What's written v. what gets played

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robcat2075
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What's written v. what gets played

Post by robcat2075 »

On the Cello forum someone has noted some differences between what was written in Symphonie Fantastique and what orchestras typically play, some of which are substantial.

Symphonie Fantastique

(The "David Sanders" in the comments is a retired Chicago Symphony player.)

I'm surprised by these. I've never been in an ensemble where simplifying the rhythms was an option but... I've mostly just played the usual war horses in orchestras.

Are there cases like this in trombone-dom where everyone knows you don't play what's written?
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by JohnL »

There's some "traditional" tacets that are normally done in certain Sousa marches that aren't noted in the original editions (they are usually noted to a greater or less extent in modern editions).

I know that, when faced with offbeats in circus screamers and gallops, horn players will often just play straight eighth notes and accent the offbeats.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 »

There are many pieces in classical music that are "traditionally" played different than what is written on the page. For me, the most obvious example that comes to my mind is the slight anticipation of beat two in all of the Viennese waltzes.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Burgerbob »

I think an obvious one is the way many sustains or phrases are played. Plenty are impossible to play for the full length, so breaths are snuck in where possible, or notes are left out.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by CalgaryTbone »

Sometimes in Italian opera, the orchestra is asked to double dot the dotted eighths/sixteenths. Also in the same repertoire when there are dotted figures at the same times as triplets, some conductors prefer the dotted note to either fit with the last triplet note, or to be twice as fast (like a group of 6). Others like it to be exactly as written. Some conductors add the high "D" entrance note that is in the 2nd trumpet to the alto trombone part (one note before the written entrance on the high C#) in the fugue of the Beethoven 9th, and also some like to have the alto trombone finish that fugue on the high D rather than awkwardly jumping down to a D in the staff form the previous high C#. There are lots of instances (Tchaikovsky comes to mind) where the brass (sometimes the full orchestra) are often asked to drop the volume significantly and crescendo through a passage, rather than playing a full fortissimo throughout.

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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Kbiggs »

There are many excerpts that are played differently than what is written. Often it’s a matter of style. My take: sometimes it’s just easier to play the passage differently than what is written, sometimes it sounds better (to the audience) when the rhythm/phrasing/dynamics are altered, and sometimes it’s just tradition. And of course, sometimes it’s just up to the conductor, in which case you never know how it should be played!
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by baileyman »

Well, in big band and commercial you must know the style and overlay that on the notes.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by 2bobone »

The best example I know is in Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique" in the last movement, 45 measures from the end where the tubas play straight eight notes in a 6/8 rhythm while the horns, trumpets and trombones interject single eighth notes on every beat, but alternating throughout the sections. It is like 3 units of 2/8 superimposed over each 6/8 bar while the 6/8 bar is interpreted as two units of 3 eight notes each. It's very difficult to explain. I don't have a single recording [of which I have many] in which it is properly played and have only participated in one performance in which it was properly executed under the direction of Antal Dorati. You simply can't listen ensemble-wise to what is going on around you. If you've ever read Berlioz' "Evenings With The Orchestra", you simply can't shake the idea that Berlioz was having some fun with his orchestral colleagues by tossing in this "tank trap" that was designed to interrupt their complacency. Dorati made a very funny description of a preceding passage about 35 measures earlier than the section I described where the strings are playing "col Legno". He referred to the col legno passage as where "The Big Witch pisses on The Little Witch" ! All those years ago and I still can't get it out of my head ! :lol:
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by LeTromboniste »

2bobone wrote: Thu Jun 16, 2022 2:26 pm The best example I know is in Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique" in the last movement, 45 measures from the end where the tubas play straight eight notes in a 6/8 rhythm while the horns, trumpets and trombones interject single eighth notes on every beat, but alternating throughout the sections. It is like 3 units of 2/8 superimposed over each 6/8 bar while the 6/8 bar is interpreted as two units of 3 eight notes each. It's very difficult to explain. I don't have a single recording [of which I have many] in which it is properly played and have only participated in one performance in which it was properly executed under the direction of Antal Dorati. You simply can't listen ensemble-wise to what is going on around you. If you've ever read Berlioz' "Evenings With The Orchestra", you simply can't shake the idea that Berlioz was having some fun with his orchestral colleagues by tossing in this "tank trap" that was designed to interrupt their complacency. Dorati made a very funny description of a preceding passage about 35 measures earlier than the section I described where the strings are playing "col Legno". He referred to the col legno passage as where "The Big Witch pisses on The Little Witch" ! All those years ago and I still can't get it out of my head ! :lol:
The passage I think you're referring to has the winds playing 3 against 2 to the bar, while the strings play the same rhythm but offset by an 8th note. I think I haven't heard it where the orchestra succeeds in maintaining that rhythm through the passage and not having everybody lining up at the end, but I don't think it's so much an interpretative choice as it is extremely difficult to achieve (especially in concert).
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by brassmedic »

