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ARCHIVE: Baroque Music

There is a current (mis)conception that in order to sound “authentic,” baroque music should be subdued in volume and tone. These presentations all too often sound dull, out of tune, and with a tortured stylistic approach due to the purposeful lack of vibrato. This only serves to represent the least skilled and trained of baroque players, the ripieni. Vibrato on a string instrument or with a voice is the natural byproduct of good technique and a musical approach. It needs to be stylistically modulated, not eliminated.

An article in The Strad addresses the use of vibrato in baroque music. “Today’s specialists in early music play with a minimum of vibrato and consequently with a light, delicate bow stroke, which yields a tone that might be described as thin and lacking in colour.” Quoting several early writers, the author states “a continuous light vibrato on long notes served only to imitate what the voice does naturally and therefore was highly desirable…. While we would not wish to imitate their overwhelming volume, our performances would benefit from a fuller tone, which becomes possible once strings are permitted a vibrato that imitates the beauty of the singing voice.”

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