Supporting   special needs music

Transposition of baroque piece for soprano

Yansalis

Member
Messages
149
Locality
USA
I am learning a baroque aria which is written in D at concert pitch. To play it at its nominal original pitch I would transpose it for the soprano sax to E. But D is quite a bit easier to play. I can pitch the MIDI version of the accompaniment wherever I like, and if I were to order an accompaniment recording I believe it would be straightforward to re-pitch the recording OR the music I send. The latter would probably be fine for the accompanist as they would be playing in concert C.

SO my question is, is there a reason why I should play it at the original nominal pitch? I had started out with that assumption but as I am finding the learning curve substantially slowed down I'm not sure whether to persevere and reap the rewards of improved technique, or take the easy road.
 

nigeld

Too many mouthpieces
Café Supporter
Messages
7,936
Locality
Bristol, UK
There is an argument for playing Jazz standards in the "normal" key, since that's how they will be played if you play with others, but I can't see any reason not to transpose a baroque aria if it is more comfortable in another key.
 
Vote:
Upvote 0

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,058
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Different pieces "lay better" in some keys than others---especially for players with less experience or who are lazy like myself and do not want to "woodshed" awkward fingerings or registers on the instrument. The group I used to play with played "C Jam Blues" in F because the piano player liked that key. :)
 
Vote:
Upvote 0

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
15,977
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
Different keys have different a emotional resonance.
Composers wrote in that key because that's how it felt best.
I have only begun to realise lately that to my ear...
C is happy.
F speaks of new love, while Ab speaks of unrequited love.
Eb is optimistic while Bb is cheerful.
Db is very soulful and melancholy.
E is very mysterious.
Perhaps the baroque composer wanted to convey mystery in the piece.
However they changed the pitch somewhere in the past...so play it in whatever key you like. ;)
 
Vote:
Upvote 0

Yansalis

Member
Messages
149
Locality
USA
Different keys have different a emotional resonance.
Composers wrote in that key because that's how it felt best.

Quote cut for space. I was going to explain that in the quote but oops.

The thing about keys having different moods, as I understand it, was because of the non-equal temperaments used at the time. The keys were actually different in the flavor of the intervals, at least on a keyboard and presumably to a degree anyone that played with a keyboard.

I would imagine that any such effect on saxophone would reflect the particular saxophone's tuning quirks, and the player of course.

I guess the most 'informed' thing to do would be to try to figure out what the key of D was thought to be like intrinsically and try to emulate the quirks it had (or the purity) in the tuning systems of the time. Yikes.
 
Last edited:
Vote:
Upvote 0

7201

 
Messages
3,304
Locality
UK
Baroque composers wrote either specially for a soloist in their own Court orchestra, or in a range easily played by either a flute or a violin - the most common soloists. Oboe fits the range too. Extremes of range were not always used. If you disregard the high altissimo of the flute range then it has a very close written range to the saxophone, and the Bb soprano is only pitched a tone away as you know. The oboe has the same written range as the saxophone.

There are many arrangements of Baroque pieces for the sax. It has to be decided whether the piece will fit into the range - if it has a big span - and as Jbt said, where it sits best on the instrument. If the piece had a range of 2.5 octaves then you have no choice but to make low Bb your lowest note and high F your top note. If the range is considerably less then you have a choice, and you'd think about the character of the piece before choosing where it might sit best on the instrument, as well as which key you might want to play in. People talk about the "meat" of the instrument, meaning the best part of the range, or where it really sings.

Think about the tune Vocalise by Rachmaninov. This has been arranged for many instruments including sax and clarinet. It has a relatively small range so the choices are many for where you want it to sit on the instrument. By memory (I might be wrong) I think that both sax and clarinet arrangements start the tune on G just on top of the stave. It sounds melancholy there and is easily playable. Think what it might be like to play, or more importantly, to listen to if the tune started a 5th higher on top D, or even middle D. I'm not sure that I agree with Colin's synopsis of keys/feelings as it's surely dependent upon the particular tune - ie E being mysterious - parts of The Rite Of Spring are in E and I think that's more violent in most places than mysterious. Having said that - listen up Colin - Holst's Neptune the Mystic has large parts in the key of E.

