Treatise on Vocal Performance and Ornamentation

By Suzanne J. Beicken; Johann Adam Hiller | Go to book overview
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On good performance, with regard to the
various genres of vocal forms and in
consideration of performing in various places


The reader should not expect that all genres of vocal pieces both large and small will be listed here. It is not necessary to give them the same amount of attention, as they are not all equally important. A song or an Ariette, performed at the piano amongst good friends, does not require the kind of attention which must be devoted to the performance of a grand aria sung in public. It is our aim here to discuss only those vocal pieces with which a singer, at certain times and in different places, performs as a true artist.


There are occasions when a singer has to sightread. In this case, the same precision and subtlety which is expected of a singer who has had the time to prepare cannot be taken for granted. The unrehearsed singer achieves enough if, in addition to singing in pitch and at the right tempo, he does not completely deprive the audience of the essential beauty of the music. Our German virtuosi have an advantage over the Italians in sightsinging. The reason for this may be that they take the trouble to learn some instrument in addition to singing. Moreover, in most of our schools, the so-called choir singers have to sing so much that there is not always enough time left for adequate preparation. Those who are more skillful pull the weaker ones along with them; and although they do not become the greatest singers this way, it helps them to the extent that they are not frightened by a sheet of music which they see for the first time. To be sure, good solid choir singers are produced this way, and this is what the education of our schools achieves. But this training does little for the education of good soloists.


The church, the chamber, and the theater are the places where a singer appears.1 Each place requires special consideration from the singer. The size as

Hiller mentions one of the most basic divisions of eighteenth-century musical style, determined by the location. A discussion of these categories can be found in Meinrad Spiess, Tractatus Musicus Compositorio-practicus (Augsburg, 1746): “De Stylo Ecclesiastico, “De Stylo Cammerali [sic], and “De Stylo Theatrali. See Leonard Ratner, Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style (New York: Schirmer Books, 1980), p. 7. Hiller himself, in the Anweisung zum musikalisch-richtigen Gesange in §§8 and 9 of the Appendix, gives a brief discussion of these categories and refers the reader to Johann Gottfried Walther, Musikalisches Lexicon, oder musikalische Bibliothek (Leipzig: W. Peer, 1732), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Dictionnaire de musique (Paris: Chez la Veuve Duchesne, Libraire, rue S. Jacques, au Temple du Goût, 1768).


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