Can't think of any part played deliberately different than what's written right now, but here's one that's often played incorrectly.
Screenshot_20220618-015224_Chrome.jpg
It's clearly written as a triplet containing three 8th notes, the entrance being on the and of the second eighth note. But it often gets played as though there were an individual triplet on the third eighth note, so all 3 of those notes on the 3rd beat of the triplet. This is partly due to another edition where it's less clearly marked that the triplet applies to the entire three 8th note figure. But still, if you look at the note and rest values, it's clear what is written. I've been in situations where half the orchestra is playing it one way and the other half playing it a different way, and the conductor appearing not to notice.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by LeTromboniste »

brassmedic wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:05 am Can't think of any part played deliberately different than what's written right now, but here's one that's often played incorrectly. Screenshot_20220618-015224_Chrome.jpg
It's clearly written as a triplet containing three 8th notes, the entrance being on the and of the second eighth note. But it often gets played as though there were an individual triplet on the third eighth note, so all 3 of those notes on the 3rd beat of the triplet. This is partly due to another edition where it's less clearly marked that the triplet applies to the entire three 8th note figure. But still, if you look at the note and rest values, it's clear what is written. I've been in situations where half the orchestra is playing it one way and the other half playing it a different way, and the conductor appearing not to notice.
Yes! I wanted to post the exact same excerpt! Big pet peeve... I once had a very animated discussion with a colleague who insisted that the notation corresponded to the way it's almost always (erroneously) played, and resorted to the argument "listen to any recording, that's the way it's played"...
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by baileyman »

Even with everyone on the same interpretation page, you'd need a heckova band to play that.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by BGuttman »

baileyman wrote: Mon Jun 20, 2022 6:17 am Even with everyone on the same interpretation page, you'd need a heckova band to play that.
It's the overture to Verdi's "La Forza Del Destino". I've heard it butchered many times (and done so myself :tongue: ).

Sometimes the conductor will choose the misinterpretation of the notes so it's not always the musicians' fault.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Kbiggs »

BGuttman wrote: Mon Jun 20, 2022 6:30 am
baileyman wrote: Mon Jun 20, 2022 6:17 am Even with everyone on the same interpretation page, you'd need a heckova band to play that.
It's the overture to Verdi's "La Forza Del Destino". I've heard it butchered many times (and done so myself :tongue: ).

Sometimes the conductor will choose the misinterpretation of the notes so it's not always the musicians' fault.
I’ve played it couple of times with different community orchestras. One time was particularly memorable. When the conductor stopped at a rehearsal letter, one of the cellists asked the conductor, “How should it be played?” Discussion ensues, with lots of contributions. In the end, the conductor says, “Just play it how you’ve been playing it. It’ll be fine.” Ugh.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by brassmedic »

Hmmm... I'm not seeing the image anymore in my earlier post. Here's the edition of La Forza that's more ambiguous, as the triplet isn't marked with a bracket. Even so, the group of 3 notes cannot possibly be its own triplet, because you would end up with not enough beats in the measure.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by BGuttman »

I see your earlier image. I suspect quite a few of us do also. Regardless, your point is well made.

Note that sometimes conductors take major liberties with the written score. This is their prerogative. Whether you like it or not goes on the conductor's head. Our job as musicians is to try to present the music as the composer and the conductor have desired. If there is no conductor, it falls on us to interpret the music.

Often in Jazz, the musicians take large liberties with the written music; even when not ad libbing. Sometimes a piece is written in a style that is pretty old fashioned, and the players try to modernize it. Listen to a classic rendition of Stephen Fosters "Swanee River" (Old Folks at Home) and the Glenn Miller Band version. Even more blatant, look at Rogers and Hart's "Blue Moon" and then the rock version done by the Marcels.

Note that in classical performance, we try to keep to the score, while in Jazz/Rock/Pop we may change it up to fit a style.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by brassmedic »

Here's another one: The Rex Tremendae in the Mozart Requiem. The only thing you know going into the gig is that the choir will either double dot the dotted eight/ sixteenth note rhythm, sing it as written, or do something in between the two, if they're even agreeing amongst themselves. If you're lucky, the conductor might actually say something about it. If not, a good orchestra will listen and try to match what the choir is doing. A not so good orchestra, well...
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Matt K »

I remember playing La Forza when I was maybe 14 in a local orchestra. I'm pretty sure I didn't play it consistently with myself, let alone with anyone else :lol:
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by baileyman »

One the radio yesterday I was listening to Bizet's "First" Symphony (which is the same as his last), first movement, which has a very interesting lilting almost swinging rhythmic figure, something like eighth eighth quarter, and it seems to get displaced from beat one to beat two or even beat four-and. This is by no means a difficult figure to note or to play. But this top quality band couldn't do it. Different sections would take the lead and others the accompaniment, and there was almost always a difference in time. A sixteenth one way or the other. What could have been a spectacularly good feeling dance number instead became a kind of hand wavy sort of swaying happy soundy thing.

