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Baroque improvisation and ornaments - Any artist and/or instructional material you would recommend?

McAldo

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Hi!

I have not played saxophone in quite a few years, but I would like to go back to it, now that my wife is working from home less often (she is extraordinary tolerant of my practise sessions on most instruments, but sax is just not one of them).
In the meanwhile I have taken an interest in baroque solfege and early music, and I would like to practise the basics of that on sax too.

There are of course lots of excellent artists playing that styles on other instruments, and instructional materials, both historical and contemporary, to learn from.

But I was wondering if anybody could suggest anything specific to the sax?
Any artists, methods or videos perhaps?
I was particularly interested into diminuition and ornamentation, because there are so many fingering options, and dynamics and tone production which might apply.
Improvvisation too, even if I see that as non necessarily specific to the instrument, and I have enough materials and ideas to work on it , from the solfeggio lessons.

Right now I am finding useful Harvey Pittel's lessons from youtube, even if they are not focused on baroque
There must be many great sax players doing interesting things with early music, but for the moment I am only aware of Raff Hekkema, and I like his playing very much.

Beyond that, of course if anybody has any tips or suggestions, I would be very interested to hear them!
Right now I was planning to practise exachords and switching between them, and patterns and melodic threads I am learning from solfeggio.

Aldo
 

Tenor Viol

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I think one of the standard works on baroque ornamentation was written by the flautist Quantz? Baroque ornamentation is a bit of a minefield because there was no standard. JS Bach tends to define his own. I think if you look in say an edition of the Well Temperied Clavier, you will find guidance on how to interpret Bach's ornaments.

Baroque improvisation tends to be mostly in slower movements on long notes to which you add decoration. In faster movements, you can get decoration on repeats.

Hopefully others will have ideas about performers

PS I'll check my copy of WTC and the cello suites to see if there's any guidance.
 
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McAldo

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I think one of the standard works on baroque ornamentation was written by the flautist Quantz? Baroque ornamentation is a bit of a minefield because there was no standard. JS Bach tends to define his own. I think if you look in say an edition of the Well Temperied Clavier, you will find guidance on how to interpret Bach's ornaments.

Baroque improvisation tends to be mostly in slower movements on long notes to which you add decoration. In faster movements, you can get decoration on repeats.

Hopefully others will have ideas about performers

PS I'll check my copy of WTC and the cello suites to see if there's any guidance.

Thanks so much!
I did have the frequent impression from reading around that Bach was perhaps more prescriptive than some other composers regarding ornaments, and would often write them down rather than leaving them to the performer.
Then I guess it really depends on the time and place. I read a bit from Leopold Mozart and Tartini, very interesting but they feel quite different at times (then I might have misread what they actually meant).
You are right that I really need to read Quantz's treatise, for the moment I only read examples and opinions about it, rather than the real thing, which is quite extensive and daunting.

I quite like Corelli's Sonate Da Chiesa, some of which I think are good examples of the type of long notes melodies you mentioned (there is a recording from Frederic Baldassare on spotify which is really stunning, very moving).
My ambitions in that respect are quite modest.
I have several very basic and common patterns to interiorize well on a few instruments, and several solfeggi which were used to show students examples of diminuitions, hexachord switching and essentially ways to derive different melodies from the same melodic thread (the notes determining the bass essentially).
If I manage that sufficiently well, which will take me at least another year, I was hoping to start adding basic ornamentation to whatever melodies I can improvise.

There is something I wished to ask you if you can, mainly out of curiosity given you play both sax and cello.
On violin and cello, vibrato is generally done up to the note, not from above.
I was surprised to hear in a Harry Pittel video that on classical sax, accordingly to himself and Allard, vibrato sounds better down to the note instead.
I found that surprising, I would have expected it to be the same on the three instruments.
Do you agree with Pittel that on saxophone it should be done that way?

This is obviously more a question about classical pieces, given vibrato is not quite as pervasive in baroque performance, but still I was wondering what you think about that.
 
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Tenor Viol

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Well, I don't generally do vibrato on sax... Given my interests in early music, I tend to eschew too much vibrato on cello (and I avoid it completely with singing). In the baroque era, vibrato was just a decorative ornament usually reserved for long notes in slow movements as part of a messa di voce.

