AVA190: I’m trying to learn this fabulous Voluntary by Purcell but finding the ornamentation a challenge
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 190 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. This question was sent by Neil. He writes:
Hello Vidas, I’m trying to learn this fabulous piece but finding the ornamentation a challenge. Can you advise on correct fingering and ornamentation?
I enclose the link to the collection of Purcell pieces via IMSLP website and the voluntary is on page 64.
V: And he encloses the link to the collection of Henry Purcell pieces on Petrucci Music Library website and he playing the voluntary that is on page 64. So were looking at the page 64 right now and it appears it has a lot of various ornaments, graces as they are called. So what should Neil do for starters?
A: Well you know if I had been in a situation like he is and would have a piece where I could not understand some of the ornamentation I would look at the beginning of that collection because it gives all of the rules for graces.
V: Not only for graces right? They also explain its a big preface right? With notes, with dedication to the royal highness the princess of Denmark, right? That Purcell did and also the scale or the gamut, right? The pictures from original score, examples of time or lengths of notes, again you mentioned rules for graces and then fingerings, right? He writes fingering too. So there is also a lot to be learned from preface like this and from introduction.
A: I know it’s amazing you know how how how many details Purcell gives for his performance.
V: Exactly. We could discuss a little bit the types of graces, right?
V: The first grace is marked with two lines above the note, note stem, right? Horizontally or a little bit diagonally. It’s called a “shake” and if the note is written on the note B like in example then it should be performed C-B-C-B-C-B-C-B in thirty-seconds.
A: So from the upper note so it’s like trill.
V: Yes, upper note trill. Like french trill, like Bach trill too.
V: And then another type of grace is marked like a normal mordent, like a curly line, right? And actually it has to be played from the note below. If it’s on the note B then it has to be played A-B-A-B.
A: And that’s different from Bach’s, from french you know ornamentation but probably similar to italian.
V: French has this type of ornamentation but
A: But we mark differently.
V: Then there is a shake with two diagonal lines above the note stem but also like a slash, backslash sign from the computer that we have. And it’s like played with repeated C and then C-B-C-B again. This first C is long like eighth note long and the rest of them are thirty-seconds.
V: Um-hmm. Then there is a shake probably but with one diagonal line above B. So that is played from below A-B. A is sixteenth note and B is dotted eighth note.
A: So this is some sort of appoggiatura version.
V: Exactly. But english have their own version of everything.
V: Um-hmm. Backfall they call it. And the previous one was a forefall. And now B note with an opposite appoggiatura, right? Opposite diagonal line like a falling so you have to play it like C-B. Not A-B but from above.
A: Yes. So all those you know tiny differences that are very important for performing such music.
V: Hey look. There is another one like a turn. Turn and it is played from the main note. Not upper note. If it’s written on the note B so you have to play it
A: From B.
V: B-C-B-A-B in thirty-second notes. Um-hmm. Right? And then there is mark like a shake with two diagonal lines but also like a parenthesis, like a slur actually, like a slur from above the note. And they have to be played C-B-C-B-A#-B in thirty-second notes. It’s strange, right Ausra?
A: Very strange.
V: What else? O you have sometimes two interval. B and D so then it’s like passing notes B-C-D. French they have Tierce culée exact sign too. If you have a chord and a slur before those notes it means you have to play arpeggio. Right?
V: But it’s not a very simple arpeggio. It’s very intricate. What do you understand here Ausra?
A: Huh. I just. What I understand from this marking is that you have to hold the lower note all the time while arpeggiating the upper note.
V: Um-hmm. So then you would need to start with the lower note then skip one note and then play the third note, fourth note and lastly the second note of the chord in order to play this arpeggio. Um-hmm. And then they indicate how various clefs are notated. Bass clef.
A: Tenor clef.
V: Treble clef and of course they have how many lines, 1-2-3, six lines in the staff. Good luck Neil. I think you will love it. Then of course we could discuss a little bit about the fingering. Because Neil was asking about the fingering too. You see at the end of this example Purcell writes a scale up and down, both hands. So what do you see here?
A: Well that he uses position fingering and lots of good fingering too.
V: And the strong finger is three in the right hand obviously. So you play 3-4-3-4-3-4-3-4 in ascending line with the right hand and 3-2-3-2-3-2 in descending. And in the left hand what do you do?
A: It’s interesting because he uses also a strong finger in the left hand, the three as well. Can you see that?
V: Left hand.
V: It doesn’t make sense for me the left hand.
A: I know it looks sort of
V: weird. I’m talking ascending 1-2-3-4-3-4-3-4-3-4.
A: I know it’s like all written backwards, I don’t know.
V: It’s like the right hand actually.
A: I know.
V: It’s all mixed up. Maybe he meant downwards this fingering. Wouldn’t you love to see Purcell’s hand?
V: How many fingers did he have?
A: Maybe he played like this you know.
V: Yes, backwards.
A: I know.
V: I think you could play 3-2-3-2-3-2 with the left hand ascending and then descending 2-3-2-3-2-3. That would be easier right?
V: So, guys always consult the preface if there is one.
A: I know but this preface and that fingering of the left hand you can you know damage your left hand.
V: And then always consult your mind.
A: That’s true.
V: That sometimes has a better explanation.
A: You have to sort things out always for yourself.
V: Um-hmm. Excellent. That’s a fun collection actually. A lot of beautiful suites, variations, and voluntaries that Purcell wrote.
A: Yes, it might be very handy for church musician when you need you know short episodes for your service.
V: And some of them are hymn related, right?
A: True, yes.
V: We found one Old 100th hymn. But obviously they are more virginal type of music like harpsichord.
A: That’s true but let’s say if you have for example service in a chapel as we for example had at Grace Lutheran Church on Saturday.
V: Without the pedals.
A: Yes, without the pedals it’s a perfect collection.
V: Exactly. Doesn’t hurt to play it. The more variety the better actually. Wonderful. Thank you guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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