Another Mozart Centered Beam

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John Ruggero
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Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by John Ruggero »

This sighting is from the last movement of Mozart's Piano Sonata K. 280. I think that it bears out my contention that some centered beams were to be understood as phrasing indications.

The centered beam sets off the last note of the brilliant run from the cadencing sixths that are the origin of the sixths in the next phrase:
K280.3 centered beam MS.png
K280.3 centered beam MS.png (972.96 KiB) Viewed 825 times
This centered beam also appears in the recapitulation.

Because the small interval and ledger lines makes this centered beam so difficult to engrave, the first edition broke the beam as if showing a phrasing break, rather than using all down stems as in modern editions! This indicates to me that the engraver considered this centered beam to be the rough equivalent of a broken beam. This is not the first such translation from centered to broken beams that I have encountered in the works of this period.
K280.3 centered beam 1st ed.png
K280.3 centered beam 1st ed.png (669.64 KiB) Viewed 825 times
Lest one think that the first edition engraver was merely attempting to follow the manuscript slavishly: The first editions of the Mozart's first piano sonatas were published after his death and are notable for being more highly edited than other first editions of Mozart's works, with many notational changes and additions to the original including the modernizing many of the centered beams. For this reason I find it even more significant that the editor and engraver would have attempted to preserve this particular centered beam if only in a compromised notation.

A later edition by Andre that attempted to be closer the original manuscript than the first edition made the same beam break the first time:
K280.3 centered beam Andre1.png
K280.3 centered beam Andre1.png (158.8 KiB) Viewed 825 times
Then in the recapitulation it tried a different solution because Mozart double-stemmed the sixths this time in the manuscript:
K280.3 centered beam Andre2.png
K280.3 centered beam Andre2.png (114.02 KiB) Viewed 825 times
In both cases, I think the engravers were attempting to preserve something special in the original notation that has been lost in current editions.
Last edited by John Ruggero on 30 Jan 2024, 14:21, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by John Ruggero »

Continuing on...

The centered beam also shows an important moment where the theme suddenly resumes the opening register to complete the main melody and bass lines:
Mozart K 280.3 analysis.png
Mozart K 280.3 analysis.png (122.8 KiB) Viewed 759 times
In this way it is somewhat similar to:

viewtopic.php?p=7910&hilit=centered+bea ... +101#p7910

Note also the centered beam in m. 6, which is even more difficult to engrave and was thus altered in the first edition. Mozart's notation breaks the 16th note figuration into two sub-phrases, which, if observed, prevents a mechanical performance of the passage. Because I think it so significant, I decided to break this beam as seen in the analysis above, with a footnote showing the original notation, since phrasing shown by beam breaks and that by centered beams are not completely equivalent.
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NeeraWM
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by NeeraWM »

I agree with your choice.
Most of centred beams in my experience are there due to spacing concerns and not forcibly for musical reasons.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by John Ruggero »

Thanks, Neera. I would say that most centered beams were used because long stems took up too much space at a time when space was limited, as you implied, and I also think that they were considered ugly. (I might add that we still use centered beams for these two reasons today but only for much larger intervals.) So centered beams were used to avoid this whenever they didn't disturb reading, that is, they tended not to be used for the smaller intervals or when many ledger lines were involved. Thus, when one encounters a centered beam that is used for small interval or with ledger lines or both, as in the example above, one suspects some other purpose, if only unconscious on the part of the composer. Add to that a clear reason, such as articulation or musical structure, and I am even more convinced that the notation is worth preserving.

In the end, however, I decided to modernize both centered beams, since they are indeed too difficult to engrave properly as they stand and breaking the beams might actually be even more misleading. Instead, there will be footnotes with examples of the original notation at the bottom of the page.
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by NeeraWM »

Sounds like the safer choice, yes.
I'm not sure, though, that a centred beam would make me play the music differently.
Another story would be if we could have curved beams (à-la-JSBach), in which case, then, a centred beam could assume a musical meaning to, for example, not separate the notes too much (or something else, of course).
In the manuscript you shared above, one can see the stems protruding form beyond the beam. While that may look beautiful in handwriting, it would have a poor effect with computer notation.
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by John Ruggero »

NeeraWM wrote: 30 Jan 2024, 14:32 I'm not sure, though, that a centered beam would make me play the music differently.
Here is another example. Would the centered beam in Bach's manuscript of Invention 1 cause you to show the subject and counter-subject more:
Invention 1 MS.png
Invention 1 MS.png (840.01 KiB) Viewed 608 times
than if had been written without the centered beam as in most editions:
Invvention 1.png
Invvention 1.png (170.91 KiB) Viewed 608 times
And do you thing that Bach wrote this difficult-to-write centered beam simply by chance or convention? Or do you think that it is an integral part of his notation and should appear in an authentic edition just like a slur or other performance indication?
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NeeraWM
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by NeeraWM »

