The Art of Musical Phrasing in the Eighteenth Century

May 2008
110 line illustrations
378 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580460347
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS006000, MUS040000

The Art of Musical Phrasing in the Eighteenth Century

Punctuating the Classical "Period"

Stephanie D. Vial

Practical suggestions, and documentary evidence, for performers wishing to understand the gestures and nuances embedded in eighteenth-century musical notation.
There are, of course, no commas, periods, or question marks in music of the Baroque and Classic eras. Nonetheless, the concept of "punctuating" music into longer and shorter units of expression was richly explored by many of the era's leading composers, theorists, and performers. The Art of Musical Phrasing in the Eighteenth Century gathers and discusses, for the first time, an extensive collection of quotations and musical illustrations relevant to phrase articulation and written and unwritten rests. Among the notable authors cited and discussed are Muffat, Telemann, C. P. E. Bach, Mattheson, Marpurg, Tartini, and Mozart's father Leopold (author of the most important eighteenth-century treatise on string playing). On a larger scale, The Art of Musical Phrasing demonstrates the role of punctuation within the history of rhetoric during the Age of Enlightenment. From this, the performer of today can gain a greater appreciation for both the strengths and shortcomings of the analogy that writers of the day drew between punctuation in written language and in music.
Modern performers, argues Vial, have the challenge and responsibility of understanding and conveying the nuances, inflections, and rhythmic gestures deeply embedded in eighteenth-century musical notation. The Art of Musical Phrasing, the fruit of Vial's rich experience as a cellist performing on both period and modern instruments, lays out long-needed practical suggestions for achieving this goal.

Stephanie D. Vial performs and records widely as a cellist and has taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.

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Table of Contents

Musical Punctuation, the Analogy
A Surprisingly Complex and Lively Picture of Pointing Theory
Musical "Resting points of the Spirit"
Written and Unwritten Rests
Punctuation vs. Articulation
Affective Punctuation
Musical Prose-F.W. Marpurg's Essay on the Punctuation of Recitative
Musical Verse-Johann Mattheson's "Curious Specimen" of a Punctuated Minuet


An elegantly collected set of historical texts with the evaluation of their application to real problems in musical performance. But by considering what we used to call 'purely musical' problems in wider philosophical and cultural contexts, the author also raises a number of important and fascinating questions of relevance to more than just performers with an interest in historical approaches. . . . Affords us [the opportunity] to reread -- and rehear -- familiar music in the light of these [eighteenth-century] writings. . . . The delicate web of connections Vial draws . . . [between the details of musical performance and] the female-dominated world of the salon is a real scholarly coup. . . The University of Rochester Press . . . [has] produced a book that is elegant, well indexed and easy to read. EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY MUSIC [Thomas Irvine]

Student of all music in the Classical style should find useful [Vial's] explanations on how to decipher . . . musical notation. BEETHOVEN JOURNAL [Patricia Stroh]

The Art of Musical Phrasing in the Eighteenth Century: Punctuating the Classical "Period" goes right to the heart of one of the thorniest issues of eighteenth-century performance practice: articulated musical language. Vial beautifully disentangles the confusion regarding notions of articulation, pauses, rests, and phrase marks, tying them all together in an all-embracing, brilliant manner. This is inspired scholarship, essential reading. --Malcolm Bilson, Cornell University

What exactly is the connection between punctuation, slurring and phrasing? What difference did the Classical period's domination by the two- and four-bar phrase make to performance practices that had once varied more between the genres?. . . Ms Vial touches in a lively manner on such topics, scattering her net wide. . . Certain details important for performers. . . are better discussed in a masterclass than a book, but the rest is amply covered [here]. MUSICAL TIMES [Peter Williams]

Provides the reader with insights into how eighteenth-century artists may have approached their performances. . . . Vial's imaginative discussions . . . are inspired and will be of interest to any performer of the music of this era . . . [and to] musicologists, theorists, and cultural historians. JOURNAL OF MUSICOLOGICAL RESEARCH [Donald R. Boomgaarden]

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