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Bowing Styles, Vibrato and Portamento in Nineteenth-Century Violin Playing

Author(s): Clive Brown

Source: Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Vol. 113, No. 1 (1988), pp. 97-128
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Royal Musical Association
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Bowing Styles, Vibrato and Portamento
in Nineteenth-Century Violin Playing

There are many aspects of nineteenth-century violin playing that have

received little attention from scholars. The subject is a vast and
complicated one, far beyond the scope of a short article to treat
adequately, but there are a number of important areas in which
problems have not even been recognized, let alone investigated. For
instance, the most substantial recent work on this subject, Robin
Stowell's Violin Techniqueand PerformancePractice in the Late Eighteenthand
Early Nineteenth Centuries(Cambridge, 1985), provides a useful digest of
what the major violin methods of the period say, but because it is
mainly confined to these sources, ignoring for the most part journal-
ism and other contemporary accounts, and because it has a rather
artificial terminal date of 1840, it fails to illuminate major underlying
patterns of continuity and change in nineteenth-century violin play-
ing. It may be valuable, therefore, to put forward a few ideas and
suggest a few fruitful lines of enquiry which have until now remained
largely unconsidered.
Of the three areas of nineteenth-century violin playing which are
examined here, bowing is by far the most complex, and is the one in
which the greatest number of problems has previously been over-
looked. Among these is the question of whether there were sharply
differentiated technical and aesthetic approaches to bowing during
the period and, if so, where and when one style rather than another
was dominant; this has particularly important implications for our
understanding of what nineteenth-century composers had in mind
when writing for string instruments, and what their bowing and
articulation markings were actually meant to indicate. The history of
vibrato during the last century is in many ways more straightforward,
since there appears to have been a broad consensus of opinion about
its use; but an objective assessment of nineteenth-century attitudes
and practices in this area has been seriously hindered by modern
aesthetic preconceptions. For that reason the highly significant role
which selective vibrato played in the thinking of nineteenth-century
musicians has been overlooked by modern performers, and a whole
level of expressiveness lost. Many of the considerations relating to
vibrato are also relevant to portamento, but, in addition, there is the
question of when and where the systematic use of portamento gained
currency and the technical matter of when and where different types

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of portamento were employed. These questions need to be considered

before we can address the problem of whether particular composers,
from Beethoven to Elgar, indicated portamento in their scores and, if
so, how that portamento should be executed.
Much of the study of performing practice on the violin prior to 1800
necessarily focuses on the different properties of the instrument and
bow; these played a large part in determining the techniques
employed and the sounds which were produced. By the early nine-
teenth century the violin and bow had achieved essentially their
modern form. In Paris in the 1780s Frangois Tourte perfected a design
of bow which gradually displaced earlier types and has remained
standard up to the present day; the modern neck was current from about
1800; the chin rest was introduced around 1820; and most bass bars in
old instruments had been replaced by ones of modern dimensions by
that time.
The only important respect in which the nineteenth-century violin
differed from the modern one was its stringing. Apart from the silver-
or copper-wound gut G, all the strings were pure gut and there was
considerable diversity in the thickness of strings employed, ranging
from the maximum possible thickness (and consequently maximum
tension) recommended by Campagnoli and Spohr for a strong tone, to
the thin strings of such virtuosi as Paganini and Ole Bull which
facilitated the performance of artificial harmonics. The particular
style of performance of Paganini and Bull also led them to use an
exceptionally flat bridge; this made multiple stopping easier but
hindered the production of a full tone on the middle two strings. The
metal E did not gain widespread acceptance until after 1920, and gut
A and D were still common for some time after that. On the whole,
though, these methods of stringing have a far less striking effect on
the way violin playing sounds than does performance style.
The involvement of the performer in creating the sound on a bowed
and unfretted string instrument is more direct, and the range of
possibilities wider, perhaps, than on any other musical instrument. It
is well known to violinists that the same instrument can sound utterly
different in the hands of different players, while the same player using
different good-quality instruments, regardless of stringing, can still
produce his own distinctively individual sound. There can be no
doubt that nineteenth-century violinists' technical and aesthetic
approach to performance resulted in a sound and style that differed
substantially from that of modern violinists. Where or when particular
approaches predominated is more difficult to determine, but it is
precisely these questions which are crucial to our understanding of
what composers envisaged when writing for the instrument.

The bow has repeatedly been described as the soul of the violin.
Variety of articulation, dynamic nuance and, until the twentieth-
century advent of continuous vibrato, tone production have been
regarded as almost entirely dependent on its management. Develop-

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ments in bow making during the second half of the eighteenth century
radically affected the bow's capabilities, and the subsequent changes
in bowing techniques undoubtedly had a profound effect on the sound
of the instrument and on the style of performance. The newer
hatchet-headed bows, with their stronger, more elastic sticks which
put the hair under considerably greater tension, behaved quite
differently from most earlier bows. Earlier eighteenth-century pike's-
head bows, because of the initial 'give' in their bow hair (the 'small,
even if barely audible softness at the beginning of the stroke' referred
to by Leopold Mozart), produced an articulated effect similar to the
modern spiccato, though somewhat less sharply separated, when used
on the string with short strokes for a succession of detached notes.
The later hatchet-headed bows, whose development was to culminate
in the work of Tourte, produced a much more legato sound when used
in the same manner, but a true spiccato - a stroke in which the hair
slightly leaves the string between notes - was possible because of the
increased tension of the hair and elasticity of the stick. In addition,
the increased tension made possible an incisive attack near the point
of the bow and led to the development of a range of marteli strokes and
sforzando effects, for which the older bows were unsuitable.
At some stage or other in the nineteenth century virtually every
technique that the Tourte bow made possible was tried, but there
were substantial divisions of opinion about what constituted good
style. Various schools of violin playing were sharply differentiated,
and bowing played a large part in distinguishing them from one
another. One of the most important conflicts of opinion occurred over
the question of whether, particularly in passages of successive de-
tached notes in a moderate to fast tempo, the bow should bounce or
should remain firmly on the string. The passage in Example 1, for
instance, can quite effectively be played either with a spiccato or sautilli
bowing in the middle (which is the bowing most modern violinists
would use), a broad bowing in the upper half, a marteli bowing near
the point, or a slurred martel6 (staccato) in the upper third of the bow.
Each of these methods of performance produces a markedly different
effect. Many passages in the music of the period can perfectly easily
be played in several of these ways, and the notation is not, in most
cases, precise enough to indicate whether any particular interpreta-
tion was intended by the composer, but there is sufficient evidence to
suggest that a nineteenth-century violinist's choice of bowstroke
would have been dictated largely by when and where he lived, or to
what school he belonged.
Evidence suggests that springing bowing in passages of detached
notes was one of the earliest of the effects offered by the new bows to
be extensively exploited. It was admired for its brilliance and incis-
iveness, and for a while this style of playing seems to have become
fashionable in many places. There are certainly indications that
recent innovations in bowing style were gaining currency during the
1780s and 1790s. An article on deficiencies in performances at the

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Example 1. Beethoven, String Quartet, op. 18 no. 6, first

movement: Allegro con brio.
(a) spiccato, ditachi or marteld

(b) with slurred staccato V

Berlin Opera in Carl Spazier's Berlinische musikalische Zeitung in 1793

blamed the poor effect of the strings on 'the thin bows (dunne Bogen)
which are made necessary by the present-day performance style and,
indeed, this style itself which is so markedly different from the strong,
noble style of Franz Benda [1709-86]'.
The contrast with Benda's style seems to imply lighter, possibly
spiccatobowing, which the article directly links with the new, more
slender bows. Other sources confirm the prevalence during the 1790s
of a light style of bowing, in which a springing stroke in passagework
was a prominent characteristic. Francesco Galeazzi (1738-1819), in
his Elementi teorico-practicidi musica of 1791-6, implied the use of a
springing bow for passagework when he remarked that to achieve
legato the bow is 'kept in contact with the string and is not allowed to
dance about as in allegro'.' And in an article on Antonio Lolli
(?1730-1802) in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in 1799 the author
observed of Lolli's performance in allegro that 'his was not the
modern use of the bow where it is believed that effectiveness is to be
found in clipped, hopping strokes (abgestutzen, hiipfendenStrichen) and
where the bow's long, melting stroke (langen, schmeliendenZug), which
counterfeits the beauty of the human voice, is neglected'.3
Wilhelm Cramer (1745-99), one of the most admired violinists of
the 1770s and 1780s, seems to have been the first notable exponent of
this kind of springing bowstroke, executed with short strokes in the
middle of the bow, which was described by Michel Woldemar
(1750-1816) in his Grande methodeof 1800 as the 'coup d'archet la
Cramer'; and in 1804 an article in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung
specifically credited Cramer with its invention. This article is partic-
ularly interesting because it implies not only that the stroke had been
widely imitated, but also that by the early years of the nineteenth
century it had been so much abused that it was to some extent

Berlinische musikalische Zeitung, ed. Carl Spazier, 1 (1793), 9.
2 Francesco Galeazzi, Elementi teorico-practicidi musica, con un saggio sopra / arte di suonare il violino
analizzata, ed a dimostrabili principi ridotta, 2 vols. (Rome, 1791-6), i (pt 2), 201.
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 1 (1798-9), 579.