Keys do sound different though when you play around with them on the same tune. Try Vocalise starting on F instead - or any other note!

Those are the important factors. There is no rule or obligation to keep it in the same key as the original. Sometimes this just won't work anyway because of the differences between instruments and what resonates well on one might not on another.
 
Vote:
Upvote 0

mizmar

Senior Member
Messages
1,695
Locality
Trondheim, Norway
I don't know if this is of interest - and it's not about keys.
There's a YouTube, baroque recorder player who did an interview with a classical flautist... She very briefly talks about baroque articulation at 8m11s. She has promised a video specifically on how to play baroque sometime
Anyway, I thought it was fascinating

View: https://youtu.be/R1Eaz9sk4sE&t=8m11s
 
Last edited:
Vote:
Upvote 0

Yansalis

Member
Messages
149
Locality
USA
There are easily available inexpensive editions of at least two period books on woodwind technique and performance practice (ornamentation for instance). Authors are Quantz and Hotteterre (add 'flute' and 'book' to either name and your search will turn up the book).

Pondering this aspect, for my purposes, leads me to think I perhaps need to track down a good book on 18th c. vocal practice.
 
Vote:
Upvote 0

7201

 
Messages
3,304
Locality
UK
There are easily available inexpensive editions of at least two period books on woodwind technique and performance practice (ornamentation for instance). Authors are Quantz and Hotteterre (add 'flute' and 'book' to either name and your search will turn up the book).

Pondering this aspect, for my purposes, leads me to think I perhaps need to track down a good book on 18th c. vocal practice.
I wouldn’t! It’ll probably get into double dotting and all sorts.

Everything you can buy will have articulation marked in. Very little was added in form of direction in the originals. Stylistically much of the playing was articulated rather than legato - much of this due to the nature of the instruments playing the music (an oboe is harder to play legato) and also you invariably have a harpsichord as a central accompaniment instrument - again, mostly played staccato and with bounce.
 
Vote:
Upvote 0

7201

 
Messages
3,304
Locality
UK
Learn the language by listening. The Brandenberg Concertos, Four Seasons - with these two alone you’d pick up the genre. For wind playing there’s the wonderful Badinerie, and there are a few oboe concertos too. It really is fabulous music.

I mentioned Vocalise earlier - John Harle did an arrangement for the UK ABRSM exam board which starts on G, but there are other versions that sit higher (especially on alto) and in my opinion work better on that instrument.

Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba is a popular arrangement for sax quartet.

View: https://youtu.be/xVxwuirUX-M


View: https://youtu.be/TPw5TvDPRoc


View: https://youtu.be/U3OG4VhPJRc


View: https://youtu.be/HbtZ3MVNyyg
 
Vote:
Upvote 1

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
795
Locality
Black Forest
Get a c-soprano
And, as mentioned above, each key has it's own temperament, C, D, F and G being the "happiest" and Gmin being the darkest.
But there is nothing wrong with transposing a piece, even the original composers did multiple versions of their pieces to align them with specific vocalists, opera singers. Or they fell in love with a new instrument. I'm sure, Beethoven would have fully embraced the saxophone and would have rewritten his most famous pieces, if for no other reason than being able to listen to them.
 
Vote:
Upvote 0

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,058
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
One of my recital pieces in college was the first movement of the Bach Violin Concerto in A minor. Except for one small section that had to be transposed up an octave, the written violin part fit the alto saxophone quite well. Of course the piano accompaniment was transposed to work with the saxophone playing the part as written for the violin.
 
Vote:
Upvote 0

Yansalis

Member
Messages
149
Locality
USA
So while we're on the topic of the character of keys--on the soprano saxophone. Might it perhaps be easier to sound joyous in D than in E? ;)
 
Vote:
Upvote 0
Top Bottom