ITEA Pedagogy Section
Jason Byrnes, Associate Editor
Spring Issue Pedagogy Articles:
Retaining our Best Music Teachers by Mark Nelson
Baroque Literature: How to Get Started by Steven Maxwell
Is the Study of Baroque Performance Practice Worth Your Time? by Nicole Riner
Tips for Tuba: “101100101110” by David Porter
Spring Issue’s Pedagogy Hotlist
Baroque Literature: How to Get Started
Since there is a treasure of literature that can be borrowed and used effectively, Baroque music has become a mainstay in most tuba and euphonium players’ repertoire. Unfortunately, I often hear the music performed in a style more closely related to an Arban etude than one that is historically informed. The notes are played correctly but there is no sense of Baroque style. A historically informed performance (or HIP as it is often referred to) is the process of using historical research as a foundation for making decisions that utilize the Baroque style on a modern instrument. Introducing ourselves to Baroque style, learning about ornamentation, and finding resources are important ways to get started on a path toward a HIP performance of Baroque music.
The interest in performance of Baroque music has been a relatively recent phenomenon. During the first half of the 20 th century, there was little research on Baroque music and even less in terms of performance practice. Many of the performances prior to 1970 were done with little or no knowledge of the original interpretations. A Baroque musician would have had common knowledge in how the style affected the work–elements of performance were not originally written into the parts.
How to Get Started
Many musicians fear Baroque style due to inconsistencies in interpretations. These discrepancies are the result of a vastness of interpretations and research over time that is compounded further for the euphonium or tuba player because there is no music composed for those instruments from the Baroque era. What the modern musician can do is to provide the audience the important points or ideas that the composer intended. For Baroque composers, this is often centered on the setting in which the piece was to be performed and the emotional qualities, or “affect.” Affect was extremely important to the performer of the 18 th century and is vital to a successful performance.
There are numerous sources for us to find information about Baroque literature. One false step that young musicians often take is to not research the time, place, and history of the composer. It is easy to dive right into playing the notes and figuring out good ornamentation, without gaining knowledge of the background of the music. The place to begin to look for this kind of information is listed in the Resources portion of this article. I have found these recourses to be particularly helpful in background information, but they are only a place to begin and only a small sample of the many resources available.
Once a basic context of Baroque history has been established we can now turn to more specific resources that will guide us in making performance practice decisions. They will include detailed analysis of Baroque ornamentation and specific uses of the music. Robert Donnington wrote an insightful text about Baroque literature titled Baroque Music Style and Performance . I have found this book to be a tremendous resource. It has the best specific, written-out ornamentation ideas of any modern published text and should be in every musician’s library. A special note about this text is that it reads a bit like a “rule” book rather than a resource for guiding the process of making musical decisions. He often uses terminology that sounds as though his ideas are finite. One should be careful to not use this book to create rules in Baroque literature but rather as a clear explanation of a particular school of thought.
Introduction to Ornamentation
Ornamentation of Baroque music has become somewhat of a controversial subject. We have to realize that there is no standard ornamentation for all Baroque music. Each region of Europe had different standards for ornamentation. The most influential were the Italian and French. The German tradition, although prolific and important in its own regard, is basically a combination of Italian and French styles.
In Italy, composers most often wrote out the ornamentation in the music. We need to search for the melody in the written music rather than emphasize the fast, technical passages (which are really just ornamentation). In fact, if repeats are to be taken, written notes can be taken out of the music the first time through to emphasize the melody, and then reinserted during the repeat to show off the technique and style of the performer. The key to Italian Baroque is to first recognize the ornaments, then take them out for practice and finally add new ornaments to the melodic line, and not to yet another ornament; in other words, don’t ornament an ornament.
The Italians often set the slow movements plainly to allow the performer to show their personal styles and skills by adding their own ornamentation. This was a nice idea and was very popular for the performers of the Baroque, but it creates a problem for the modern-day performer who has few sources as examples. Often an original Baroque text or score [also called an “urtext”–Ed.] suggests the performer study with another well informed in the style of ornamentation. Unfortunately, we in the tuba field do not have that tradition so we need to piece together and apply what we can in the Italian tradition.
As mentioned earlier, the affect was of great importance to the Italian composer and performer. Composers wanted to deeply move and instruct the listener through various affects such as love, sadness, joy, and happiness. Any ornament used should reinforce the affect to the audience rather than distract; if a movement is slow and sad in character, one should not add a lively, rhythmic ornament but should add a slow, melodic ornament. This is a common mistake made in learning to ornament melodic lines.
French ornamentation, while not completely different than Italian ornamentation, presents many of its own distinctions. The French considered ornamentation to be essential to the performance of music. French Baroque composers did not often write out the ornamentation but rather used symbols in the music that were considered fixed. The musician then had the freedom to add more only when the music was repeated. Many French composers wrote down the ornaments they used and created their own icons and tables for ornamentation including composers Francis Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau. These tables are most often found as a preface to keyboard literature, but their written documents and tables of ornamentation can be useful to wind players to give us an idea of what was expected.
The process of educating ourselves about Baroque for performance can seem a bit daunting at first, but I promise you that by putting in the time, the payoff of the final product is worth it! There are a number of published Baroque works transcribed and edited for tuba and euphonium but don’t be afraid to check out other music not found in the tuba/euphonium literature. A couple of great bassoon pieces to get started with are listed in the Great Music to “Borrow” Box.
Getting Started: Some Baroque Resources
- New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians
- The New Grove books: French Baroque Masters and Italian Baroque Masters
- Music in the Baroque Era by Manfred Bukofzer
- Robert Donnington: Baroque Music Style and Performance
- Fredrick Neumann: Ornamentation in Baroque and Post-Baroque Music
- Johann Quantz : On Playing the Flute
- Betty Bang Mather: Free Ornamentation in Woodwind Music
Great Baroque Music to “Borrow!”
- Sonata in B-flat Major by Jerome Besozzi
This work is great on F/E-flat tuba or euphonium. I feel this could become a standard for the high horn. Special thanks to Tom Stein for bringing this work to my attention.
- Any concerto for bassoon by Vivaldi
With thirty-seven concertos to pick from, there are numerous works for tuba and euphonium that can be found here. One might need to edit a bit due to a few large leaps in technical passages. Making these changes, however, should not impede the overall affect or structure of the work.
- Sonata in C Major by Johann Friedrich Fasch
A wonderful German Baroque work this piece can be used by F/E-flat tuba and euphonium and played down the octave with CC/BB-flat tuba.
Steven Maxwell is Instructor of Tuba and Euphonium at Kansas State University. In addition, he teaches brass techniques, music fundamentals, assists with the Kansas State University Marching Band. Maxwell is also the tubist with the KSU Faculty Brass Quintet and the director of the KSU Tuba Euphonium Ensemble.
Currently, Maxwell is finishing his Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music (ABD). He received his Bachelor of Music in Education from Iowa State University and his Master of Music in Performance from Kansas State University. He has studied with Toby Hanks, Paul Hunt, Michael Short, Thomas Stein, and David Stuart. Maxwell has held the position of principal tubist of the Chautauqua Festival Orchestra in New York and the principal tubist of the Central Iowa Symphony. He is an active clinician, adjudicator, and soloist throughout the country.