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becoming discredited. The writer observed that 'many, however,

ruined their former style of playing, after painstaking effort to play
with the middle of the bow, through too strong a pressure on the
strings. The bow hopped here and there, and the tone became
unpleasant, coarse and scratchy.'4
During the first decade of the nineteenth century an aesthetic of
string sound which stressed a singing style, expressive delivery,
strong tone, forceful accents and broad or marteli bowstrokes in
passagework seems to have been gaining ascendancy. By the early
years of the nineteenth century the novelty of springing bowings had
worn off and the style of playing that went with it, which stressed
clarity, lightness and velocity, was being superseded by the new
aesthetic. Springing bowings came to be widely regarded as 'frivolous'
and inappropriate to the increasingly admired highly expressive and
earnest style of playing. This trend was closely linked with the
developing Romantic movement in music, and analogous develop-
ments can be seen, for instance, in the change to a more legato style of
piano playing propounded by Clementi.
The diary which the 19-year-old Louis Spohr (1784-1859) kept
during his journey to St Petersburg in 1803 as a pupil of Franz Eck
(1774-?1804) contains two significant comments on springing
bowings. In an entry on the playing of Josephus Andreas Fodor
(1751-1828) Spohr remarked: 'Also, in the passagework he played
with a perpetually springing bow, which soon became unbearable.'5 It
is clear from another entry about the playing of Anton Ferdinand
Tietz (?1742-1810) that to Spohr this style of playing, which only four
years earlier the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung had described as the
'modern use of the bow', seemed old-fashioned. After praising Tietz's
cantabile Spohr observed: 'The passagework which, according to the
old method, he played with a springing bow, pleased me less.'" Since
Eck had made Spohr buy a Tourte bow in Hamburg at an earlier stage
in their journey and had, according to Spohr's own account, entirely
remodelled his bowing, it is safe to assume that Spohr's view would
have been shared by his master, who was a direct heir of the
Mannheim tradition. Eck's own teachers had been his elder brother
Johann Friedrich (1767-1838) and Ferdinand Frdinzl (1767-1833).
Elsewhere in his diary, however, Spohr referred to Franz Eck as a
French violinist. Biographical details of Eck's life are scanty, and the
significance of this is, therefore, not entirely clear, but it presumably
indicates a connection, in Spohr's mind at any rate, with a French
school of violin playing. In the circumstances this could only mean the
school represented by Giovanni Battista Viotti (1753-1824) and his
disciples, among whom the most prominent were Pierre Rode (1774-
1830), Rudolph Kreutzer (1766-1831) and Pierre Baillot (1771-1824).

4 Ibid., 6 (1803-4), 729.

' Louis ed. Folker G6thel (Tutzing, 1968), i, 45.
Spohr, Lebenserinnerungen,
Ibid., 43.

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(Of these only Rode was actually a pupil of Viotti, but the other two
were strongly influenced by him.) The broad bowing style which made
springing bowings seem old-fashioned to Spohr had much in common
with the approach of Christian Cannabich (1733-98) and the Mann-
heim School, but it was the impact of the Paris school, which was
directly linked with Tourte's development of the bow, that was of the
greatest importance in supplanting the springing-bow style in general
There can be no doubt about the enormous prestige of the Parisian
school of violinists at this time. Viotti was repeatedly called the
greatest violinist of the day and the founder of a new style. Woldemar
commented, in the introduction to his 1801 revision of Leopold
Mozart's Violinschule,after discussing the excellent qualities of Corelli
and his successors: 'but it was to be reserved for Viotti to eclipse the
glory of his predecessors and to become to some extent the leader and
model of a new school'.' And in 1811 Naigeli, discussing the impor-
tance of string instruments, wrote:
Here, as nowhere else, art is brought to life through the power of the arm;
indeed, it is astonishing what the Viotti school has achieved and continues
to achieve in this field; the way in which the string player here raises
himself triumphantly over a whole world of sound is the most remarkable
feature in the history of individualization in art (die Allermerkwiirdigste
In the same year that Spohr recorded his opinion of Fodor and Tietz
in his journal, the Methode de violon of Baillot, Rode and Kreutzer,
commissioned by the Conservatoire as part of a series of approved
instrumental methods, was published in Paris. Baillot was its chief
author, but there is no reason to doubt that it broadly represented the
approach of all three. Nowhere in the lucid section on bowing in the
1803 Methode is any mention made of springing bowstrokes. Passages
of detached notes were to be played on the string with as long a bow as
possible in the upper half. Neither Kreutzer's Etudes, nor Rode's
Caprices, nor the concertos of either of them contain passages in
which a springing bowing seems to be called for, though there are
places where it could be used, as later editors have discovered. In the
case of Kreutzer's Etudes and Rode's Caprices, the composers'
performance instructions make it clear that no springing bowings are
intended and it seems certain, in view of the advanced and
comprehensive aim of these works, that springing bowings had little
or no place in the technical equipment of these players. Accounts of
their performance style corroborate this. Kreutzer's playing, for
instance, is described in Gerber's Neues Lexikon der Tonkiinstler
(1812-14) in the following terms: 'Viotti's manner of playing is also

M7ichel Woldemar, Mithodede violonpar L. Mozart redige'e elevede Lolli: Nouvelle

par Woldemar,
edition(Paris, 1801), 1.
Zeitung,13 (1811), 669.
8 Allgemeinemusikalische

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his. The same strong tone and long bowstroke also characterize his
allegro.'9 A fuller description of the style is given in a review from
Prague of a performance which Spohr gave there during his concert
tour of 1808. Having observed that Spohr was 'one of the most
outstanding violinists of our epoch', it went on to criticize several
aspects of his performance, remarking about his bowing that
since he takes pains to play the passagework in particular with long-
drawn-out and unbroken bowstrokes, he not infrequently spoils thereby
the character of the allegro, particularly where this is written in a fiery,
brilliant and impetuous manner and consequently ought to be played
accordingly. So much the less is he able, therefore, to allow the many small
nuances of the allegro to appear, and, for all his sterling artistry, one might
well not escape a certain oppressive feeling of monotony if one were to hear
him often - which is also the case with several of the celebrated violinists
of the present Parisian school.1'

Spohr was the most important German representative of this style.

Shortly after returning from St Petersburg in 1804 he had come under
the direct influence of Rode. Having heard Rode play several times in
Brunswick, Spohr worked hard to imitate his style as closely as
possible, and later stated: 'Up to the time when I had by degrees
formed a style of playing of my own, I was the most faithful imitator of
Rode among all the young violinists of the day.'" The accuracy of this
statement is confirmed by J. F. Reichardt (1752-1814), who in 1805,
having heard Rode a short time before, accused Spohr of 'slavish
imitation' of Rode's manner.12
For a while during the first decade of the century two clearly
distinguishable styles of bowing seem to have coexisted in Germany.
Valuable insight into the situation at that time can be gleaned from
the pages of the AllgemeinemusikalischeZeitung. A review of the
publication of Rode's Violin Concerto no. 7 in 1803 contains the
following observations:
The reviewer considers the manner in which Rode, Kreutzer, etc. play as a
valuable contribution; for in this method a beautiful strong, sustained,
regularly swelling and diminishing tone, long bowstrokes, figures slurred
together in a single bowstroke, and the very many and charming variations
which these slurrings allow, are introduced more than formerly by the
violinist - or should we say are reintroduced? For, if the reviewer is not
mistaken, this style of playing is by no means new, but is rather the old
method of a Tartini or a Pugnani, which, however, at least in Germany, has
been little cultivated in recent times, and which almost appeared to have
been ousted by the urge to play everything as fast as possible and to shine
with short and sharply articulated staccato passages. The reviewer cannot
sufficiently recommend violinists of his day to practise a beautiful

9 Ernst Ludwig Gerber, Neues Lexikon der Tonkunstler (1812-14), i, 118.

Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 10 (1807-8), 313-14.
" Spohr, Lebenserinnerungen,i, 66.
12 Berlinische musikalische Zeitung, ed. Johann Friedrich Reichardt, 1 (1805), 95.

