Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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6. English Baroque.

The virginalists' single and double strokes (see §3 above) lingered well into the 18th century before being supplanted by Italian signs. However, between the stroke sigla of the Golden Age and the italianized ornaments of the Hanoverian era, there existed in England an indigenous set of signs, known as ‘graces’, as sophisticated and comprehensive as the French agréments. Mace described these as: ‘Curiosities, and Nicities, in … the Adorning of your Play (for your Foundations being surely Laid, and your building well Rear'd, you may proceed to the Beautifying, and Painting of your Fabrick)’ (G1676, p.102). They had distinctly English names, and encompassed a larger vocabulary of ornamentation than that used in modern practice. They were inconsistently represented, their signs varying depending on instrumental tradition and continental influences.

The earliest published tabulation with written-out realizations of ornaments was for fretted and bowed instruments. Compiled by Charles Coleman, the ‘Table of Graces proper to the Violl or Violin’ appeared in John Playford's Breefe Introduction (G1654) and Christopher Simpson's Division-Violist (G1659); the latter echoed a distinction made by the Downes manuscript (c1615, GB-Lbl Eg.2971), which contrasted four graces ‘with the hand’ – the relish, shake, falle and tast – with three ‘with the bowe’ – the traile, thumpe and shake. Among the hand graces, Simpson differentiated between the smooth and the ‘shaked’: ‘Smooth is, when in rising or falling a Tone or Semitone, we draw … the Sound from one Note to another, in imitation of the Voyce … Shaked Graces we call those that are performed by a Shake or Tremble of a Finger’. There was a further subdivision of the latter into close shake (one-finger vibrato) and open shake, which should ‘exceed not the wideness of two Frets’.

For singers, Playford catered to the prevailing fashion by incorporating a translation of part of Caccini's preface to Le nuove musiche (1601/2) in the 1664 edition of A Breefe Introduction. The currency enjoyed by Caccini's ideas is confirmed in the 1666 edition: ‘Trills, Grups, and Exclamations … have been used to our English Ayres above this 40 years and Taught here in England, by our late Eminent Professors of Musick Mr. Nicholas Laneare, Mr. Henry Lawes, Dr. Wilson, and Dr. Colman’; and a condensed form of Caccini's ornaments appeared in the anonymous Synopsis of Vocal Musick (G1680). Tastes changed, and these ‘Directions for Singing after the Italian Manner’ fell into oblivion after the 12th edition of A Breefe Introduction (1694), which was revised by Henry Purcell. As a boy Purcell had been a chorister in the Chapel Royal under Henry Cooke, who according to Evelyn (diary, 28 October 1654), was ‘esteem'd the best singer after the Italian manner of any in England’. Strong traces of Italian ornamentation are to be found in Purcell's vocal writing, as in English song in general, which became technically more demanding in the wake of the arrival of Italian professional singers in the 1660s. In contrast, Purcell's decorative formulae for keyboard were largely based on those of the clavecinistes, even though very little French keyboard music survives in English sources. His posthumous Choice Collection of Lessons (G1696) contains ‘Rules for Graces’ for keyboards, purportedly ‘taken from his owne Manuscript’. Earlier attempts at tables of interpretation had been ineffectual: most of the signs given were not in normal use (e.g. those in GB-Lbl Add.31403), while others, for example in Locke's Melothesia (G1673), were unexplained. Purcell shared Locke's orthography, however, with the familiar strokes presented in a variety of permutations and projected above notes rather than through the stem.

The ‘most principal Grace in Musick’ (Playford) was the shake, represented in lute sources as in ex.30, and in keyboard sources as in ex.31. It was to be executed ‘sweet and quick’ (Matteis, Gc1680), ‘equal, distinctly mark'd, easy’ (Tosi, G1723), with (according to most 17th- and 18th-century sources) a perceptible acceleration. The initial auxiliary note was to be slightly prolonged, and the main note left sounding: ‘A Shake takes the Grace from the next note above it, which is to be heard a little, & then shaken of[f]; letting the proper note be heard at last’ (Blakeston, 1694, GB-Lbl Add.17853; similar description, Prelleur, G1731). Though all sources show an upper auxiliary start, main-note trills also existed, as in transcriptions of works by Froberger (c1700, by Blow) and Rossi. Usually played on the beat, shakes are also occasionally to be found with an ascendant prefix before the beat (ex.32). However, Playford's ‘Plain Shake’ or ‘Trill’ is the English equivalent of Caccini's reiteration on a single note, the ‘Trillo’.