Ah, authenticity, what a difficult and deep topic!
If it were to be "authentic", then why not use the soprano clef directly?
But I see your point: in the manuscript, there is no space constraint that would have obliged him to write the centred beam. So it must be a conscientious choice.
The only problem is how badly those things look in computer engraving, because one cannot change the thickness of stem and beam on a per-stem/per-beam basis! Look at how beautiful the curved beam in bar 3 LH is. One would need to do all this in a vector-drawing program where you have brushes that can reproduce exactly the same kind of stroke used for this (you can see the thinning of the stroke towards the end, which could give us a hint of what kind of brush has been used—though I'm no expert in this).

Question on the source: why the printed version you attached doesn't show the two triplets in beat 4, left-hand, of both bars, and in beat 2, right-hand?
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by John Ruggero »

NeeraWM wrote: 01 Feb 2024, 09:14 Ah, authenticity, what a difficult and deep topic!
And a for that reason an excellent topic for discussion!
NeeraWM wrote: 01 Feb 2024, 09:14
If it were to be "authentic", then why not use the soprano clef directly?
I don't believe in "authenticity" for its own sake. But I do believe in preserving what the composer' is expressing. Modernizing the clefs increases the audience for an edition with negligible negative consequences for achieving that. And Bach himself used treble and bass clefs when he published his opus 1.
NeeraWM wrote: 01 Feb 2024, 09:14But I see your point: in the manuscript, there is no space constraint that would have obliged him to write the centred beam. So it must be a conscientious choice. The only problem is how badly those things look in computer engraving, because one cannot change the thickness of stem and beam on a per-stem/per-beam basis! Look at how beautiful the curved beam in bar 3 LH is. One would need to do all this in a vector-drawing program where you have brushes that can reproduce exactly the same kind of stroke used for this (you can see the thinning of the stroke towards the end, which could give us a hint of what kind of brush has been used—though I'm no expert in this).
I personally have no desire to preserve Bach's curved beams and other handwriting mannerisms in engraving because hand-written music and engraved music are completely different media, each with its own characteristics. Both Finale and Dorico allow one to change beams thickness on a local level. That and a little ingenuity makes preserving centered beams quite possible.

I didn't have great difficulty preserving the centered beam in Invention no. 1 (and many harder things) in my edition of all the Inventions and Sinfonia's (note: the position of the fingering shows the rhythmic position of the notes of the trill):
Inv 1.png
Inv 1.png (116.99 KiB) Viewed 561 times
I don't think that appearance should take precedence over what the composer is communicating in their notation. Many people don't care for the look of centered beams because they are not accustomed to them. I think that engravers of Bach's and Mozart's time would have found equally unattractive the long stems that we now substitute for them.
NeeraWM wrote: 01 Feb 2024, 09:14 Question on the source: why the printed version you attached doesn't show the two triplets in beat 4, left-hand, of both bars, and in beat 2, right-hand?
The passing notes that create the triplets appear to have been added later throughout the piece. Most editors have felt that this was probably an illustration of variation technique for a student, rather than a revision. This is born out by the fact that Invention no 1 is the first in a pedagogical series of pieces in increasing difficulty and thus should use simple 16ths. So every edition publishes the simple form (that is also found in the first version of the Inventions in the Little Notebook of W. F. Bach) in first place and supplies the "triplet variation" as an alternate as an appendix. This opinion is also supported by the copies of the Inventions by Bach's students and others that show the original simple form of the Invention 1.
Last edited by John Ruggero on 04 Feb 2024, 14:27, edited 3 times in total.
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OCTO
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by OCTO »

John Ruggero wrote: 01 Feb 2024, 19:04
NeeraWM wrote: 01 Feb 2024, 09:14 Question on the source: why the printed version you attached doesn't show the two triplets in beat 4, left-hand, of both bars, and in beat 2, right-hand?
The passing notes that create the triplets appear to have been added later throughout the piece. Most editors have felt that this was probably and illustration of variation technique for a student, rather than a revision. This is born out by the fact that Invention no 1 is the first in a pedagogical series of pieces in increasing difficulty and thus should use simple 16ths. So every edition publishes the simple form (that is also found in the first version of the Inventions in the Little Notebook of W. F. Bach) in first place and supplies the "triplet variation" as an alternate as an appendix. This opinion is also supported by the copies of the Inventions by Bach's students and others that show the original simple form of the Invention 1.
Thanks for the explanation, I have always wondered too.

@John Ruggero - do you now use only Dorico or it is done in Finale (examples above)?
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NeeraWM
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Re: Another Mozart Centered Beam

Post by NeeraWM »

Thanks John!
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