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sustained tone, long and even bowstrokes, slurred figures, and every
variety which these things permit; he must, however, remind those who
have made this style of playing their own not to neglect in the process the
short, sharp stroke with a half-bouncing bow, which in certain passages
produces such a beautiful distinctness and precision. The reviewer knows
the instrument sufficiently, as he may justly claim, and confesses that the
combination of the two is certainly one of the most difficult of tasks; but it
is by no means impossible.13
Further insight is provided by a review of Viotti's Concerto no. 27 in
1808, which recommended that work because it did not present too
many difficulties for players who had not mastered the finer points of
the new style. The writer commented:
This concerto, which well repays a decent performance, will make a
welcome addition to the repertoire not only for the multitude of concert
violinists whose artistic skill is more closely circumscribed, but also for
those especially who either cannot yet sufficiently master the long, legato,
and manifoldly varied bowstroke (des langen, geschleiften und mit mannigfaltigen
AbwechslungenvermischtenBogenstrichs) that they can yet aspire to a successful
public performance of the concertos of Rode, Kreutzer, Romberg or Spohr;
or have become so accustomed to playing with short, springing bows (der
Spielart mit kurzem und springendenBogen) that they are unable to manage the
legato bowstroke which is necessary for the performance of these pieces. In
the present work, not only are the phrases which are slurred together in a
single bowstroke written in such a way that they can be executed without
undue difficulty, but also the staccato and legato passages alternate so as
to provide a pleasing variety.14

By the end of the decade the newer style was well on the way to
achieving orthodox status in Germany, and the evidence suggests
that, far from incorporating springing bowing into their playing, as
the reviewer of Rode's concerto had suggested, most of the notable
exponents of the new style scorned it and, by their example, caused it
to fall into almost total desuetude for a while. The prestige of the
Viotti school and the importance of the 1803 Conservatoire Me'thode as
a teaching manual on the one hand, and on the other Spohr's growing
reputation and activities as a teacher led to the dominance of this
approach in Germany by the 1820s. Another widely used teaching
manual, Bartolomeo Campagnoli's Metodo(?1797), which was trans-
lated into German in 1824, reinforced the trend, for it, too, omits all
mention of spiccato bowing (though it describes a kind of flying
staccato). Campagnoli (1751-1827) concluded his discussion of de-
tached bowings at various speeds with the comment: 'The more these
bowings are lengthened the greater effect they produce.'" The virtual
disappearance of the springing bowstroke for passagework, in certain

'3 Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 5 (1802-3),

14 Ibid., 11 (1808-9), 28-9.
15 Bartolomeo Campagnoli, Metodo della mecanica progressivo per violino ... (Milan, ?1797), ed.
and trans. John Bishop (London, 1856), 7.

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parts of Germany at least, is implied by Carl Guhr (1787-1848) in his

treatise Ueber Paganini's Kunst (1829), where he remarked:
In allegromaestosohe particularly loves a manner of bowing which mater-
ially differs in execution and effect from that taught in the Parisian violin
school in allegromaestoso.There it is said you are to give every detached
(gestossenen)note the fullest possible extension and to use half the bow in
order that the whole string may vibrate properly and the tone may become
round.... But Paganini allows the bow rather to make a jumping,
whipping (springende,peitschende)movement and uses for that purpose
almost the middle of it and only so much of its length as is necessary to put
the string into vibration - this bowing he employs with a half-strong sound
(halbstarkenTon), perhaps just a degree more than mezzoforte, but then it is
of the greatest effect.'6

It seems clear, from the way that Guhr describes it, that this style of
bowing was unfamiliar to him when he heard Paganini (1784-1840)
use it; at least, the fact that he felt it worthy of comment indicates that
he considered its use to be unconventional.
Whether Paganini's exploitation of this and other springing
bowings was the key factor in repopularizing them from the 1820s
onwards is a moot point, but it is undoubtedly true that his example,
and the fascination which he exerted, must have acted as a counter-
balance to the influence of the Viotti School and its adherents. In
France, especially, the hegemony of the Viotti style began to be
seriously challenged in the 1820s. Baillot's change of attitude is
interesting and may well have owed something to the influence of
Paganini. In the introduction to his exhaustive treatise L'Art du violon
of 1834 he discussed Paganini with a mixture of admiration and
reservations, concluding with the remark: 'It belongs to genius to
create new effects, to taste to regulate their use, and to time alone to
sanction them';17 and, though Baillot's treatise does not incorporate
the full range of Paganini's technical peculiarities, it presents, as a
whole, a remarkable contrast with the Mithode of 31 years earlier. It
describes many techniques that had no part in the earlier work,
including a range of springing bowings which he calls 'elastique':
ditach6 liger, perle, sautille and staccato a ricochet.The overall impression
given by the bowing section of L'Art du violon is that while the earlier
bowstrokes remain available, a much greater emphasis on lightness
and piquancy of bowing had developed in Paris during the intervening
Rode and Kreutzer were both dead by the time Baillot published
L'Art du violon and for some years before their deaths both had
experienced the chagrin of seeing their popularity decline. Changing
fashion in Paris and their refusal or inability to adapt their style may
well have been a contributory factor in this loss of popularity. Baillot,

16 Carl Guhr, UeberPaganini'sKunstdie Violinzu spielen... (Mainz, [1829]), 11.

17 Pierre M. F. de Sales Baillot, L'Art du violon:Nouvellemithode(Paris, 1834), 6.

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however, who had never made quite such a strong impression by his
public performance and who seems to have possessed a particularly
flexible and analytical mind, kept pace with changing fashion and
went on to be the father figure of the younger generation of French
violinists. Francois Habeneck's Mithode of 1840, Delphin Alard's Ecole
de violon of 1844, Charles de Beriot's Mithode of 1858, and other French
treatises add little to Baillot's catalogue of bowings.
In Germany the adoption of the greatly increased range of bowings
which Baillot had discussed in L'Art du violon seems to have been
slower, particularly for the performance of serious German music.
This was partly, perhaps, a result of the characteristic nineteenth-
century German tendency to identify the French with frivolity and
therefore, by extension, to regard these lighter bowings as superficial
and unworthy. A potent factor in this was the tremendous influence of
Spohr. By the time he wrote his monumental Violinschulein 1832, he
was widely regarded not only as Germany's greatest violinist, but also
as its greatest living composer, and during his long life he taught
many younger violinists and directly influenced many others. Spohr's
personality was very strongly marked both in his playing and in his
compositions, and the Violinschulemakes no concessions to Paganini or
to any of the newer French influences. The extensive section on
bowing, containing some 57 different examples, does not mention any
form of springing bowing and it is clear from what is known of Spohr's
opinion on the subject that this is a deliberate omission. According to
hs pupil Alexander Malibran, Spohr was horrified when he heard a
violinist using springing bowings in the chamber music of Haydn,
Mozart or Beethoven, maintaining that it went absolutely against the
performance tradition of these works; only in a few scherzos by
Beethoven, Onslow and Mendelssohn would he concede their admiss-
The reliability of Spohr's claim that springing bowings went against
the Classical tradition in German violin playing is, of course, open to
question, but in this context his years in Vienna and his personal
contact with Beethoven should be borne in mind, though this in itself
cannot be taken to prove that his views were identical with
Beethoven's or that other Viennese violinists during Beethoven's
lifetime would not have employed springing bowings in his music.
Too little is known about the playing of Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776-
1830) and Franz Clement (1780-1842), for instance, to be certain
whether they employed them (though a reviewer in 1805 noted that
Clement's playing was not like that of the Viotti-Rode school). '
Surviving accounts suggest considerable diversity in the styles of early
nineteenth-century Viennese violinists, but by the second decade of
the century the broader style certainly seems to have been in the
ascendant. The highly complimentary reviews of Spohr's perform-

'8 Alexander Malibran, Louis Spohr (Frankfurt am Main, 1860), 207-8.

19 Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 7 (1804-5), 500.

