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Subject: Re: orchestration and tuning (diapason)
From: Bob Kosovsky <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Bob Kosovsky <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:17:47 -0400

text/plain (45 lines)

> Is a high C TODAY identical in pitch to what a high C was, say,
> during the age of Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini???

The answer need context.

One major piece of evidence we have is one of Handel's tuning forks.  That
fork measures out as A=411, whereas today A=440.  By today's standard, the
next lower pitch (A flat) is 415, so, if Handel's fork from 300 years ago
is truly accurate and has not deviated in pitch in 300 years, then yes, in
Handel's time pitch was about a half-step lower than it is today.

During the 19th century it was known that pitch varied from location to
location.  Some places were around A=430; some where A=440, and some were
even higher.  These differences are so small that I would bet only some
very well-trained musicians can accurately detect them purely through
listening.  To the general public is may sound more or less brilliant (one
of the European orchestras today tunes to A=446 to maintain that
brilliance of sound).

To some singers any little deviation in pitch may or may not be noticeable
(remember the story of Richard Bonynge and Joan Sutherland who kept
practicing in higher keys because she couldn't detect the difference).

So yes, there is a very slight difference, but in no way is a high C so
much higher today than it was in the 19th century.

Bob Kosovsky, Ph.D. -- Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts,
Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
blog:   Twitter: @kos2
   Listowner: OPERA-L ; SMT-ANNOUNCE ; SoundForge-users
--- My opinions do not necessarily represent those of my institutions ---

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