Most violinists and baroque violinists in the 21st century will be accustomed to executing various ornaments, or embellishments of melodic lines. These are often improvised within a set pattern depending on which ornament is desired, the time period from which the repertoire originates, and the discretion of the performer. For instance, trills from the high-Baroque era will typically begin on the upper note of the trill, whereas trills from later time periods may begin from the lower note.
In the Baroque era, it was customary for ornamentation or embellishment of the melodic line to be performed spontaneously, at the liberty of the performer. This was usually executed within parameters set by traditions, but sometimes with more freedom, for example when preluding. Conventions for ornamentation have been well documented through treatises from various historical periods. During the Baroque era, violinist Francesco Geminiani contributed in this way with his The Art of Playing on the Violin from 1751. Further resources come from Baroque-era traverso player Johann Joachim Quantz in his On Playing the Flute (1752/2001), and from Renaissance-era recorder player Sylvestro Ganassi in his Opera Intitulata Fontegara (1535/1959).
Ornaments on the baroque violin:
In addition to a long history of ornamentation on the baroque violin during the Baroque era, many of the composers whom I have commissioned have incorporated ornamentation into their new works that is reminiscent of, or inspired by, Baroque-era ornamentation. For instance, in Natasha Anderson’s The Target Has Disappeared (2018), the first movement includes turns, trills and mordents, all of which were commonly used in 17th- and 18th-century composition. It is notable that Anderson has trained in HIP on the recorder in the Netherlands, and was aware of my HIP training, so her inclusion of such ornaments is influenced by a mutual understanding of current interpretations of these gestures in the music in which they were originally featured. The Target Has Disappeared is tuned in just intonation, adding a new dimension to the Baroque ornaments. In the context of just intonation, and for clarity of pitches included in the ornaments, it was necessary for Anderson to notate the turns and mordents. In addition to notating the pitches, Anderson has included conventional symbols to represent these ornaments, to imply an improvisatory inflection and sense of liberty, even where the pitches are prescribed.
The following is an example of a trill followed by a notated turn in bars 16-17 of the first movement of The Target Has Disappeared by Natasha Anderson (2018, p. 4).
Video example 18.1 – excerpt from first movement of The Target Has Disappeared by Natasha Anderson (2018, p.4), bars 16–17
Figure 18.1 – excerpt from first movement of The Target Has Disappeared by Natasha Anderson (2018, p.4), bars 16–17
The following is an example of a trill followed by a notated lower mordent in bars 84–86 of the first movement of The Target Has Disappeared by Natasha Anderson (2018, p. 6).
Video example 18.2 – excerpt from first movement of The Target Has Disappeared by Natasha Anderson (2018, p.6), bars 84–86
Figure 18.2 – excerpt from first movement of The Target Has Disappeared by Natasha Anderson (2018, p.6), bars 84–86
Wherever conventions exist in common usage, for instance, “tr” for “trill”, these should be used, as in Figures 18.1 and 18.2 above. If no such convention exists, ornaments may be notated melodically. Alternatively, an indication for the performer to embellish at liberty, or “ad lib.” may be written above the stave.