Interesting Keyboard Notation 2

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John Ruggero
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Interesting Keyboard Notation 2

Post by John Ruggero »

Here are two cases where two composers separated by several centuries show an acute sensitivity to the appearance of beamed groups and how they might influence a performer:

In Scarlatti's Sonata K. 28, what would normally be 16th-note 3:2 triplets appear as 32nd-note 3:4 triplets:
Scarlatti K 28 ex A.png
Scarlatti K 28 ex A.png (214.79 KiB) Viewed 581 times
This was not his normal way of notating triplets in 3/8. As an example, I offer an example from K. 17 from the same set of 30 sonatas that were the only keyboard sonatas published during his lifetime:
Scarlatti K 17.png
Scarlatti K 17.png (77.21 KiB) Viewed 581 times
Here is a similar example by Rachmaninoff from the Piano Concerto no. 2, where what would be normal 16th-notes groups of 8 and 9 are written as 8th-note groups as if 8:4 and 9:4 tuplets!
Rachmaninoff Concerto 2 ex A.png
Rachmaninoff Concerto 2 ex A.png (210.52 KiB) Viewed 581 times
To understand the logic of these passages one must look at the closing measures of both sections of these pieces.

In the case of the Scarlatti, one sees that the closing groups of 32nd notes represent Flamenco flourishes that are probably intended to be played freely and faster than notated. The same is probably true of the triplets in the first example. For this reason, Scarlatti could not notate the triplets differently, because this would have implied a measured performance of the triplets in the manner of the example from K. 17.
Scarlatti K 28 ex B.png
Scarlatti K 28 ex B.png (229.71 KiB) Viewed 581 times
In the case of the Rachmaninoff, the piano part is written in 8th note groups throughout the entire opening section of the movement no matter how many notes are in the groups. As the section progresses the groups of 4 and 5 gradually become groups of 3 as seen in the final measures of the section:
Rachmaninoff Concerto 2 ex B.png
Rachmaninoff Concerto 2 ex B.png (222.57 KiB) Viewed 581 times
However, because this reduction in the number of notes represents only a thinning of the piano texture and not in itself a perceptible slowing down, and because of the majestic feeling of this opening section, Rachmaninoff uses 8th-notes throughout for consistency and to show breadth.
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