As the shake involved the upper auxiliary, so the beat used the lower. It started off as an inverted mordent (ex.33a) played ‘into a Half Note beneath’ and continued ‘so long as my Time will allow me’ (Mace, G1676, p.105). However, by the late 17th century, the beat (ex.33b) was a single entity ‘fetcht from the half Note below the Note it stands over’ (Carr, G1684, 2/1686), like the French port de voix (or cheute) with pincé (see §7 below) but without their separate notational identities. Its sign resembles a mordent (the modern mordent was unknown in England before 1749). In the early 18th century the beat underwent a refinement of notation whereby the single stroke (ex.34a) required a diatonic lower auxiliary and the double stroke (ex.5b) a chromatic lower auxiliary (Prendcourt, c1700, GB-Y M.16s). The beat received its most emphatic endorsement from Pasquali. In his Art of Fingering the Harpsichord, published in Edinburgh (G?1760), he appears to have suppressed his native tradition, and printed what must have been the standard English interpretation (ex.35), which is a literal inversion of the shake. Ex.35 (bar 7, beat 1) clearly shows the turn as a standard Baroque device, alternating first with the upper and then with the lower auxiliaries. This grace was, however, different in Purcell's Choice Collection, being a five-note ornament starting with the consonant main note, slightly prolonged not only at the end but also at the beginning. More straightforward were the forefall and the backfall, being short appoggiaturas, respectively ascending and descending, applied on the beat to conjunct notes or notes a 3rd apart. The notation for these graces was replaced by small notes in the 18th century. The forefall was referred to as a ‘beat’ by Playford and a ‘Half-fall’ by Mace. The slur (ex.36a), also called elevation (ex.36b) or wholefall (ex.36c), was played from the 3rd below the main note ‘very swift, or the grace is lost’ (North, c1710; ed. Wilson, G1959, p.62). Comparison with its continental equivalent, the tierce coulée, reveals that the first (lower) note would have been sustained throughout when the harmonic sense allowed it. The less common slide or double backfall descended a 3rd into the main note.

Unaccented notes of decoration, though often written out, were also given grace symbols. The cadent rhythmically anticipated the following note, while the springer, acute or sigh was a changing note nonchalantly inserted between main notes: ‘After you have hit your Note … you must (just as you intend to part with your Note) dab one of your next Fingers lightly upon the same String, a Frett or 2 Fretts below … yet so gently, that you do not cause the String to sound’ (Mace, G1676, p.109). The sting was a vibrato, ‘not modish in these Days’, and executed ‘upon a Long Note, and a Single String … and so soon as It is struck, hold your Finger (but not too hard) stopt upon the Place, (letting your Thumb loose) and wave your Hand … downwards, and upwards several Times, from the Nut to the Bridge’ (ibid.). Coleman's vividly illustrated ‘Close Shake’ was a vibrato requiring another finger: ‘we shake the Finger as close and near the sounding Note as possible may be, touching the String with the shaking Finger so softly and nicely that it make no variation of tone. This may be used where no other Grace is concerned’ (Simpson, G1659, p.11; ex.37). Geminiani's sign for the ‘Close Shake’ (G1749, p.8), based on Mace's sign, resembles an extended trill or mordent, but the ornament was clearly a vibrato: ‘you must press the Finger strongly upon the String of the Instrument, and move the Wrist in and out slowly and equally’. A vibrato not involving pitch alteration was the bow vibrato (‘shake’ or ‘tremble’), likened by Simpson (G1659, p.10) to the Tremulant stop of an organ.

