Musical Ornaments – Those For and Those Against. Everyone has opinions about the necessity of ornaments in music. I suppose the same could apply to the use of ornaments in fashion. At this point I venture a prediction: The use of set ornaments in music and in dress will return quite strongly. Richard Wagner commented on ornaments. He would tell musicians: “Pay attention to the small notes…The large ones will take care of themselves.”
Nature of Musical Ornaments
Why, at one time, were ornaments belittled? Some thought they were only needed because of weaker harpsichord sounds. The modern piano, they thought, did not need reinforcement. Among those who held this opinion were Marmoutel, Le Couppey and Méreaux. Yet, both the voice and violin had rich ornamentation. They had the same volume in the past as they have today.
C.P.E. Bach wrote a definitive manual playing keyboard instruments. While in Berlin, C.P.E. wrote, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments). “Both Haydn and Beethoven swore by it.” By 1780, the book was in its third edition. It laid the foundation for the keyboard methods of Clementi and Cramer.Bach presented his thoughts on the virtue of ornaments in his treatise. He believed that without ornamentation the best melody becomes empty and dull.
- He comments on how most composers use them profusely.
- On how they can connect notes.
- Ornaments can enliven music.
- They attach particular stress and importance to the notes they adorn.
- They make musical meaning clear: They can emphasize either sad or happy qualities.
- Ornaments can actually improve a mediocre composition.