Beethoven's terminology?

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David Ward
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Beethoven's terminology?

Post by David Ward » 26 Feb 2016, 20:29

Is anybody on this forum certain what Beethoven really meant by mezza voce in string parts at the beginning of the slow movement of his quartet opus 74? (see the attached scan). As a direction to singers, its meaning would be unequivocal. To a singer mezza voce means exactly what it says: 'half voice,' which is not a direction to be mf or mp, but rather a somewhat toneless pp in which the normally full toned and projected voice is constrained.

The recordings I have of opus 74 don't start this movement with a string equivalent of this vocal direction, but instead with a normal full tone at medium low volume.

On Wednesday (2 March) afternoon I expect to be at a rehearsal for a concert which is to include this Beethoven quartet (also one of my own, first performed almost exactly 19 years ago). I don't want to complicate things for the players, but if they do ask what I think Beethoven might have intended …
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John Ruggero
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Re: Beethoven's terminology?

Post by John Ruggero » 26 Feb 2016, 22:17

David, I have always thought of an instrumental "sotto voce" to be the equivalent of a stage whisper and a "mezza voce" to be as if talking to oneself rather than projecting outward to the audience in the normal way.
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Re: Beethoven's terminology?

Post by OCTO » 28 Feb 2016, 04:53

I can just guess, but I am uncertain.
So I guess that Beethoven was not exactly sure what dynamics should be applied here. One morning he wakes up and plays forte, another pianissimo.. and so on.
So the instruction is clear, someone is singing openly another have just to sing with half or low voice.
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Re: Beethoven's terminology?

Post by John Ruggero » 28 Feb 2016, 18:22

I think that Beethoven know exactly what he wanted: an intimate rendition. There are many cases where composers omit dynamic signs because an exact dynamic is not the point. A correct dynamic will arise naturally if the players achieve the correct feeling. For this reason, he specifies an exact expressive marking for each instrument, not an exact dynamic.
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Re: Beethoven's terminology?

Post by David Ward » 29 Feb 2016, 10:43

I'll report back on any relevant comments from the members of the Bingham String Quartet http://www.binghamquartet.net/ during rehearsal.
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Re: Beethoven's terminology?

Post by John Ruggero » 29 Feb 2016, 17:00

If they are not playing it well, say "intimo, intimo, gentlemen"... :)

I notice that Beethoven is using expressive markings throughout this movement as at the beginning: a marking of "espressivo" is often used as a substitute for a dynamic marking. At the end he writes "espressivo morendo", a pretty unique marking! He definite has something special in mind in this piece.
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Re: RE: Re: Font SEBASTIANO

Post by OCTO » 29 Feb 2016, 17:26

Do you know this: "dolce cantabile con nervosita"?
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Re: Beethoven's terminology?

Post by John Ruggero » 29 Feb 2016, 20:48

That's a good one, OCTO.! What piece has that marking?
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Re: Beethoven's terminology?

Post by OCTO » 01 Mar 2016, 07:00

That was just my imagination!
But here is one very nice by Bent Sørensen:
shot 2.jpg
shot 2.jpg (47.95 KiB) Viewed 5505 times
Later on he says:
shot 3.jpg
shot 3.jpg (53.1 KiB) Viewed 5505 times
And continues:
shot 4.jpg
shot 4.jpg (36.63 KiB) Viewed 5504 times
Finally looks like on drugs:
shot 5.jpg
shot 5.jpg (44.73 KiB) Viewed 5504 times
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Re: Beethoven's terminology?

Post by John Ruggero » 01 Mar 2016, 16:55

You have a very active imagination!

That piece makes me nervous already, and I haven't even seen or heard it!
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