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Ornamentation According to C. P. E. Bach and J. J. Quantz.

by Kris Palmer. 1st Books Library (2595 Vernal Pike, Bloomington, IN 47404), 2001. 188 pp., $11.95.

Kris Palmer writes in the forward to Ornamentation According to C. P. E. Bach And J. J. Quantz that her goal is to give insight to the differences in realizing the ornaments in baroque, rococo and classical music. She examines ornaments found in C. P. E. Bach's A-Minor Flute Concerto, Wq. 166. The first two sections of the book discuss appoggiaturas and trills as found in the A-Minor Concerto, and the last section covers ornaments not found in the piece, but occurring in other C. P. E. Bach flute concerti.

Clearly, the author is knowledgeable about ornamentation, and she attempts to give general guidelines as well as specific suggestions for realizing the ornaments found in these concerti. She points out that Quantz and C. P. E. Bach worked together for almost thirty years in Berlin in the court of Frederick II, King of Prussia. Quantz's On Playing the Flute (1752) and Bach's Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (1753) are the primary sources referred to in this guide, although Palmer also quotes other scholars such as Robert Donington and Frederick Neumann. Written for the serious instrumentalist, this book has detailed references to the two treatises (with many footnotes).

For a performer learning one of these flute concerti or the keyboard versions of the same works, the book would be invaluable. As a general reference book, however, I found it less helpful, largely because the presentation seemed unnecessarily complicated. For example, there are many musical examples in the book that help illustrate her points, but there are many examples described in words rather than in musical notation. Having a score of the A-Minor Flute Concerto available when reading the book would help clarify things, since the author is careful to indicate measure numbers for each ornament being considered. A second concern is the order in which ornaments are presented--often with the exceptions or inconsistencies presented at the beginning of a chapter before a thorough presentation of the normal conventions. She assumes the reader will already be familiar with those conventions.

Chapter One begin with the variable or long appoggiatura. Palmer quotes from Bach's treatise about the length of the appoggiatura (half to two-thirds of the following note) and placement (on the beat) of this ornament. What follows are many examples of appoggiaturas, generally in the order they appear in the A-Minor Concerto. However, before we get even one clear example of a variable appoggiatura that follows the "rule," we get double-dotting (without explanation) and then several examples where the long appoggiatura is even longer than predicted by the definition because a rest follows the ornamented note. Palmer quotes from the Bach Essay regarding his attempt to indicate the exact length of the variable appoggiatura by having the small note be the correct rhythmic value of the realization. For example, if the appoggiatura is written as an eighth-note, then the appoggiatura should take an eighth-note value from the main note. Unfortunately, Bach was not consistent in this effort, and Palmer discusses these inconsistencies.

I found the section on trills similarly complicated. The first section on the "normal trill" begins with a quote from Bach about the four types of trills--normal, ascending, descending and half (or short) trill. The following section, however, doesn't discuss the normal trill or any of the other types mentioned, but immediately begins to discuss something else--the snap and some hybrid ornaments. The author tries to help the reader understand what something is by also defining what it is not. I would have preferred to read general principles first, followed by some clear examples that follow those principles--and then learn of exceptions to the "rule."

Of course, anyone who has studied ornamentation in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music knows there are no simple rules that apply in all situations. This book certainly confirms there are no easy answers about how to realize ornaments. Rather, one must know the conventions of the period and the composer's preferences and also consider the context in which the ornament appears. Palmer reminds us of this in the book's concluding section, when she states that the harmonic and melodic context surrounding ornaments are very important in deciding how to realize them.

Palmer's suggestions are well researched, and her knowledge of the subject is very thorough. While the book is not easy to read, anyone who is interested in a serious examination of the topic should find the book helpful. Reviewed by Sue Haug, Ames, Iowa,
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Haug, Sue
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 2002
Words:760
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