Tips from The Strad’s archive on the use of vibrato, bow strokes and rhythmic hierarchy

A Baroque bow tells you how to play, because this music was written for one. If I try to play Bach with a modern bow now, it’s very hard – almost unplayable.

My advice to students now is to try and play with a Baroque bow and to learn from it – and you should also listen with an open mind to good musicians and period-instrument groups and how they play this music.

Viktoria Mullova, The Strad, July 2013

Bach Cellini

Geminiani considered vibrato (‘close shake’) to be an ornament. He associated it with affective performance, which may express majesty and dignity as well as affliction and fear.

His recommendation to use vibrato ‘as often as possible’, not least because it can make the sounds of short notes ‘more agreeable’, is contrary to the sparing use advocated by his contemporaries and has been interpreted by many as cart blanche for the adoption of a ‘modern’ continuous vibrato.

Robin Stowell, The Strad, September 2012

There’s often a misunderstanding in Baroque music that it should be played without vibrato. But that’s only half the truth. Leopold Mozart writes that vibrato is like a tremolo, and he compares it to a church bell – if you hit a bell, there’s a clear sound at the beginning, then shortly afterwards you have an oscillation, a ringing, which is basically a kind of vibrato. He says that you should try and translate this natural effect on to your instrument.