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Crotchets & Quavers



Crotchets and Quavers

Continue of discussion from: Recitatives – Part 8

Neil Halliday wrote (September 26, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: "A quarter note in the context of the Rezitativ mopvements is actually a longer note. That is why people refer to them as quavers (as opposed to semiquavers [eighth notes])."
So that we can be in complete agreement on this issue (which I believe we are), let me state the system I am using ,namely: a crotchet = quarter note; quaver = eighth note; semi-quaver = sixteenth note. (I myself erroneously equated semiquavers to 32nd notes some time ago). I believe this is mainstream practice. These are all referred to as 'short' notes in this discussion.

The 'long' notes in this discussion, namely, minims (half notes = two crochets) and semibreves (whole-notes = four crotchets) are those mainly used by Bach to notate the continuo part of his secco recitatives.

(By the way, that makes breves - what, exactly? Is this where the difference in assignment of note values arises between us?)

David continues: "I just was under the impression that people weretalking about "short" Continuo notes because they were written short."
No. Those of us involved in this discussion are referring to the (nowadays widespread) practice of playing continuo notes "short", when or even if these notes are in fact written 'long'.

This is why the secco recitatives in BWV 18 and BWV 185 are so intriguing (in which the continuo bassoon is written on a separate stave in crotchets ('short' notes), separated by rests, but the identical 'continuo' part itself is written, as is usual, in minims and semibreves ('long' notes) on another stave. Anyone care to explain this mystery, in terms of a widespread convention in which all the continuo (disregard keyboard for this discussion) instruments play notes that are markedly shorter than notated?

"That still does not excuse (for me) the non-tying thatgoes on in performances of the Johannespassion."
I agree absolutely, but unfortunately, it would appear that 18th century practice allows this "non-tying" (shortening of notated note values) to occur.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 27, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] I think in general terms we are in agreement. however, from what I have read and heard (both in CD liner notes and in books and Music History and theory classes), Crotchets and Quavers are the same thing, so the gradiation that you have used would needs be modified again by one note value. Take a look at the score for the Johannespassion and read (if you have it) the liner notes of the Rilling recording of it (especially the one for the Edition Bachakademie). Here they talk of regular quavers (the quarter notes) and semiquavers (the eighth notes) in the Continuo in Movement I. In the same discussion, when they talk of the 1724 Version (which is not like the modern version in many respects as you likely are aware of), the discussion says that all Continuo instruments (which then did not include the Bassono Grosso) played semiquavers.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (September 27, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Comparing the notes in German with the English translation, I can infer that quavers are 'Achtel' and crotchets 'Viertel', so how could they be the same thing? Semiquavers are not even mentioned. Also, the opening chorus is not a recitative, and recitatives do not typically have eighth notes in the continuo parts except in arioso passages.

Uri Golomb wrote (September 27, 2003):
Regarding the recent debate on the meaning of these terms -- here is how the Grove Dictionary of Music defines the relevant terms:

"Crotchet (Fr. noire; Ger. Viertel-Note; It. nera, croma; Lat. semiminima; Sp. negra): In Western notation the note that is half the value of a minim and twice that of a quaver. In American usage it is called a quarter-note."

"Quaver (Fr. croche; Ger. Achtel-Note; It. croma, semicroma; Lat. fusa; Sp. corchea). In Western notation the note that is half the value of a crotchet and twice that of a semiquaver. In American usage it is called an eighth-note."

I think that's straightforward enough. The entries go on to discuss etymological history a little bit; nowhere do they state that the terms were ever identical in meaning. If anyone can point to a reliable source that, any point in history, quavers meant anything other than eigth-notes, and crotchets anything other than quarter-notes, they're welcome to cite these sources here...

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 27, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Then why do the Liner notes that I mentioned refer to them as the same thing? Also why do they refer to the quarter notes as quavers?

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (September 27, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Why, indeed, are you reading things into Andreas Glöckner's(*) liner notes (ed. Bachakademie, volume 75) that you cannot reproduce? Here is the passage concerning quavers [Achtel] and crotchets [Viertel]:

No. 1 Chorus
Originally all the bass instruments played regular quavers. In the changed version only the cello and bassoon play the quavers, while the double bass and organ play crotchets with crotchet rests. This makes the movement weightier and more majestic; the rhythmic accents prepare us for the subsequent cries of "Herr, Herr, Herr" (Lord, Lord, Lord) in the chorus.

No. 1 Chor
Ursprünglich spielten alle Baßinstrumente regelmäßige Achtel. In der veränderten Fassung spielen nur Cello und Fagott die Achtel, während Kontrabaß und Orgel Viertel mit Viertelpausen spielen. Dadurch wird der Satz gewichtiger und majestätischer; die rhythmischen Schwerpunkte bereiten die folgenden Anrufungen <<Herr, Herr, Herr>> des Chores vor.

(*) To put these comments in the proper context, I note that they were contributed by Helmuth Rilling.

Minims: Part 1 | Part 2 | Minims – Examples from the Score | Crotchets & Quavers

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Last update: ưApril 19, 2004 ư08:52:56