Early vibrato was one aspect of a vastly different sound world


A response to Beverly Jerold’s article 'Did early string players use continuous vibrato?' by Kevin Class

The February 20, 2015 reprinting of Beverly Jerold’s article, entitled Did early string players use continuous vibrato? does a very fine job at asserting an aspect of violin performance by making good use of a variety of sources including the writings and treatises of Johann Reichardt, Leopold Mozart, Geminiani and Quantz. However, the article seems to want to serve a particular justification in informing the way we perform this music today while failing to account for a number of overriding factors, both period and contemporary. While the citations and quotes from period sources are accurate, it can be very misleading to contemporary musicians and modern aesthetics who might wish to use this information to forward a misconception of the use and color of vibrato itself.

In performing literature on modern instruments, one must always be aware that compromises and modifications must be made in view of differences between today’s instruments and their predecessors. Jerold’s article makes no attempt to account for the fact that period bows, strings and length of fingerboards were very different than those in common usage today, and that these elements change the quality of sound and texture in highly significant ways. Without acknowledging fundamentally different sounds to which 18th century ears were accustomed, any suggestion about performance practice runs the risk of becoming misguided...

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