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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000569.txt from 2003/06

From: "Joseph H. Fasel" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Vibrato on the Clarinet
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 2003 14:20:04 -0400

Though I once read Donington cover-to-cover (and I recommend it
to all), I had forgotten about the comparison of vibrato to
trills. This is really a beautiful analogy! For strings in
particular, I would claim that it's no more appropriate to use
vibrato as a constant component of tone than it would be to
play with a continuous trill. One thing I really appreciate
about authentic-instrument orchestras is the clarity of the
string sound in comparison to the vibrato-laden mud of the
typical modern orchestra. Come to think of it, this is also
one of the attractions of the English-cathedral school of
choral singing.


On 2003.06.19 09:33 Lelia Loban wrote:
> Alexander Brash wrote,
> >For justifications on why TO use vibrato, and how to
> >do it, please read this wonderful article by my teacher,
> >Jonathan Cohler:
> >
> Terrific article--one of the best and most common-sensical arguments I've
> seen on the subject. Cohler's recordings of the Brahms sonatas with Judith
> Gordon (on No. 1) and Randall Hodgkinson (on No. 2) thoroughly validate his
> opinions, too.
> >Now, I'm hardly saying vibrato is appropriate in every
> >piece all the time. You need to do research into the
> >performance practice of whatever piece you're working
> >on. For example, in the orchestral works of Mendelsohn
> >performed "correctly" (ie, as the composer intended), no
> >one should use vibrato. Not the strings, not anyone, it
> >was the convention of the time.
> That's an awfully broad statement. In _Grove's Dictionary of Music and
> Musicians_ , for instance, Robert Donington separates his discussion of
> vibrato into two different sections, for stringed instruments and for wind
> instruments. (I'm using the fifth edition, edited by Eric Bloom, New York:
> St. Martin's Press, 5th printing, 1962, Vol. VIII, p. 764-5. In my
> quotations, asterisks indicate italics in the original.) Donington's
> discussion on the controversy about wind instrument vibrato generally
> parallels what's been said here.
> In his section on stringed instruments, however, Donington quotes a number
> of writings about music, dating back to the 17th century, to assert that,
> "We have no evidence to suggest that this *vibrato* is less ancient than
> the instruments capable of it, or than the trill, an ornament closely
> allied to it." For the stringed orchestra in general, the controversy is
> not over whether or not to use vibrato per se, but over the "different
> schools of thought, one regarding the *vibrato* as a special *ornament* for
> expressive purposes, the other regarding it as an agreeable *shading* for
> continual use. The controversy still continues. In the 19th century the
> *vibrato* was normally regarded as an ornament for expressive purposes."
> Donington dates the use of continuous vibrato on the violin to Fritz
> Kreisler, in the early to mid 20th century, but I believe it's always been
> not only acceptable but routine to use vibrato *for ornament* in
> Mendelssohn, and if Mendelssohn left any instructions to the contrary, I
> would like to see them.
> Today, in practrice, violinists generally use vibrato both for ornament and
> for shading in the works of Mendelssohn and other 19th century composers.
> Violinists learn a number of different techniques to produce a wide variety
> of vibratos. (Sometimes it's hard to define exactly where shading of a
> note shades into an ornament, too.) Donington's article squares with what
> my husband learned, when he studied the violin with three concertmasters:
> Avram Nasco (who taught according to the Franco-Belgian school), Naom
> Blinder and Mischa Mischakoff (both of whom taught the Russian school).
> Mischakoff, in addition to touring and recording as a soloist, was
> Toscanini's concertmaster for 17 years. All three taught Kevin to use
> vibrato both for ornament *and* for shading in the 19th century literature.
> They mentioned the controversy in passing, but shrugged it off, as I think
> most violinists do, outside of antique instrument ensembles where people
> make a special point of attention to historical accuracy--and even in
> pre-19th century music, most orchestra fiddlers who won't use vibrato for
> shading do use it as an ornament.
> Virtuoso soloists don't worry much about this sort of thing, even when
> they're playing Bach (Nathan Milstein used vibrato discreetly and to great
> effect in his recordings of Bach's unaccompanied sonatas and partitas, for
> instance); and neither Kevin nor I can think of any recording of the
> Mendelssohn violin concerto, including recent ones such as Joshua Bell's
> CD, in which the soloist failed to use vibrato both ways. We haven't heard
> all the recordings that exist, but we've heard enough to be convinced that
> among violinists, copious vibrato in Mendelssohn is the norm, and that it
> would be far more controversial *not* to use it.
> Lelia Loban
> E-mail:
> Web site (original music scores as audio or print-out):
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
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Joseph H. Fasel, Ph.D. email:
Stockpile-Complex Modeling and Analysis phone: +1 505 667 7158
University of California fax: +1 505 667 2960
Los Alamos National Laboratory post: D-2 MS F609; Los Alamos, NM 87545

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