Symphony Nova Scotia Workshop, Nov 22, 2023

Some favourite words of encouragement:

“The Intention of Musick is not only to please the ear, but to express Sentiments, strike the Imagination, affect the Mind and command the Passions.” F. Geminiani - The Art of Playing on the Violin, 1.
“... good execution must be expressive, and appropriate to each passion that one encounters. ... The performer of a piece must seek to enter into the principal and related passions that he is to express. And since in the majority of pieces one passion constantly alternates with another, the performer must know how to judge the nature of the passion that each idea contains, and constantly make his execution conform to it. Only in this manner will he do justice to the intentions of the composer, and to the ideas that he had in mind when he wrote the piece.” J.J. Quantz, On Playing the Flute IX, §15
"Good execution must be diversified. Light and shadow must be continuously interchanged. For in truth you will never move the listener if you render all the notes at the same strength or at the same weakness." -J.J. Quantz, On Playing the Flute
"Every care must be taken to find and to render the affect which the composer wished to have brought out . . . Indeed, one must know how to change from soft to loud without directions and of one’s own accord, each at the right time; for this, in the familiar language of painters, means light and shade." -L. Mozart, A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing.
"There is no emotion of the mind, which nature does not make an effort to manifest by some of those signs (tones, looks, and gestures), and therefore a total suppression of those signs is of all other states apparently the most unnatural." Thomas Sheridan, Course of Lectures and Tracts on Elocution, 1762, p 166
To play an Adagio well, you must enter as much as possible into a calm and almost melancholy mood, so that you execute what you have to play in the same state of mind as that in which the composer wrote it. A true Adagio must resemble a flattering petition. For just as anyone who wishes to request something from a person to whom he owes particular respect will scarcely achieve his object with bold and impudent threats, so here you will scarcely engage, soften, and touch your listeners with a bold and bizarre manner of playing. For that which does not come from the heart does not easily reach the heart. J.J.Quantz, On Playing the Flute, XIV on the Manner of Playing the Adagio

How do we achieve this ideal of expression, nuance, shadow and light?

Let’s start with rhetoric. This is a term that has gained a negative connotation in today’s world, especially when describing some of our least favourite politicians. In a more historical sense, it was more about how to make speeches meaningful, engaging - how to connect with people. In baroque times, it seems like every student learned rhetoric at school but it is something we have lost. In the baroque music treatises, the authors speak as if we already understand and are familiar with rhetoric, the passions, affects, etc. To fully understand the music treatises, we have to also look at the elements of rhetoric.

What are the elements of a successful speech? How do we hold people’s attention? How do we get people engaged with what we are doing?

  1. To whom am I speaking?
  2. Where am I speaking?
  3. What am I speaking about?

To start, we are going to try something new - you can tell me if it works or not! First of all, I am going to give you an introduction to my workshop in three different manners that are directed specifically for three different members of my family. If you have a pen and paper, or just try to remember what are the differences about the three different speeches and at the end I am going to ask you to report back to me about what you observed.

Welcome to the Symphony Nova Scotia 2023 Baroque Workshop. Today we are going to speak about shadows and light and how we give baroque music meaning and bring it to life.

What are the parameters we need to think about for making a convincing speech for different audiences?

  1. Tempo,
  2. quality and variation of tone,
  3. tessitura, volume,
  4. use of silence and pauses,
  5. clarity of diction,
  6. use of repetition,
  7. gestures, etc.


  1. Say my speech, either in one of my characters, or choose your own.
  2. Try to play the Handel Fireworks Overture, M. 1-7 downbeat in the same manner that you did your speech. Think about tempo, quality of tone, dynamics, articulation, rhythm, use of inégale, rubato, body language, ornamentation (trills, appoggiatura).
  3. Let’s look a little more closely into some elements of rhetoric - apologies to anyone who has heard this a million times.

5 Canons of Rhetoric - developed by the Greeks in ancient times:

  1. Inventio - invention of ideas
  2. Dispositio - how you defend the argument, the order you talk, which argument is strong and weak, form, or arrangement of ideas
  3. Elocutio - writing the speech, choosing the actual words, the details (is it a dotted rhythm or an inegale?), style (ex. Talking differently to a child vs an adult), use of rhetorical figures
  4. Memoria - memorization (for our purposes, maybe internalizing the content of the music) understanding every part of the piece, broaden your knowledge (understand context), extra sources of inspiration (ex. Have images in mind)
  5. Actio - how something is said - how we engage the listener so that they are able to connect with their emotions, gesture, word painting? Pronunciation, clarity of diction, delivery

Converting the 5 canons into Music:

  1. Inventio: the main musical idea (Melody, a rhythm, a harmonic progression, music to go with dance steps, a gesture, a cell). Responsibility of composer.
  2. Dispositio / Arrangement: the form - how is the music put together, phrase structure, type of cadences, larger forms - binary, ternary, chaconne, sonata form, french overture, rondo, etc. Responsibility of composer.
  3. Elocutio: the specific details that are part of the composition of the music, the rhetorical figures, dynamics, articulation. Especially in later music, this is in the realm of the composer, but in baroque music, as performer-composers, we are often involved in this step as well.
  4. Memoria: Understanding context - What era of music? What country? Which composer? Where did they study? With whom? What was happening at the time to them, to their community, etc.? Our responsibility.
  5. Actio: The delivery. This is our responsibility - how the music is played, how the ideas are put across to the audience. Everything from dynamics to articulation, sound, physical gestures, etc.

Methods of Delivery:

Leopold Mozart bowing exercises

How to use a baroque bow - Using the weight of the arm, vertical motions instead of horizontal motions, highly nuanced bowing

Use of messa di voce

Mezza di voce exercises

Tonguing and Articulation in wind instruments

  1. Hotteterre - use of inegale,
  2. Girolamo Fantini - Modo per Imparare a Sonare di Tromba (1638) Introduces the idea of using unqual articulations such as “te-ghe” and “ta-da”
  3. Johann Ernst Altenburg Trumpeters and Kettledrummers Art 1795, but was offered on subscription as early as 1770, talks about imitating the human voice in the high register, and gives examples of unequal tonguing (not unlike early cornetto treatises by Rognoni and Dalla Casa
On Hotteterre

Hierarchy of Beats: Muffat and French bowings

Let’s try the Bouree from Fireworks

Let’s try La Rejouissace from Fireworks

Minuet bowings - difference between Italian singing style (back and forth) and French speaking style (hierarchy of beats)

Example - Lully vs Corelli

Minuet, Siciliana From Fireworks

Diction: Practice tools

Julie’s Consonants and vowels exercise

Using a song with text to practise

Handel - Where ‘ere You Walk from Semele M. 2-7

Trying out historical equipment to learn about context:

French bow grip - Play Handel Overture with French bow hold.

Finding Meaning - Affects

Affect: I define affect as the interactive movement, physical commitment, and emotional vulnerability that is present in the act of performance. (K. Richards)

Review Doctrine of Affections

Clues from Geminiani:

The trill, the true, old, and complete begins on the note above the principal note and ends on the principal note.

How to Embody the passions to enhance the music, creating nuance, excitement, and create compelling performances, connecting with the music, yourself, your colleagues and your audiences.

Aaron Hill’s Treatise Essay on the Art of Acting

Joy and Sadness exercise