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ances in Vienna between 1812 and 1815 make no reference to

anything unfamiliar or controversial in his bowing style, and his
performances of the chamber music of the three great Classical
masters were greatly admired. In fact, it is probably the ascendancy of
the style that Spohr represented which explains Weber's comments in
a review of Clement's performance at Prague in 1816, in which, after
praising Clement's technical command, he wrote:
The presentwriterwill say no more about his style and his attitudeto the
works he plays. These are universallyfamiliarand have much to recom-
mend them;and it is moreoverunjustto ask an artistto go againsthis own
artisticpersonalityand transferhis allegianceto anotherschool or style of
playing,when he is a perfectmasterin his own way.20
Another violinist and influential teacher who arrived in Vienna
about this time was Joseph Boehm (1795-1876), whom Beethoven
preferred to Schuppanzigh in the performance of his String Quartet,
op. 127, and who premiered Schubert's Piano Trio, op. 100, in 1828.
Boehm studied for a short while with Rode and was noted for his
breadth of tone and thoroughly musical style; it seems likely, there-
fore, that during his early years in Vienna, at any rate, he would have
been an exponent of the broad bowing style. His Concerto no. 1,
dedicated to Kreutzer, which was written in the early 1820s, implies,
overwhelmingly, the bowing style of the Paris school. The only thing
in the concerto which may go beyond the technical parameters of that
school is a passage of apparently ricochetarpeggios in the first
movement, analogous to those which appear in Paganini's First
Caprice, and to those which Mendelssohn was to use in the cadenza of
his Violin Concerto. However, it is possible that these figures may not
have been played with a ricochetbowing, but a staccato or ditach6articuli
on the string, as in a similar example from Baillot's L'Art du violon.(A
limited use of ricochet bowing can be found in Kreutzer's Concerto
no. 10, according to Baillot, but it is by no means typical.) After
Paganini's visit to Vienna in 1828, Boehm may well have been open to
his influence in technical matters and may have encouraged his pupils
to practice Paganini's compositions. His attitude to the use of
springing bowings in the German Classics, however, is unclear,
though it is probable that he discouraged it.
Among Boehm's pupils was Joseph Joachim (1832-1907), who in a
letter to Boehm from Leipzig in 1844 wrote that he was working hard
on pieces by Spohr and Paganini.21When the 12-year-oldJoachim had
left Vienna for Leipzig the previous year he was clearly still uncertain
about the propriety of using springing bowing in Classical composi-
tions, for he sought Mendelssohn's guidance on the matter and
received the advice: 'Always use it, my boy, where it is suitable, or
where it sounds well.' The terms in which Andreas Moser (1859-

20 Carl Maria von Weber:Writingson Music, ed. John Warrack (Cambridge, 1981), 174.
21 Joseph Joachim, Briefe,ed. Johannes Joachim and Andreas Moser, 3 vols. (Berlin, 1911), i, 3.

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1925), Joachim's close colleague and biographer, reported this are

interesting; he said that Mendelssohn's opinion had freed Joachim
'from certain prejudices and habits to which violinists are prone - for
example, that the use of the springing bow is not permissible in
Classical The use of the present tense in this
statement adds weight to the supposition that the use of springing
bowstrokes in Classical chamber works was still a controversial matter
quite late into the century. Spohr's prejudice against their use was
certainly a potent factor in this, but despite his enormous authority,
his almost total rejection of springing bowings was not shared for long
by many. It is noteworthy that Henry Holmes (1839-1905), dedicatee
of Spohr's last three violin duets, in his 1878 English edition of
Spohr's Violinschule, supplemented the section on bowing with exer-
cises for practising sautill6 and spiccato, and that Spohr's pupil Ferdi-
nand David (1810-73) included two forms of springing bowing in his
own Violinschule (1864). David's son, Paul, commented about his
It can hardly be said that he perpetuated in his pupils Spohr's method and
style. Entirely differing from his great master in musical temperament
... he represented a more modern phase in German violin-playing and an
eclecticism which has avoided one-sidedness not less in matters of
technique than in musical taste and judgement generally.23
Hermann Schr6der (1843-1909) discussed the full range of firm and
springing bowings in his Die Kunst des Violinspiels (1887), and when
considering sautille bowing, which he called 'der leichte Bogen', he
The light bow is now an indispensable bowing style for every violinist,
especially those who have been formed by the newer French school.
In the old Italian and particularly in the German school up to L. Spohr,
it was little used. One played passages suited to these bowstrokes on the
whole with short strokes with an on-the-string bowing at the point.24

(Schr6der went on to suggest that the indication leggiero was an

instruction to use a sautill6 bowstroke.) However, the extent to which,
even in the second half of the nineteenth century, springing bowings
in Classical compositions were still considered to be stylistically
inappropriate, in places where they would now generally be preferred,
can be seen from bowed editions by David, Joachim and other German
editors. In these, many passages which would probably now be played
off the string are clearly bowed to be played on the string in the upper
half. How little this accords with the modern violinist's instincts in
many cases will be well known to chamber-music players who, when
sight reading Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann,

22 Andreas Moser, JosephJoachim,trans. Lilla Durham (London, 1901), 46.

23 Article 'Violin-playing' in Grove'sDictionaryof Music and Musicians,3rd edn, ed. Henry Cope
Colles (London, 1929), v, 533.
24 Hermann Schr6der, Die Kunstdes Violinspiels(Cologne, 1887), 72.

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etc. from these editions, some of which are still in print, have found
themselves caught at the 'wrong end' of the bow by the editor's
bowing. Newer editions have reversed many of these bowings.
Examples of David's bowings in works by Mendelssohn and
Schubert will illustrate the point. In the first movement of Mendels-
sohn's String Quartet, op. 44 no. 3 (see Figure 1), for instance, David's
bowing (from his own copy of the Mendelssohn quartets, where it is
written in the same blue pencil with which he signed the front cover)
makes it clear that the passages of staccato quavers in this extract are
to be played on the string in the upper half (either ditacheor martele);
the bowings in parentheses are from the Peters Neu revidierteAusgabe
and imply a spiccatofor the quavers, which is how most modern
violinists would play them. Example 2 gives a passage from the first
movement of Schubert's Piano Trio, op. 99, in David's edition (Peters
pl. no. 7127), in which a slurred staccato in the upper half, followed by
a detached bowing near the point, is used for the semiquavers. The
Peters Neu revidierte
Ausgabeindicates a light stroke in the middle of the
bow. Similar examples can easily be found in editions by other
nineteenth-century German editors.
It is clear that attitudes towards bowing styles changed radically
during the nineteenth century. Broadly, it seems that during the late
eighteenth century a light bowing style in which passagework was

Figure 1. Mendelssohn, String Quartet, op. 44 no. 3, first

movement: Allegrovivace.(Figures 1, 5, 7, 8 and 13 are reproduced by
kind permission of Dr Alan Tyson from a copy once owned by
Ferdinand David containing his own bowings and fingerings. The
bowings in parentheses in Figure 1 show how the passage is bowed in
the Peters Neu revidierte
Ausgabe;all other manuscript markings are by

T4 ns" p cres4o. --

4,_ b b
I'- I I I r
- -i" l,,J _I -p .
cres. cresc.

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Example 2. Schubert, Piano Trio, op. 99, first movement: Allegro

(a) Peters Edition (P1. no. 7127), as edited by Ferdinand David


(b) Peters's Neu revidierte

Ausgabe V . 1

springingbowstroke; and this style was challenged

which stressed sonority and expansiveness,
by the
in its turren
and largely rejected the

success of Paganini and was replaced in the newer French and

Franco-Belgian schools by one in which greater diversity and a
predilection for a range of lighter, more piquant bowings prevailed. In
Germany, though, the style of Rode, Kreutzer and Spohr had a more
lasting influence and, while the lighter bowings were not entirely
eschewed, their widespread application to Classical works in partic-
ular did not come about until the twentieth century. Much more
archival work remains to be done in the area, and further research will
undoubtedly amplify and clarify this sketch, but the question of what
kind of bowing style was prevalent at any particular time or place
during the period, and, most importantly, what sort of style different
composers had in mind when writing for string instruments, can
probably never be determined with certainty. It is possible, however,
to be fairly positive about the styles of some individual violinists and,
through a proper awareness of their relationship with contemporary
composers, to have a clearer understanding of what may be implied by
those composers' notation. Beethoven was undoubtedly aware of the
characteristics of the violinists he wrote for, and David's style is an
important key to Mendelssohn's intentions, as is Joachim's to

The history of vibrato in the nineteenth century presents a very

different picture. Here the story is one of continuity and consensus
rather than change and diversity, for it was only towards the end of the

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century that a radically divergent approach began to evolve under

Franco-Belgian influence, and not until the twentieth century that a
new aesthetic attitude to vibrato became established. The continuous
vibrato, which seems fundamental to modern violin playing, where it
is regarded more as an essential element of basic tone production than
as an expressive device, has only gained widespread currency within
living memory. Siegfried Eberhardt's treatise Violin Vibrato of 1910 is
the earliest work to deal at length with the mechanism of vibrato and
clearly to identify the vibrato rather than the bow with the production
of a fine and individual tone quality. The far-reaching nature and
recent acceptance of this change is well illustrated by contrasting the
modern attitude with what Leopold Auer (1845-1930), a pupil of
Joachim and one of the last defenders of the old aesthetic, wrote on
the subject. In his book Violin Playing as I teach it, published in 1921, he

Like the portamentothe vibratois primarily a means used to heighten effect,

to embellish and beautify a singing passage or tone. Unfortunately, both
singers and players of string instruments frequently abuse this effect just
as they do the portamento,and by so doing they have called into being a
plague of the most inartistic nature, one to which ninety out of every
hundred vocal and instrumental soloists fall victim.

