The Fundamentals of Articulation, Declamation and Performing Practice in the Mid-18th Century

  • Tomaž Faganel


Studies on the theory of music by C. Ph. E. Bach, L Mozart, Quantz and Tartini in particular, which are mainly handbooks giving instructions about individual instruments, are informative as to the characteristics of performing practice and aesthetics at that time. They give us an insight into the rules of the then performing agreement, which a present-day musician has yet to learn. These rules and the original written record of a piece of music, which is fairly often not given due consideration, are complementary to one another. Articulation in eighteenth-century music was self-evident for a performer, in most cases by a tacit performing agreement. Part of this agreement is shown in the studies mentioned above. There is above all a difference in the understanding of an individual tone as a physical phenomenon, which is already articulated in terms of the very nature of individual instruments, particularly stringed instruments, and in the "bowed" articulation of a phrase or in the lipping of a wind instrument. Eighteenth-century performing practice and the ways in which its rules were written down have numerous special features. Its main characteristic is the variegated articulation of a phrase, which helps to achieve an affective style of performance. The present approach to articulation with its cultivated inaudible bowing and phrasing has departed from the performing practice of that time, generating a break in the historical development. Gradual neglect and lack of knowledge of the seventeenth-century tradition, when practically all techniques known today were used, have given rise to an artificially modernized, uniform, and, above all, an impoverished and distorted picture of the richness of the music of that time. A real understanding of the meaning of the original written record of a piece of music enables us to form a very important personal relationship with performing tradition practised two centuries ago, as it brings us closer to the very nature of a composition and the period when it was created, making a more satisfactory interpretation possible. What we are striving for is not authenticity at all costs, but for a modern performance, alive and enriched by tradition, which we hardly ever have the opportunity to enjoy today.


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How to Cite
FaganelT. (1992). The Fundamentals of Articulation, Declamation and Performing Practice in the Mid-18th Century. Musicological Annual, 28(1), 25-34.