Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Introduction to the Art of Singing by Johann Friedrich Agricola

Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Introduction to the Art of Singing by Johann Friedrich Agricola

Article excerpt

Introduction to the Art of Singing by Johann Friedrich Agricola. Edited and translated by Julianne C. Baird. Cambridge Musical Texts and Monographs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. x, 298 pp. ISBN 0-521-45428X (hardcover).

Johann Friedrich Agricola, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Joachim Quantz were all employed as musicians at the Court of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia (1740-1786). During the 175Os, each of these illustrious composers and performers produced an important treatise on the performance of music. Quantz's Versuch einer Anweisung die Flote traversiere zu spielen (On Playing the Flute, 1752) and C. P. E. Bach's Versuch uberdie wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, 1759) are well known and frequently cited by scholars. They are also used by performers of music as reliable guides to the interpretation of ornaments, the improvisation of cadenzas, and many other things, such as tempo. Both treatises offer musicians .in general much useful advice about style in the eighteenth century. William Mitchell's translation of Bach's Versuch appeared in 1949, and Edward Reilly's translation of Quantz's Versuch appeared in 1966. Agricola's treatise, the Anleitung zur Singkunst (1757) has now been translated into English by Dr. Julianne Baird. Her fine translation will encourage singers to further investigate the proper performance of eighteenth-century vocal music. Baird's translation is accompanied by a scholarly preface, and by a thought-provoking commentary. The commentary is presented in endnotes so as not to encumber Agricola's text. In her notes Baird identifies the performers and composers mentioned in the treatise, and she explains and elucidates difficult passages in an admirably clear manner. Her command of the German language, and her sensitivity to shades of meaning make this translation a pleasure to read. In addition, Baird's international reputation as a performer gives the translation and commentary an added lustre, for she is explaining matters in which she is a recognised authority. …

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