He went on to criticize players who resort to vibrato 'in an ostrich-like

endeavour to conceal bad tone production and intonation', and then
observed that
those who are convinced that an eternal vibratois the secret of soulful
playing, of piquancy in performance - are pitifully misguided in their
belief. In some cases, no doubt, they are, perhaps against their own better
instincts, conscientiously carrying out the instructions of unmusical
teachers. But their own appreciation of musical values ought to tell them
how false is the notion that vibration, whether in good or bad taste, adds
spice and flavour to their playing .... Their musical taste (or what does
service for them in place of it) does not tell them that they can reduce a
programme of the most dissimilar pieces to the same dead level of
monotony by peppering them all with the tabasco of a continuous vibrato.
No, the vibratois an effect, an embellishment; it can lend a touch of divine
pathos to the climax of a phrase or the course of a passage, but only if the
player has cultivated a delicate sense of proportion in the use of it.

After much more in which he sarcastically postulated that continuous

vibrato is an 'actual physical defect' resulting from a 'group of sick or
ailing nerves', he concluded:

In any case remember that only the most sparing use of the vibrato is
desirable; the too generous employment of the device defeats the purpose
for which you use it. The excessive vibrato is a habit for which I have no
tolerance, and I always fight against it when I observe it in my pupils -
though often, I must admit, without success. As a rule I forbid my students
using the vibrato at all on notes which are not sustained, and I earnestly

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advise them not to abuse it even in the case of sustained notes which
succeed each other in a phrase.25

By the time Auer wrote these remarks, however, the use of continuous
vibrato was well on the way to gaining universal sanction, and among
its most influential exponents were Auer's own pupils, Heifetz, Elman
and Zimbalist.
That Auer's view represented a tradition which had been dominant
throughout the nineteenth century, however, is abundantly clear from
documentary evidence. Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) recognized that his
use of vibrato to provide a more or less continuous colouring to the
sound was of recent origin, observing:

Wieniawsky [1835-80] intensified the vibrato and brought it to heights

never before achieved, so that it became known as the 'French vibrato'.
Vieuxtemps [1820-81] also took it up, and after him Eugene Ysaye
[1858-1931], who became its greatest exponent, and I. Joseph Joachim, for
instance, disdained it.26
Beauty and nobility of sound were increasingly equated with a
continuously vibrant tone, produced by the left hand, whereas before
they had been equated with a steady and pure tone produced by the
bow. Carl Flesch (1873-1944), discussing the impact of Kreisler's
continuous vibrato, succinctly described the radical change in the
aesthetics of string sound which had taken place at the beginning of
the twentieth century. He wrote:
We must not forget that even in 1880 the great violinists did not yet make
use of a proper vibrato but employed a kind of Bebung,i.e. a finger vibrato
in which the pitch was subjected to only quite imperceptible oscillations.
To vibrate on relatively inexpressive notes, not to speak of runs, was
regarded as unseemly and inartistic. Basically quicker passages had to be
distinguished by a certain dryness from longer and more expressive notes.
Ysaye was the first to make use of a broader vibrato and already attempted
to give life to passing notes, while Kreisler drew the extreme consequences
from this revelation of vibrato activity; he not only resorted to a still
broader vibrato, but even tried to ennoble faster passages by means of a
vibrato which, admittedly, was more latent than manifest.27
Nineteenth-century violin methods give very little instruction about
the mechanics of vibrato. In L'Art du violon, Baillot, for instance,
described it as 'a slight trembling' and merely instructed the pupil to
'place one finger on the string, keep the other three fingers raised and
rock the left hand as a unit with a more or less moderate movement, so
that this rocking or shaking of the left hand is conveyed to the finger
on the string'.28 Other nineteenth-century accounts are essentially
similar; there are no references to participation of the arm in the

2" Leopold Auer, Violin Playing as I teach it (London 1921), 22-4.

2h Louis Paul Lochner, Fritz Kreisler (London, 1951), 19.
27 Carl Flesch, Mimoires(London, 1957), 120.
2' Baillot, L'Art du violon, 138.

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Figure 2. From Baillot, L'Art du violon(1834).

2 n2 C lintiez du
12 2j 2 di^ _____

vibrato. Instructions for the artistic use of vibrato are also remarkably
consistent, though some important methods surprisingly fail to
discuss it at all. The Baillot-Rode-Kreutzer Mithodeof 1803, though it
has a considerable amount about tone, style, embellishment and so
on, does not mention the left-hand vibrato, but it describes a vibrato
('ondulation') produced by the bow alone.29 Much later in the century
Alard's Ecole, too, is silent on the matter. Baillot's L'Art du violon,
however, deals with the uses of left-hand vibrato in considerable
detail. He observed:
This undulation, produced more or less slowly by the finger, has an
animated, tender and sometimes pathetic expression; but the rocking of
the finger momentarily alters the purity of intonation of the note. In order
that the ear may not be distressed by this and may immediately be
consoled, the exact pure note should be heard at the beginning and the
end [see Figure 2]. This undulation, introduced with discretion, gives the
sound of the instrument a close analogy with the human voice when it is
strongly touched with emotion. This type of expression is very powerful,
but if frequently used it would have only the dangerous disadvantage of
making the melody unnatural and depriving the style of that precious
naivety which is the greatest charm of art and recalls it to its primitive
After further discussion of specific opportunities for using vibrato
Baillot warned:
Avoid giving the undulation a flabby quality, which would make the
playing seem old-fashioned, or a stiffness which would spoil its charm and
fluency; above all, avoid making a habit of vibrating the hand, which must
be used only when the expression renders it necessary and, furthermore, in
compliance with all that has been indicated in order to prevent its
Spohr's account of vibrato (called 'tremolo') in his Violinschuleof
1832 differs from Baillot's in that he does not demand the pure note at
the beginning and end of every vibrato note, in that he specifies it for
the intensification of sforzandi and in his description of four different
speeds of vibrato - a fast, a slow, a speeding-up and a slowing-down
vibrato, which he indicates in various musical examples with wavy
lines (see Figure 3). Like Baillot he specified that 'deviation from the
true pitch of the note should be scarcely perceptible to the ear'. He too
warned against abuse of vibrato, saying that the player

29 Baillot-Rode-Kreutzer, Mithodede violon (Paris, 1803), 137. Baillot also discusses the bow
vibrato in L'Art du violon.
30 Baillot, L'Art du violon,138-9.

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Figure 3. Vibrato signs from Spohr, Violinschule(1832).

should guard against using it too often and in improper places .... When
this vibration is observed in the singer, the violinist may also use it: hence
it is employed only in an impassioned style of playing and on strongly
accented notes marked with fz or ~ . Long sustained notes may similarly
be animated and reinforced by it.31

Spohr's pupil Ferdinand David in his Violinschule of 1864 likewise

counselled: 'One must execute the vibrato slowly and quickly; how-
ever, one must guard against too frequent and unmotivated use.'32
Charles de BWriot (1802-70) gave a much stronger warning in his
Mithode de violon of 1858, observing:
Vibrato (son vibre)is an accomplishment with the artist who knows how to
use it with effect, and to abstain from it when that is necessary: but it
becomes a fault when too frequently employed. This habit, involuntarily
acquired,degenerates into a bad shake or nervous trembling which cannot
afterwards be overcome and which produces a fatiguing monotony. The
voice of the singer, like the fine quality of tone in the violinist, is impaired
by this great fault. The evil is the more dangerous from the fact that it is
increased by the natural emotion which takes possession of the performer
when he appears in public. In artistic execution there is true emotion only
when the artist gives himself up to it: but when he cannot direct it it always
exceeds the limit of truth. Whether he be singer or violinist, with the artist
who is governed by this desire to produce an effect, vibrato is nothing but a
convulsive movement which destroys strict intonation, and thus becomes a
ridiculous exaggeration. We must, then, employ vibrato only when the
dramatic action compels it: but the artist should not become fond of
having this dangerous quality, which he must only use with the greatest
The musical examples which follow B&riot's caveat, in which vibrato
is indicated by wavy lines, clearly show how sparingly B&riot felt the
device should be used (see Figure 4).
In the Joachim-Moser Violinschule of 1905 a similar counsel of
restraint is given. After quoting verbatim the bulk of Spohr's instruc-
tions for the use of vibrato, it concludes:
To arrive at perfection in this means of expression in the sense indicated
by Spohr is merely a question of time and practice. But the pupil cannot be
sufficiently warned against its habitual use, especially in the wrong place.
A violinist whose taste is refined and healthy will always recognize the
steady tone as the ruling one, and will use the vibrato only where the
expression seems to demand it.34

'3 Louis Spohr, Violinschule (Vienna, 1832), 176.

