Portamenti in the music edited by Joseph Joachim and the Influence of the 19th-century French school

 

Abstract:

 

 

In his book The Art of Violin Playing Carl Flesch insisted that “under no condition should two or three portamenti succeed each other”. He regarded, for instance, the fingering 1-1-1-1 in the first four notes of m. 37 of the 2nd movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto as “incorrect” (The Art of Violin Playing, I:145). However, examination of 19th-century edition reveals that Ferdinand David and Joseph Joachim, two masters who had ever played the Concerto with the composer himself, recommended successive use of portamenti in the passage in question. Furthermore, Clive Brown’s recent study shows that Belgian violinist Hubert Léonard also used a similar fingering, when he rehearsed the work with Mendelssohn in February or March 1845. Therefore this kind of successive use of portamenti seems to have roots in the performance practice of the early 19th-century French school. In this paper I will clarify that Joachim rather faithfully followed the doctrines of the French school, at least as to the question of portamenti: While Pierre Baillot suggested portamenti in slurred passages to underline the affinity of notes (L’Art du Violon, 155), Joachim and Andreas Moser similarly argued that the violinists should use portamenti for meaningful articulation (Violinschule, II and III). Despite high evaluation of Pierre Rode and his generation of the French school, however, Joachim and Moser harshly attacked the violinists of later generations of the Franco-Belgian school because of their “disagreeable vibrato”, “operatic manner” of playing, and “mostly wrongly executed Portamento” (Violinschule, III:34). In the last section of the paper I will show how consistently Joachim and Moser appreciated the old French tradition of violin playing by relating it both to “healthy, natural art of singing” and to German instrumental music, while they alienated the contemporary Franco-Belgian school by associating it with “heroic-pathetic” French grand operas.  

 

 

Biography

 

Mineo OTA was born in Tokyo. In 1996, after taking his degree of MA at the University of Tokyo with the dissertation on Bartók, he moved to Budapest and continued his research at the Budapest Bartók Archives. In 2000 he moved back to Tokyo and enrolled for PhD program at the University of Tokyo. Since then he published several papers in Japanese and in English. In 2009 he took his doctorate at the University of Tokyo with the dissertation entitled “Cultural Nationalism and Modernism in Béla Bartók’s activities–On the Role of ‘Peasant Music'” (written in Japanese). His current research interests include Bartók, history of comparative musicology, reception history of the cimbalom in the 19th-century Hungarian bourgeois society, and Joseph Joachim. Since April 2013 he works at Department of Music of Miyagigakuin Women’s University as associate professor.

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