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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000561.txt from 2000/09

From: (Tony Pay)
Subj: RE: [kl] being expressive in Italian
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 16:26:00 -0400

On Sun, 17 Sep 2000 18:32:25 -0700 (PDT), said:

> I received an email about "espressivo" that makes sense to me. The
> comment was that I was thinking from a soloist's point of view. Of
> course a soloist wants to be expressive; but if you're playing in an
> ensemble or orchestra, it may be your turn to just play the arpeggios
> and let some other instrument be espressivo. Hence the other person's
> music says "espressivo" and yours doesn't. I can buy into that.
> But I still am stuck with my feeling (there's that word again) that in
> many situations, writing "espressivo" is the same as using "very" in a
> creative writing assignment. What does this adjective really
> contribute? If you want the player to be expressive, how do you mean?
> Solemn? Lamenting? Joyous? Energetic? Downright hyper? Near to
> suicide? Experiencing nirvana?
> Okay, so I'm trying to put some notes of my own onto paper.
> Particularly notes whose fingering and rhythms I need to practice.
> But when I started to write "espressivo", I had to slap myself on the
> wrist. It was as if I was writing "very", and my grade school English
> teacher was rolling over in her grave.

Congratulations on being concerned with the meaning of the word
'espressivo'. Because what 'espressivo' asks of the performer is
misunderstood by many highly regarded artists, and quite a few of them
have clearly never asked themselves the question of what the purpose of
the composer's writing it may have been.

As always with such things, you have to assume for the purpose of
discussion that you're dealing with the work of a significant composer.
Otherwise, 'espressivo' might well mean anything, including nothing!

One way of characterising the meaning of the indication 'espressivo' is
to say that it instructs the performer as to what 'register' he or she
should inhabit at that moment. In fact, the indication 'espressivo'
mostly encourages the performer to inhabit the 'personal' register. And
in these terms, how the highly regarded performers I spoke about
previously show that they haven't thought about the matter is that they
play *always* in the personal register.

The difference you mentioned, between playing a solo and playing an
accompaniment, is an example of a difference in register; but the idea
of different registers is more general and subtle than the idea of the
difference between solo and accompaniment. And even if some composers
never write 'espressivo' in their music, the use of different registers
may be necessary in order to make their music live most effectively.

I made a post here some time ago about the analogy between the different
registers of the Stravinsky Three Pieces and the different registers of
the Schumann Fantasiestu"cke, that provides some illustration of how the
idea may work. The point is, that inhabiting a register that isn't
'espressivo' doesn't reduce you to playing 'just the arpeggios.'

As an aside, I myself have the habit of reading the word 'espressivo' as
though it has a question mark attached. I also recommend this way of
reading the instruction to my students.

It then means, roughly: what is this bit expressive *of*? In the
personal register?

And you find your answer by a process of experimentation.

(As you indicate.)

_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE GMN family artist:
tel/fax 01865 553339


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