32 Ferdinand David, Violinschule,2 vols. (Leipzig, 1864), ii, 43.
3 Charles de Beriot, Mithodede violon(Mainz, [1858]), 242.
34 Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser, Violinschule, 3 vols. (Berlin, 1904-5), ii, 96a.

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Figure 4. From B&riot, Methode de violon (1858).

Som,bre aidl dramatic colounring. Nocessariy emn.
of ribrated sounds andfthe portamento in the Couleur sorubre el dramalique.Emploi recessairedesons
plaes indicated.
pl/,no.Int vibrdset des porfs de voix mix endroits indiquis.
Andantino con molto .
espross. .9=


L' I AFI z AL-AL-0

dim. 4

IT a' ,
l.E -- , _


An interesting additional comment is made in Part 3 of the Violinschule,

where the opening bars of Joachim's Romance, op. 2, are given with
words added to clarify the stresses (see Example 3). The text
If therefore the player wishes to make use of the vibrato in the first bars of
the Romance (which, however, he should certainly not do), then it must
occur only, like a delicate breath, on the notes under which the syllables
'friih' and 'wie' are placed.35
35 Ibid., iii, 7.

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Example 3. Joachim, Romance, op. 2, as quoted in Joachim and

Moser, Violinschule(1905).
dolce assai

AI I 9
Hol-der Fruhb- hng, komm doch wie - der!

By the time the Joachim-Moser Violinschule was published the

current was already running strongly against the concept of sound of
which they were advocates. It was probably only Joachim's position as
the revered high priest of Classical taste that prevented the open
acceptance of a contrary view. Flesch certainly believed so, and
attributed Kreisler's early lack of acclaim to the dominance of the old
aesthetic. Joachim's death in 1907 removed the final inhibition to the
acceptance of the new ideal, and thereafter the defenders of the old
were fighting a hopeless rearguard action. But they did not surrender
easily. An article in The Strad published, perhaps not coincidentally, in
the year ofJoachim's death, outspokenly defended the old view. After
quoting Spohr, citing Madame Norman-Neruda (1839-1911) and
referring to some pieces which, the writer believed, required vibrato, it
went on:
But there is a still greater number of pieces and movements which in their
very nature and quality call just as loudly for clear, clean, firm playing,
without any vibrato at all; and in such pieces the vibrato is an effect which
I do not believe the composer ever intended.36
Ten years later, however, the same periodical published the first of
its articles which clearly reveal a changing climate. In 1917 Percival
Hodgeson, after remarking that 'the vibrato is principally of use in
brightening outstanding notes', referred to 'the vexed point of when to
use vibrato' and confessed: 'I see no harm in its presence at all times if
the player has such perfect control that he can reduce it at will to such
a slight movement as to be inconspicuous and emotionless.' But he
qualified this by adding: 'An enthusiastic and passionate vibrato at
uneventful moments is as senseless as a recitation of the alphabet with
intense emotion would be, and equally nauseous.'37 The following
year in The Strad W. W. Cobbett wrote approvingly of 'a perfect
vibrato, almost imperceptible yet always present in the emotional
phases of a fine violinist's interpretation';38 though another author in
the next volume cautioned: 'Be very sparing in the use of vibrato
which so soon loses its effect.'39
Some violinists still active after the First World War adhered to the
old view. Lucien Capet (1873-1928) was a notable example; and
36 TheStrad, 18 (1907-8), 305.
37 Ibid., 27 (1916-17), 146.
38 Ibid., 28 (1917-18), 128.
39 Ibid., 29 (1918-19), 294.

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Manoug Parikian recalled that his teacher in London in the 1930s,

Louis Pecskai (1880-1944), used vibrato only intermittently and kept
his left hand perfectly steady at other times.o0 But the trend was
inexorably towards a more continuous and wider vibrato. Leopold
Auer's vain protestations were among the last manifestations of the
old aesthetic.
Robert Donington, among others, has questioned whether it is true
that nineteenth-century violinists really limited their vibrato to selec-
ted notes; he claims to detect in recordings of Joachim made in 1903 a
more or less continuous vibrato."4 In this his ears undoubtedly deceive
him, though there is no doubt that Joachim used vibrato rather more
frequently in these recordings than might be inferred from his
strictures. Donington's hypothesis (presumably influenced by his view
that 'totally vibrato-less string tone sounds dead in any music')42 that
an unobtrusive vibrato was always present in violin playing, and that
what violinists meant when they wrote about using vibrato on
particular notes was an intensification of vibrato, is clearly mistaken.
Concrete evidence of composers' and violinists' intentions and expec-
tations that the basic violin sound should be an unvibrated one is to be
found in abundance in fingering indications of the period. The
inclusion of natural harmonics and open strings in cantabile passages
would in most instances make no musical sense at all if the surround-
ing notes were to be played with vibrato. Figure 5 and Examples 4-6
demonstrate the free mixture of stopped and open notes in music of
the period.
The fact that leading nineteenth-century violinists used vibrato
selectively raises the question of how integral this aspect of string
playing was to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century composers'

Figure 5. Mendelssohn, String Quartet, op. 44 no. 2, first

movement: Allegroassai appassionato(with David's markings).


f P"% IS I A I
7 i ~lb d

Oral communication from Manoug Parikian to the author.
41' Robert Donington, A Performer's Guide to Baroque Music (London, 1973), 87.
42 Robert Donington, The Interpretationof Ear1y Music (rev. edn, London, 1974), 235.

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Example 4. Bennett, Chamber Trio, op. 26, third movement: Allegro


f con anima -- ff

Example 5. Spohr, Piano Trio, op. 142, first movement: Allegro


0 1 02 4

1 1

f dim. Pi
t= dim.

2 40 cresc. V


Example 6. Haydn, String Quartet, op. 76 no. 2, first movement:

Allegro (Peters Edition, ed. Moser).
S0 I 3 0 2

conceptions of their music. It is true that vibrato was generally

regarded as coming into the category of embellishments which were
left to the discretion of the performer, but certain conventions
governing its use were recognized, and there were also occasions when
composers specified it on particular notes. A few violinist composers
indicated it with a wavy line. Spohr did this in the string quartets opp.
146 and 152 and in the songs for baritone, violin and piano op. 154.
Joachim sometimes used a wavy line and sometimes wrote in the word
vibrato, for instance in the Hungarian Concerto, op. 11, and his
arrangement of Brahms's Hungarian Dance no. 4 (see Example 7).
Cesar Franck wrote the word 'vibrato' at various places in the cello
part of the first movement of his String Quartet in D major and Elgar
wrote 'ff "vibrato" molto espress' in the string parts of the Larghetto
(rehearsal no. 86) of his Second Symphony. These instructions would
be redundant if the composers envisaged anything like a continuous
There was also another sign which was more widely used, but which
has not generally been recognized as implying vibrato, namely the
short crescendo-diminuendo < > placed over a single note. This is
present in Baillot's L'Art du violon together with the wavy line in his
example from Viotti's use of vibrato from that composer's Concerto
no. 19 (see Figure 6). Campagnoli, too, specifically linked the sign
with vibrato in his Metodo. It is also equated explicitly with vibrato in
the Joachim-Moser Violinschule,where one of the examples is of its use

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Example 7. Brahms-Joachim, Hungarian Dance no. 4.


pp pp sempre,ma vibrato

Figure 6. Viotti, Violin Concerto no. 19, as quoted in Baillot's L'Art

du violon (with vibrato signs).