For the original piece in question, the old idea to make sure a piece can actually be played pertains.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by StefanHaller »

Funny coincidence about the "Forza del destino" passage: it was decided just yesterday that we're playing this in our next community orchestra program, so I watched a number of recordings today (before seeing this thread). I saw at least two where the trombone player didn't play the passage at all (in one recording he entered together with the tuba in the third bar before D). And doesn't that make a lot of sense when you don't have valve trombones? Any thoughts on that?
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Kbiggs »

Different editions/arrangements, different publishers, different printers, different copyists. Choices and mistakes can be introduced anywhere in the process.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by CalgaryTbone »

There are a couple of different editions of La Forza... - in one, the whole section plays the passage, but there are some extended rests within it. In the other, the 1st trombone plays the whole passage alone, and the tuba (or cimbasso) joins near the end of that section, down an octave.

It's not an easy lick, but it's playable on slide trombone (best with an F attachment). The biggest difficulty is the lack of good breathing spots, and that would be just as troublesome on a valve trombone. You have to break some of the slurs to breathe.

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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by StefanHaller »

Thanks for the input; I'll give my best then. :-) I agree that it doesn't look unplayable; couldn't try it yet as I'm still down with Covid.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by StefanHaller »

Back to the topic of "What's written v. what gets played": one example that you almost never hear played as written is the horn motif at the beginning of Till Eulenspiegel (ok, not trombone, but brass tubing at least). It's almost always played as if it starts on the downbeat, with the first two G-sharps one eighth note too short. Worst is the Karajan recording, but most others play it the same way.

The only recording I have heard so far that comes close to how it's written is City of Birmingham with Andris Nelsons.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Finetales »

Last movement of Pines of Rome. Many orchestras play the dotted 8th-16th rhythms as double dotted 8th-32nds. I think it's more rare to hear it played as written. Last time I performed it we had to make a deliberate choice which way to do it.

On a related note, some of the rhythms in the big Fountains of Rome excerpt are almost always played incorrectly, with the 16th note-dotted 8ths on the downbeat almost always pushed a 16th note too soon so that the longer note lands on the downbeat. I don't know if I've ever heard a recording where it was played correctly.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 »

CalgaryTbone wrote: Tue Jun 28, 2022 10:28 am There are a couple of different editions of La Forza... - in one, the whole section plays the passage, but there are some extended rests within it. In the other, the 1st trombone plays the whole passage alone, and the tuba (or cimbasso) joins near the end of that section, down an octave.

It's not an easy lick, but it's playable on slide trombone (best with an F attachment). The biggest difficulty is the lack of good breathing spots, and that would be just as troublesome on a valve trombone. You have to break some of the slurs to breathe.

Jim Scott
Hmm? I have never seen an edition of La Forza that had only one trombone play the famous excerpt…..in orchestra or band. That’s interesting.

I agree that La Forza is a tricky excerpt. The breathing is definitely part of it. Every time I have performed it, achieving the proper “lilt” is the biggest issue. Many trombonists emphasize the three pick-up notes on the repetitive pattern too much. It gives it a very weird feel. I like to discuss and sing the “lilt” with colleagues so that we can create a musical phrase that flows better.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 »

brassmedic wrote: Tue Jun 21, 2022 9:31 am Hmmm... I'm not seeing the image anymore in my earlier post. Here's the edition of La Forza that's more ambiguous, as the triplet isn't marked with a bracket. Even so, the group of 3 notes cannot possibly be its own triplet, because you would end up with not enough beats in the measure.
The triplet refers to the first half of the measure and not the three 16 notes. Very good point. This is an edition of La Forza that I have never seen before.
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Re: What's written v. what gets played

Post by StefanHaller »

Crazy4Tbone86 wrote: Thu Jun 30, 2022 7:09 am Hmm? I have never seen an edition of La Forza that had only one trombone play the famous excerpt…..in orchestra or band. That’s interesting.
The Ricordi edition that is on IMSLP is like this. I would have assumed that everybody plays from that one. :-)

(Well, community orchestras certainly do.)
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