[Pt. III Proj.2] – A Bach Sonata – Research point: 3.1- Baroque ornamentation.

[Pt. III Proj.2] – A Bach Sonata – Research point: 3.1- Baroque ornamentation. Spend some time investigating Baroque ornamentation. Among other things, research the history of the practice, the individual ornaments themselves and how and when they were employed. Listen to some Baroque chamber pieces and Baroque arias (melodious vocal sections in operas) to hear a variety of ways and contexts in which ornamentation may be employed. Summarise your thoughts and findings in around 400 words in your learning log. 

400 words on Baroque ornamentation:

At the time of the Baroque period it was common for performers to improvise and choose their own ornamentations from a set of figures common to the style and region and placed at strategic moments in the music for a maximum emotional and expressive impact and also in order to create variation. Compositions were at the time often of a binary or cyclic structure with sections repeating. It was common to add ornaments to repeated sections and sequences. Generally, the more repeats, the more ornamentation in order to add harmonic (creating temporary dissonance), melodic and rhythmic variation. The type of ornaments chosen was also dependant on the style of the region. Italian and French Baroque composers all had very different styles. The Italians favoured ‘passaggi’ style ornaments which was the method of embellishing a straightforward original melody line with a plethora of extra notes. This allowed for a high degree of improvisation. This style of ornamentation can be heard in many opera arias. The French composers on the other hand favoured ‘graces’ which were specific ornamental figures applied to specific notes. French and German Baroque chamber music predominantly employs these types of ornamentations. Examples of graces include things like trills, mordents, turns, appoggiaturas, grace notes and vibrato (including finger vibrato- flattement). The key to using these was a matter of ‘good taste’ and moderation.

Trills (or shakes) consist of two notes rapidly alternating (often used at cadences), generally starting on the upper note and on the beat. Usually indicated by either a tr or a tr~:

Played as:

Mordent can either go up to the note above original note and then return to it or down below original note before returning. If it goes up to the note above it is referred to as an upper mordent, indicated by a short squiggle. If it goes to the note it is called a lower mordent and is indicated by a short squiggle with a short vertical line through it:

Played as:

The Turn goes to note above, back to original note. Then note below and back again. Indicated by a horizontal S- shape, or an inverted S- shape if it goes in opposite direction.

Played as:

Appoggiatura- small dissonant note slurred to a big consonant note, starting on the beat, lasting roughly half the value of the main consonant note which it resolves to.

Acciaccatura or ‘crushed’ notes are very short notes played simultaneously or just before the main note of an arpeggiated chord, a tone or semitone below the chord tone.

Played as;

Tour de chant, three notes going up, down, up leading into a trill.

Accent – lift between repeating notes. See in C.p.e Bach’s table below;