Milestoso. 1004P
Maetos. -_1 --------
1 ---1 ).

on selected semiquavers in Rode's Caprice no. 3 (see Example 8). The

link from Joachim back to Rode via Boehm is a sufficiently direct one
to instil confidence in the reliability of this interpretation of the sign.
The sign is frequently present throughout Rode's Caprices and also
occurs in some of his later violin concertos, for example, no. 13. This
sign is not widely found in the music of other early nineteenth-century
composers, but it is not infrequently used in the music of Mendels-
sohn, Schumann and Brahms. (Mendelssohn's close friend and violin
teacher, Eduard Rietz, for whom he wrote the Octet, had also been a
pupil of Rode.)
The connections between these musicians are so strong that there
can be little doubt that where they used this sign it indicated vibrato
as well as the explicit crescendo-diminuendo. There are certainly
instances where, as in Rode's use of it on short notes, it could hardly,
for technical reasons, mean anything other than vibrato together with
gentle bow pressure. The connection between this form of accent and
vibrato is a particularly strong one, but there can be no doubt that
vibrato and accentuation of all kinds were closely linked in
nineteenth-century violin playing. Of coure, a composer's intention,
as indicated by this sign, that certain notes should be played with
vibrato does not preclude its use elsewhere; it merely means that
those notes must have it. But it is also true that this indication becomes
virtually meaningless if every possible note has vibrato. The use of the
sign in Figures 7-8 and Examples 9-14, from works of Mendelssohn,
Schumann, Brahms and Elgar, is almost certainly a deliberate instruc-
tion to apply vibrato.

Whereas vibrato was much more sparingly used in the nineteenth

century than it is today, portamento was freely employed as an
expressive device. In fact, in nineteenth-century methods, these two
effects were generally considered as of equal importance, and warn-
ings against the abuse of the one were usually extended to the other.
Like the ornamental vibrato, the prominent portamento which was

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Example 8. Rode, Caprice no. 3, as quoted in Joachim and Moser,


3 01 2101 01
p legato

Figure 7. Mendelssohn, String Quartet, op. 13, third movement:

Allegretto con moto (with David's markings).

Figure 8. Mendelssohn, String Quartet, op. 13, fourth movement:

Presto (with David's markings).

iIf 3r ad libitum di f I W
Xiolino 2.

Example 9. Schumann, Violin Sonata, op. 105, first movement: Mit

.4 4

-i I
<> cresc.

Example 10. Schumann, Violin Sonata, op. 121, first movement:

Im Tempo
3te Saite.. ........................................................................

Example 11. Brahms, Violin Concerto, op. 77, first movement:

Allegro non troppo.

3 0
r Q Z Li

- - 2 1 2
---. 0 L12
~l r .l.. - ,
.?..- -.--Ii. i , . I I b

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Example 12. Brahms, Violin Sonata, op. 108, first movement: Allegro.

p sotto voce ma espressivo <> <> <> <>

Example 13. Elgar, Violin Sonata, op. 82, first movement: Allegro.
< <> <> <>

Example 14. Elgar, String Quartet, op. 83, second movement:

III <>


out of fashion. Where it is still used, it is executed much more

discreetly because it is generally performed with a faster movement of
the left hand and a decrease in bow pressure. (The term portamento,
which was used to mean a number of different things during the
nineteenth century, is being used here to mean only the audible slide
between two notes of different pitches.)
A great increase in the use of prominent portamento seems to have
occurre around the beginning of the nineteenthscentury. Portamento
left hand
was clearly known and used before this; it is to some extent an
inescapable consequence of position changing. In 1776 in his treatise
J. F. Reichardt prohibited the
Ueberdie Pflichtendes Ripien-violinisten,
orchestral player from sliding with the same finger from one position
to another, but allowed it to be used by the solo player 'from time to
time'.43 Burney also referred to its expressive effect.44 Eighteenth-
century violin methods, however, were not generally very explicit

43 Johann Friedrich Reichardt,

Ueberdie PflichtendesRipien-violinisten
(Berlin and Leipzig, 1776),
44 Charles Burney, A GeneralHistory of Music, 4 vols. (London, 1776-89), ii, 992.

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about portamento. It was only briefly mentioned in the Baillot-Rode-

Kreutzer Mithode,but there is no doubt that it was frequently used by
those three violinists and, perhaps to a lesser extent, by their mentor,
Viotti. Examples of expressive fingerings by Kreutzer, Rode and
Baillot, given in the latter's L'Artdu violon,are clearly intended to allow
the opportunity for portamento (see Figures 9-11), and similar
examples can be found in the original editions of their works.
Another violinist resident in Paris from 1786 to 1789 who is known
to have made frequent and prominent use of it in slow movements was
Niccolo Mestrino (1748-89). Woldemar, in his Grandemithodeof 1800,
gives an example of Mestrino's use of the portamento, calling it the
'couler 'a Mestrino'; and in his revision and amplification of Leopold
Mozart's Violinschule Woldemar, who had been a pupil of Lolli and
Mestrino, deals with the device at greater length in a section entitled
'Gammes enharmoniques des modernes' without attributing it to any
violinist in particular. However, according to Antonio Salieri (1750-
1825), in a letter published in 1811, it was Lolli who was responsible
for the initiation of the exaggerated practice of portamento. He wrote:
This laughable mannerism on the violin derived from a joke of the
celebrated Lolli. When in his later years he was no longer master of the
ravishing, magical energy through which he had formerly captivated the
public, he sought, in order to gain acclaim for the concerts which he gave
on hisjourneys,at least to makethem laugh;thus, in the last Allegroof his
concertohe imitated now a parrot, now a dog and now a cat. The Cat
Concerto, as he himself called it, was relished by the public, and he
thereforegave it often and to universal applause. Other violinists now

Figure 9. Kreutzer, Concerto in C, Moderato,as quoted in Baillot,

L'Artdu violon.
luoderato 4 Doigte'par
l 'auteuir.

Figure 10. Rode, Sonata no. 1, Cantante,as quoted in Baillot, L'Art du

Caniante. Doigie par l'auteur.

%J2A 7? N
frz fr" '

Figure 11. Baillot, Etude: Allegronontroppo,from L'Art du violon.

(2eEdition de la de Violon de Baillot. 50 Etude&sui' gamme. -

treMethode 126. 1a
Allegro non troppo. _
: 2ecorde
.. . . ...

Pr.s de la touchie.

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copied this master's joke. Little by little the joke became a fashion, the
fashion (which strangely not merely players but also singers allowed
themselves to be carried away by) became a method with the weaker and
more foolish; and since the number of the latter is endless, so that false
manner became little by little a sort of school from which a fine multitude
of cats has proceeded to pain the ears of the listener, with the intention of
delighting them, through playing and singing in this manner.45
Spohr was the great German exponent of portamento, and probably
derived his predilection for it from Rode; for Reichardt, who had
heard them both, objected to Spohr's portamento in 1805 as 'an
exaggerated copy of Rode's'.46 A number of references to portamento
during the first two decades of the nineteenth century suggest that it
was beginning to be much more prominent with regard to both
frequency and intensity. Reichardt's remark about Spohr already
suggests a more frequent and obtrusive portamento than had been
customary. A critic in Prague three years later was even more explicit,
for after describing Spohr's ravishing performance of an Adagio he
Yes, one could call him unsurpassed in this genre if he did not often
disturb us in this enjoyment, and sometimes very unpleasantly, by a
mannerism much too frequently employed, that is by sliding up and down
with one and the same finger at all possible intervals, by an artifical miaow
as one might call it if that did not sound teasing.47
He added that Spohr also used the device in allegro.
At about the same time the practice seems to have become
prevalent in Vienna. Kreutzer had visited the city in 1798, Rode in
1812-13, and Spohr was resident there between 1812 and 1815, but
these violinists, though they may have been among its leading
exponents, were certainly far from alone. Beethoven, in the Violin
Sonata, op. 96, written for Rode during his stay in Vienna, seems
clearly to have envisaged some use of portamento; a passage at bar
159 of the last movement could hardly be performed without it in view
of the necessary descent from sixth position to first in a single
bowstroke, and Rode would undoubtedly have introduced a prom-
inent portamento here (see Example 15). Salieri's sarcastic diatribe
against portamento in 1811, from which a section has already been
cited, was apparently ineffective, and in 1815 he published a mani-
festo saying:

Discerning teachers of music seek assiduously to banish the false methods

which have for some time been creeping into the practice of singers and
string players, methods which are known by the term manieralanguida,
smorfiosa,and which one might fitly call the sickly, grimacing manner.
Violinists, violists and cellists succumb to this manner when they slide up

" Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 13 (1811), 209.

