (also visually, with that beautiful arch above the notes) that seems to try and stop time. 

I like to literally slow down this bar: a ritenuto, a diminuendo to almost nothing, and a bow that almost stops in its tracks before it enters the following bar with hardly a sound. So i would suggest a 4+2 division here, with the last two notes even slightly detached within one bow. But every player has to experiment to find out what works best in the context, and what suits him or her emotionally.

Then there is another 8va-sign (Ex. 34):


Ex. 34 Yes! Now!




Here (surprise!) for once i am tempted to accept the higher octave as an alternative. Otherwise the sudden octave drop can seem a bit like an anti-climax after the dramatic tension build-up. Going up on the 1st string has the advantage of increasing the tension (and thus the emotion), and since this is the first and only time i go so high, the impact is very big indeed. Up till now i've stayed in the low to medium-high part of the bass. And i'm going back there, after the magnificent orchestral interlude that follows now. Since i go up only this once, the effect is much greater than if i had "given it away" too soon by playing in the cello register from the start of the Adagio. 

The interlude also seems to be better served by the Solo Bass going up high and then descending (last line in the above excerpt) to a pitch that matches the orchestra's as it takes over. If we stay in the lower octave, this match is more likely to be a mismatch because the bass will be too low for the interlude to connect properly.

Mind you, once again this is a matter that deserves thoughtful consideration and that is intimately connected to how we want to construct the piece in terms of its emotional content. In this particular case,  ignoring the 8va-sign and going down an octave yields a different emotion, more resigned, more modest. I find it worthwile to always try the different possibilities with an open mind and with the same conviction as if you had composed the work yourself.

As for bowing, if i follow the 8va-sign, i prefer to play all the 16th-notes detached, or at the very least the four notes before the syncopated descending line. Otherwise they won't have enough power to make the climax work, and they might also become too short. In the orange-encircled bar we have to make a choice between having the last two beats up-bow, or just as it comes, depending on how we articulate the next bar.

Now follows another Ensemble interlude of great beauty, in which the Bass soloist becomes a Tutti musician once again:


Ex. 35

...interesting how Vanhal takes the bass down so low. Here a 5th string certainly makes sense.


And then we arrive at the re-exposition. We've seen before how Vanhal takes the same material as before, but with different articulations. Once more, i disregard the 8va signs, which i don't really believe come from Vanhal because they don't fit in the emotional atmosphere of the music.



Ex. 36. As before, i don't really believe
in the 8vas. The music doesn't need them.

I'll show the excerpts once more, to show how Vanhal varies the treatment of the same musical elements. Here are the beginnings of the exposition and re-exposition:


 Ex. 37 Adagio, first time with short, sighing articulations...

Ex. 38 ...and the second time, more legato. And an appoggiatura added.



And how it goes on:



Ex. 39 Again: shorter, sighing articulations...

Ex. 40 ...and longer ones, slurred per four notes. A different character.



The differences, as we have seen, serve an emotional and narrative purpose as they depict a shift in mood, now that the Adagio is nearing its end. Of course one can read into these different articulations what one wants to read into them. I'm fully aware of the dangers of "Hineininterpretierung". But to a sensitive musician and to a sensitive listener, these changes do carry an emotional weight. It's up to us players to give to these musical and emotional  elements, that the composer offers us, their full value and their deepest meaning. I cannot believe that a composer would make all these differences in expressive articulations "by accident". They are too numerous and too consistent for that. They clearly show us where we have to go. For that reason, i feel it is important to try and understand where this music is headed, what is its narrative arch, before we make our own changes to it. Before we start making all the articulations the same, because we erroneously believe that similar passages must be articulated similarly.

But it still isn't finished, and new elements are introduced: there's a short progression (blue rectangle, Ex. 41) which leads us to a repeat of the two-note slurs of 16th-notes, with its expressive chromatic beginning that lets us expect another outburst, but instead is followed by a descending figure that is brings another touch of resignation by way of the change in articulation with groups of two tied and two detached 16ths, and a progression-like beginning on the first two beats of the bar that kind of thwarts our expectations by descending further on beat 3. The appoggiatura in the next bar has a very special flavour, something sad but noble at the same time (Ex. 41):


Ex. 41

In the next excerpts we find passages we've discussed as they appeared before in a sometimes slightly different form (Ex. 42)

Ex. 42 Bass Solo. 
The arrows indicate notes that belong 
under the 4-note slurs, like we saw before.

The second time there are a couple of small changes: the "flying staccato" bars are slightly different red circle in Ex. 43), the last bars of the 2nd line in Ex. 42 has 4 slurred 16ths on the last beat, but the same bar in Ex. 43, second red circle has a dotted rhythm with an appoggiatura. The biggest difference comes right after that: whereas the Ex. 42 has 2+2 articulations, with the third beat as 3+1, we see 2+1+1 articulations in Ex. 43, culminating in the rarer 3+1 divisions in the next bar:

Ex. 43

The octave skip (orange circle) is often disregarded, so the line keeps going up. I would leave the option open, having now a slight preference for the lower octave because then, after the trill in the 3rd line, the ascending figure can start lower, and the whole story of this Adagio ends in the same medium register where it all started. I think this creates a nice, consistent arch. The end feeling of peaceful resignation is stronger this way.  In the high octave, on the other hand, you have the advantage of the harmonics, which have their own special colour. Do try both possibilities to find the feeling that best suits the overall atmosphere of this wonderful Adagio.

Also compare this octave jump to what Sperger writes in the cadenza (orange circle, Ex. 44): here the octave is respected.

Ex. 44 Cadenza
The cadenza isn't all that inspired, i find, but it's interesting to have a closer look at it. The passage in the blue rectangle is hard to decipher. In any case, something has to be played there, because the connection between the two 16th-notes upbeat right before the cut and the bar immediately after it doesn't work.

Then there is the ending, which seems rather weak with its repeated chromatic figure (red, yellow, and green rectangles). You could go down an octave for the second figure (yellow) and then up again for the third time it comes back. This will create a sort of "dialogue" feeling, like a question-and-answer kind of thing. You can also play with the degree of "sighing" you use in the two-note slurs, or with the timing (lengthening or shortening certain notes).

Better yet, make your own cadenza...

Note, in Ex. 45 (orange circle) below, how the bar before the cadenza has 6 notes slurred. This is often played as 1+5, but a nice full bar legato sounds much better.

There's a very short Tutti to wrap up the Adagio, just three bars to round it all off and to create an atmosphere of something finished, but at the same time with something unresolved, an expectation of what is coming next.



Ex. 45 The End: full of expectation

The challenge of this Adagio, and indeed of all movements and of the concerto as a whole, is to build a convincing storyline. Vanhal gives us all the building blocks and all the instructions we need. By following the manual (the articulations) we can find the inspiration that will allow us to tell a coherent story - with enough freedom to make the story our own. 



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