musings of a professional bassoonist

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What do YOU think?


The above excerpt is the beginning of the soli for flute, oboe and bassoon in the second movement of Beethoven Symphony No. 7.   How do you think the first beat of the third measure should be played?  This question has bothered me for a long time, because I've heard it played "flipped"(almost double dotted), and I've heard it played as straight 16th notes (on the beat in both cases).  Furthermore, when the strings play this melody earlier in the movement,  they often play it differently from the woodwinds, even in world class orchestras!  My research has shown that the strings often flip the appogiatura, and the winds tend to play it as straight 16ths.

 What's your take on this?  Should the winds match the constant 16ths being played in the strings accompanying this soli?  Or does artistic flair demand deviation?

Please post your comments soon, because I'm rehearsing this movement tomorrow morning, and I'd like your feedback to use in any potential discussion with the flutist and oboist!

11 comments:

Trent said...

I have only played this once, and it surprised me when the conductor asked for us to play it on the beat instead of before. I had always heard it "before" the beat. We metered it as 32nd notes right on the beat. It worked.

It's one of those things that you can't even tell what the performer is doing without the reset of the ensemble. For me it's a "Do what the conductor says then go home" kind of excerpt.

B.S. said...

Thanks, Trent. Sometimes it's best not to worry about it, and see what the conductor says, for sure.

Anonymous said...

I've also only done the 7th once, but we performed it as straight sixteenths on the beat. It sounds best to my ear that way...though when I sing it in my head Trent's metered 32nds are kind of neat too.

B.S. said...

I agree. I like the appogiaturas as either 16ths or 32nds, although I wouldn't want the 32nds to sound rushed- they'd have to be as melodic as possible!

Stephanie said...

i have totally spent time thinking about this, but to me i hear it most naturally as 16ths on the beat. good post!

B.S. said...

Hah! I'm glad I'm not the only one, Stephanie....and I have to say, 16ths on the beat would be my top choice also, and I think that's what I'll opt for tomorrow! (We'll see if the conductor has anything to say.)

Trent said...

As long as you clear it with the rest of the woodwind section first (especially the flutist!) so you're all doing the same thing. Then of course you'll have to match the strings...

My high school band director put it well: "This is a dictatorship, not a democracy."

B.S. said...

Trent, I think you brought up an important point- the bottom line is that the woodwinds really are obligated to do exactly what the strings have already done when they had the melody earlier! That kind of solves the problem, doesn't it?! The strings are the dictators, or have at least followed the dictator....

DTclarinet said...

HI Betsy. The email subscription just sent the link to this post, though you posted this AM. Perhaps you can tell it to post earlier in the day, or at noon.

I personally like the figure you mention flipped. It's not a melodic gesture, but is an ornament. Too slow, and it sounds like a melody part. my 2 cents.

Kevin Eberle said...

This is interesting. When I performed this a few years ago, I was told put the appog. right before the beat and play them straight. But then heard a recording of PSO play it on the beat flipped. I prefer it ahead of the beat, but that's just me.

B.S. said...

Thank you for your input, Kevin. It makes sense that you'd prefer it the way you first played it. That happens to me, although sometimes my preference changes.

It's interesting that so many people say they've been told by conductors how to play it. When I've played it, the conductors have left it alone.