46 Berlinische musikalische Zeitung, ed. Johann Friedrich Reichardt, 1 (1805), 95.
7 Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 10 (1807-8), 313.

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Example 15. Beethoven, Violin Sonata, op. 96, fourth movement:

Adagio. (Joachim's fingering indicates fourth finger in sixth position on
the A string.)

cresc. P

or down on a string of their instrument from one note to another with the
same finger; singers, on the other hand, resort to it when, in making leaps
or intervals, they fail to support the voice with grace and genuine artistry,
but instead tug and slide like a wailing child or a miaowing cat. The
strangest thing about this is that the string players and singers who use
this method are under the misconception that they are playing or singing
in a particularly earnest manner, though in fact they achieve the very
opposite effect, for this manner can only be occasionally used as a joke in a
comic turn.48

Perhaps Rossini, too, disliked the habit and intended his cat duet to
be a satire on the increasing frequency and abuse of this mannerism.
All such protests were apparently in vain, for the portamento soon
became firmly established as an essential expressive device. Its
importance on the violin can be gauged by the amount of space which
is given to it in later nineteenth-century violin methods. In most cases
it is discussed at greater length than vibrato. These methods are
revealing of both its mechanical execution and its artistic use. Spohr
lucidly describes the mechanism of upward shifting which is basic to
all the other nineteenth-century accounts. He instructs that the finger
which has played the note in the lower position shall slide to its place
in the higher position and that the finger which stops the note in the
higher position shall fall so rapidly that the 'guide note' is not heard
as a distinct note: thus, as he says, 'the ear [will be] cheated into the
belief that the sliding finger has passed over the whole space from the
lowest to the highest note'.49 He is not explicit about the downward
shift, but by implication it is an exact reversal of the former
procedure. Spohr specifically forbade sliding with the finger which is
to stop the note that is being shifted to, saying that it caused an
'unpleasant whining'. This technique of shifting was shared by all the
other important nineteenth-century violin schools as the method to be
used in the vast majority of cases. Shifting in this manner gives the
effect of increasing speed in the slide and thus parallels exactly the
approved vocal practice as described by Manuel Garcia (1805-1906),
who said that, to avoid a 'cat-like squalling ... the slur of the voice
should be allowed a little more motion in the higher than the lower

"48 Eduard Hanslick, Geschichtedes Concertwesensin Wien (Vienna, 1869), 233, n. 2.

'9 Spohr, Violinschule, 120.
50 Manuel Garcia, A New Treatise on the Art of Singing (London, 1855), 52.

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Spohr exemplified various applications and slight modifications of

portamento technique in his Violinschule in carefully fingered and
bowed studies and pieces with which he gave a detailed commentary.
In his painstaking account of how the first movement of Rode's
Concerto no. 7 should be performed, for instance, it can be seen that
he notated an anticipation of the top note in order to allow a
portamento between notes which are not in the same bow (see
Example 16 - this anticipation is not present in the composer's
original text, nor are a number of other rhythmic and melodic features
which occur in Spohr's version). In the Adagio of the same concerto
Spohr instructed the player to make a portamento on a downward
interval to an open string (see Example 17); he also marked a
descending triad to be played with three successive fourth fingers.
Many other instances can be found in Spohr's own violin composi-
tions, in which he frequently marked expressive fingerings, but an
exhaustive account of his various applications of portamento is
beyond the scope of this article.
Baillot's catalogue of the execution and uses of portamento in L'Art
du violon is somewhat more explicit and systematic than Spohr's. He
described the practice of anticipating the second note and also of
repeating the first note as an appoggiatura before the slide. Like
Spohr he forbade sliding with the finger which is to stop the second
note in rising portamenti, but he recommended that in descending
portamenti, as well as sliding with the finger which has stopped the
top note, one may just brush the semitone above the target note with
the finger which is to be used to stop it.

Example 16. Rode, Violin Concerto no. 7, first movement: Allegro

moderato,as quoted in Spohr, Violinschule.

'htll- Ir I I i L i L-- -L


Example 17. Rode, Violin Concerto no. 7, second movement: Adagio,

as quoted in Spohr, Violinschule.(The places where Spohr instructs the
player to make a portamento are marked with diagonal lines beneath
the stave.)
=96 3 2 0

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Charles de B&riot's Mithode is particularly interesting for its use of

three differently shaped wedges to indicate different speeds and
intensities of portamento, which he inserted into sample pieces of
music, indicating what he regarded as a tasteful use of the effect (see
Figure 12). It is possible that, in addition to the traditional methods of
executing ascending portamento, B6riot occasionally also used a
technique in which he put down the finger which was to stop the
upper note before it had reached its position (though the apparent
instruction for a portamento of this kind in an example from his
Concerto no. 7 is not entirely clear). It certainly seems, however, that
this type of portamento, which was universally condemned in the first
half of the century, became a French habit later in the century, for
Schr6der mentioned it in his Die Kunst des Violinspiels and added a
footnote saying:

Particularly in the French school, from which we have already acquired

many good things in pleasant performance and in light handling of the
bow, this perverted mannerism is often customary and beloved, but we
ourselves absolutely cannot approve of it.51
In addition to those unambiguous descriptions of portamento there
is the copious evidence of fingerings in nineteenth- and early

Figure 12. From B6riot, Mithode de violon.


dc~-voix vif':-

Empno '; dan. les n1olos joh:e, ;Nvfe "I'M Mt,
. lam.-lf-'

Port-de-voix doux:

Port-de--'%oixain- :

ed , d
-- (--- -1 - -
qui--IT)Te -i

5' Schr6der, Die Kunst des Violinspiels, 33, note.

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Figure 12. Continued

Examples of violin music corresponding with those Exeumplesde musiqutie

Voolon, correspondint cex de
on the preceding page. la page precdente.

Light and rapid. Port-de-voi. vf e



TeAder. aff u e.e.

Tender. Erpreoi'
A Andante. it'v'ht
e;Expr,,si,,n qly?.
9me'XJ VARI9 Orol9

Plaintive. *Expression plaintipe.

o " - t

t rr-P

Sorrowful. nAceentdouloureux.
3" ,I

All" disperato. ,

twentieth-century violin music, which gives very full documentation

of where its use was considered artistic. Examples 18-19 and Figure
13 provide a few representative instances. Examples 18-19 are
particularly interesting because the notation can be compared with
early gramophone recordings. Joachim, who recorded the Hungarian
Dance in 1903, executes the portamento in the penultimate bar of this
extract very slowly and with continuous bow pressure. Marie Hall
(1884-1956), who recorded a truncated version of Elgar's Violin
Concerto in 1916 with the composer conducting, made the indicated
portamento very prominent, increasing the bow pressure throughout
the slow slide of her first finger up the G string.

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Example 18. Brahms-Joachim, Hungarian Dance no. 2, Allegro non

1 51 1 P
11T 1

--=- _ri en. e dim.

Example 19. Elgar, Violin Concerto, op. 61, second movement:

- - ten. - -
IV - ten.
- - - - - -


Figure 13. Mendelssohn, String Quartet, op. 44 no. 3, first

movement: Allegro vivace (with David's markings).

The portamento and vibrato practices of violinists in the nineteenth

and early twentieth centuries were part of a wider set of musical
values which were not confined merely to violin playing. The constant
reference to vocal performance in nineteenth-century violin methods
indicates that there was a close connection between violin and voice.
In fact, almost everything that the violin methods said about the
application and effect of these techniques can be paralleled in vocal
methods. Nicola Vaccai (1790-1848), in his Metodo pratico (1832), for
example, gave descriptions of the performance and artistic use of
portamento which are very close to Baillot's; and Manuel Garcia's
New Treatise on the Art of Singing (1855) treated portamento and vibrato
in much the same way as Charles de B&riot (Garcia's brother-in-law)
did in his Mithode.
Notwithstanding all the documentary evidence of bowing tech-
niques, vibrato and portamento in nineteenth-century violin playing,
it is difficult to conceive what a performance by Kreutzer, Rode, Spohr
or Paganini would actually have sounded like. Modern notions of good
taste would probably prevent us from imagining anything remotely
like it, were it not for the fact that the invention of recording has
preserved, albeit partially and imperfectly, the performance styles of
almost a century ago. These fragments cannot necessarily be taken to
represent the practices of an even earlier generation, but they do act
as a powerful reminder that our own musical instincts are not a
reliable guide to what might once have been considered a fine style.

The Queen's College, Oxford

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