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Subject: Re: orchestration and tuning (diapason)
From: Max Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 21 Jun 2017 07:04:50 -0700
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To Bob's point, there's an anecdote about Jussi Bjoerling deciding to transpose an aria down for a concert. His accompanist, hearing that he seemed in particularly good voice for the previous selections, assumed he should revert to the original key. The high note didn't come out well and Bjoerling was furious because even if the note would be comfortably in his range, he would adopt a different position if he knew he was singing, say, a C than he would for a B.

Birgit Nilsson claimed to have a very difficult time adjusting between Vienna and the Met. She also claimed that the higher tuning in Vienna made Lady Macbeth's ppp D-flat difficult for her, which gave her no problems in other houses.

Aside from pitch (although possibly also related to pitch), I wonder how much louder orchestras might be today compared to the time in which many of these works were performed. 

Max Paley

Sent from my iPad

> On Jun 21, 2017, at 05:42, Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Allow me to disagree. A half step is a sizable gap and
> for many singers it would make the difference between comfort
> and discomfort. It also lowers the basic tessitura from top to
> bottom. How many singers, especially tenors, have transposed
> arias a half tone over the centuries - Che gelida manina. Salut
> demeure, the Pira and... They would not have to, or would they?
> We have no idea, I guess, how slow that transition was. For
> instance, would Puccini have written Che gelida manina in
> a key that would reflect a top D flat, had Handel's tuning fork been
> the standard when he wrote La Boheme. We keep talking about
> how standard transpositions distort the composer's intentions.
> Well?
> 
> Bob
> 
> On Wednesday, June 21, 2017, Bob Kosovsky <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
>>> 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:  http://www.nypl.org/blog/author/44   Twitter: @kos2
>>   Listowner: OPERA-L ; SMT-ANNOUNCE ; SoundForge-users
>> --- My opinions do not necessarily represent those of my institutions ---
>> 
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