The term ‘roulade’ had two distinct meanings: in the Burwell Lute Tutor (Gc1660–72), the single roulade is equivalent to a backfall and the double roulade to a double backfall or slide, whereas Grassineau (G1740, p.205) defined the roulade as ‘a trilling or quavering’, the latter meaning ‘the act of trilling or shaking, or running a division with a voice’. The tut was a curtailed note in lute music: ‘always performed with the Right Hand … strike your Letter [i.e. note] (which you intend shall be so Grac'd), and immediately clap on your next striking Finger, upon the String which you struck; in which doing, you suddenly take away the Sound of the Letter [i.e. note], which is that, we call Tut’ (Mace, G1676, p.109).

The breaking of a chord was often considered not a grace but a part of rudimentary technique. Mace's ‘Raking Play’ required the lutenist to sound the bass and the top note together and ‘draw all over your Forefinger, very gently, till you have hit the Sixth String, and you will hear a very full Consort of 7 Parts’. In Purcell's ‘Rules’ (G1696), the broken chord, labelled ‘Battery’, is patently a misprint, the intention being an ascending arpeggio. This echoed continental practice; the downward arpeggio, however, is nowhere to be found in English rules for graces. A rhythmicized version, reflecting Italian practice, appears in a York Minster manuscript copied around 1700 by Captain Prendcourt (ex.38).

The ‘single relish’ was variously a turn and a trill, though Mace (G1676, p.107) asserted that the backfall of the latter ‘would always be performed very strongly, and smartly’, implying a perceptible dwelling on the appoggiatura. The ‘double relish’, like any other compound ornament, involved a shake; the term was used by Playford for Caccini's gruppo. The two constituent elements of Locke's ‘Fore-fall & Shake’ were sometimes separated (ex.39), allowing the shake to define the pulse and preventing the bar from going astray rhythmically. These are not to be confused with shakes with an ascending prefix taken before the beat (ex.40) or starting on the beat, the latter unknown in England before about 1725. The ascending prefix must also not be confused with the termination of the ‘Shake Turn'd’, which required a discernible lingering on the final main note (ex.41). Purcell's term ‘Plain Note & Shake’ (renamed ‘backfall-and-shake’ by Howard Ferguson: see Purcell, G1696) makes it clear that the initial note is not to be regarded as a backfall proper, but rather as a standard italianate appoggiatura taking half the value of the note being graced (two-thirds when it is dotted). Any addition of a tie between the plain note and the first note of the shake is unwarranted.

Most typeset music of the 17th century omits grace signs, probably because typography was inadequate. The scarcity of printed indications for graces, especially in English songs before 1700, precludes neither their use nor innovation: ‘to set your tune off better, you must make severall sorts of Graces of your own Genius, it being very troublesome for the Composer to mark them’ (Matteis, Gc1680, p.79). Manuscript versions of music often contain more ornaments than printed music, to which graces were often added by hand (exx.42a and b). Some writers attempted to give general rules to allay uncertainty; the anonymous author of The Synopsis of Musick pointed out that ‘Airy Songs’ did not need to be graced and required ‘only a lively and cheerful kind of Singing carried by the Air itself’, whereas it was in ‘Passionate Musick’ that gracing came into its own.

North ranked embellishing as the apex of musical skills, writing that ‘It is the hardest task that can be, to pen the manner of artificiall Gracing an upper part … the practice of Gracing is the practice of Composition, and without skill in the latter, the other will never succeede’ (c1726; ed. Wilson, G1959, p.149); and that all musicians should ‘informe themselves of the first principles of Harmony, plain and artificiall; for knowing the source whence all the ornaments flow’ (1728; ed. Chan and Kassler, G1990). Tosi (G1723; Eng. trans., 2/1743, p.182) suggested that the musician should ‘make new Graces, from whence … he will chuse the best’, and should use them ‘as long as he thinks them so; but, going on in refining, he will find others more deserving his esteem … he will increase his Store of Embellishments in a Stile which will be entirely his own’.

Graphic elucidations were employed to encourage the proper execution of graces: ‘the triller's aim is to make a strong spring shake, as fast as possible … like a squirrel scratching her ear’ (North, c1726; ed. Wilson, G1959, p.166). But there was an overriding caveat: ‘one great failure [of shaking graces] is the neglect of time, which much deforms them’ (ibid.), for ‘whether they be Beats or Shakes, you must be sure to play 'em in time; otherwise you had better play only the plain Notes’ (Blakeston, 1694, GB-Lbl Add.17853).


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