The pervasive use of vibrato is really a C20th fabrication, partly arising from the desire of soloists performing in large concert halls to be heard above the orchestra. But, it's also an affectation like portamento, which was commonplace in the first part of the C20th. I wish vibrato would likewise fall out of use except where properly required.

If I do add vibrato on cello, the method involves rolling the finger by rotation of the forearm, so it naturally starts below the note, it would be very unnatural to start above.
 
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mizmar

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I'm no judge, but out of possible interest the YouTube below drifted through my feed. The recordist looks pretty legit and had a few tutorials on baroque recorder playing - maybe a closer approximation to sax than keys or strings?

View: https://youtu.be/KjmS4TpkUSs
 
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jbtsax

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Harvey Pittel as a student of Joe Allard teaches several concepts that are outside the "mainstream" pedagogy that goes back to Marcel Mule and the Paris Conservatory and is taught by Eugene Rousseau, Fred Hemke, Don Sinta and other classical players. That is not to say that Harvey Pittel is not an excellent player and his teaching ideas don't work, it is just that many of them are different that other schools of saxophone playing and teaching. This video by Eugene Rousseau on saxophone vibrato gives a different approach.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nBz3d2aymI
 
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McAldo

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Hi

I just happen to see this on YouTube not sure what it’s what you are looking for but it maybe of some help/interest.
Regards

Pegwill

View: https://youtu.be/sl3FH4qnPbE

Thanks!
That's such a concidence, I ran as well into the video just a few days ago, and I liked it very much.
It is very played and explained and, a while he does not talk much about ornamentation, besides explaining that a thrill should start from the note above to keep it with the style, I found it really good!
 
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McAldo

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Harvey Pittel as a student of Joe Allard teaches several concepts that are outside the "mainstream" pedagogy that goes back to Marcel Mule and the Paris Conservatory and is taught by Eugene Rousseau, Fred Hemke, Don Sinta and other classical players.

Thanks so much for explaining, I was not aware that Allards teachings were in contrast with mainstream pedagogy.
The video was very interesting to watch, also because it mentions a variation of both pitch and intensity achieved with the jaw, I would have not thought of that.
 
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McAldo

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I'm no judge, but out of possible interest the YouTube below drifted through my feed. The recordist looks pretty legit and had a few tutorials on baroque recorder playing - maybe a closer approximation to sax than keys or strings?

View: https://youtu.be/KjmS4TpkUSs

Thanks!
There are indeed many recorder players who do early music, so even if I am not a fan of the instrument (one of the very few I struggle listening too) I try and listen to some of them. This video I feel is a bit researched for the occasion more than a reflection of the musician's interests (I might be worng though).
But there are some very good ones, and good performances too. I very much like this one:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD4WzrWeFYU&t=21s
 
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McAldo

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Well, I don't generally do vibrato on sax... Given my interests in early music, I tend to eschew too much vibrato on cello (and I avoid it completely with singing). In the baroque era, vibrato was just a decorative ornament usually reserved for long notes in slow movements as part of a messa di voce.

Thanks :) I do hear it often played like you describe and it is indeed very beautiful.
I feel that playing a messa di voce on a sax must be a very complex and advanced thing (not that is is easy on a cello or violin).
 
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Tenor Viol

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Thanks :) I do hear it often played like you describe and it is indeed very beautiful.
I feel that playing a messa di voce on a sax must be a very complex and advanced thing (not that is is easy on a cello or violin).
No, a messa di voce is not that tricky: you need enough embouchure to be able to control the volume
 
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McAldo

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No, a messa di voce is not that tricky: you need enough embouchure to be able to control the volume
Dynamics on the sax are sadly not my, hemm, forte..
I always had trouble having the reed start speaking at very low volume.
I will get better with practise, hopefully :)
 
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Yansalis

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OP might peek into another 18th century tutor, Jacque Hotteterre's "Principles of the Flute, Recorder, and Oboe".

A few other bits and pieces:

Sinta studied with Teal, so not of the Mule lineage.

Joe Allard presented his approach to vibrato as being essentially of the French school. Allard's clarinet teacher was Hamelin, who won first prize in clarinet at the Paris Conservatory in 1904. Mule's invention of a classical saxophone musical tradition from very humble beginnings culminated more or less with his appointment to the Paris Conservatory in 1942.

It's thought provoking to find that Mule's grand-successor at Paris, Delangle, may well in actuality be more of the 'around the pitch' school of vibrato:

 
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