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Posted by: glauber
Posted on: Apr 16th, 2004, 4:53pm
I'm a traverso (flute) player. In Baroque flute circles, it's considered bad taste to play in modern A=440 pitch (even though everybody does it anyway!). A=415 is the norm, and if you're really cool , you'll want to be playing in A=390 or something in-between.
How's it with recorders? I rarely see the pitch advertised in instruments for sale. Do you play mostly in modern pitch?
Posted by: berto
Posted on: Apr 20th, 2004, 2:30pm
Well, we amateur recorder players play mostly in modern (A=440) pitch. (All of my dozen or so recorders are pitched that way.) Imagine the cacophony at a recorder society meeting if we didn't!
Posted by: glauber
Posted on: Apr 20th, 2004, 3:38pm
Well, count your blessings!
Posted by: MasquedPhoenix1
Posted on: Aug 4th, 2004, 11:11am
Yeah, most recorders are at A=440 unless otherwise noted. At low pitch, you're likely to mostly find altos and sopranos (the more common solo instruments). I've seen a few tenors at A=415, but can't recall seeing any basses at low pitch, though I'm sure someone must make one. I do have an old alto recorder at home at A=442.
I've often wondered about the Baroque musicians' unbending devotion to low pitch. This comes mostly from the string players, I've no doubt. The odd thing is that modern string players tend to like a slightly higer A so they can project better. The Chicago Symphony has favored the 442 A. Now, I do play viol and I do like the sound resonance you get when the strings are a bit looser. But there is no reason modern string makers can't make a string to play at 440 with a lower tension. Modern stringed instrument strings are available in a wide range of tensions to accomodate players' tastes. There is some availability of different tensions for early strings, but it is in the more expensive end products. Still, if we could get the Baroque string players to play on low-tension strings tuned to 440, then none of us wind players would ever be asked to buy a whole second set of instruments! Besides, I've been dubious about the evidence that's usually presented to back up the low pitch standard. I really believe that pitch standards varied all over the place- check out the old flutes with 4 or 5 interchangable bodies so a player could adjust to the pitch of the ensemble he was playing in at the moment. Also, one of the tuning instructions given before a set of English viol divisions in tablature recommends "tuning the top string as high as possible without breaking it"- hardly evidence of a low pitch standard. Even if you did have a woodwind instrument that survived since that era, I would question its pitch accuracy. The longer a wooden instrument sits, the drier the wood gets. Dry wood contracts, the bore gets slighty larger, the pitch is lower. So what can we prove? Organs may be the best indicators as they have often been in constant use. But how many have been re-tuned?
The real upshot for me is that if you want to play with others, play at the modern pitch standard and there'll be a lot more people that you can play with. I've invited viol players to play with our large recorder groups in town and have often hear the "I don't want to tune up" excuse. So you'd rather lose out on the joy of making music together rather than compromise your pitch standard? No wonder people sometimes think classical/early musicians are snobbish! Why criticize a fellow musician for being in "bad taste" if they choose to play at modern pitch? Are you really that cool if you play at some really bizarre pitch like 390 which pretty much guarantees most other people won't be able to make music with you? And if you do hold to those pitch standards, is it truly because you are "well educated as to true performance practice" or is it because you have seen a few bits of evidence to back up your position and decided that these must be enough to draw the conclusion that that must have been how everyone was doing it?
Or maybe it's just a huge conspiracy between the makers of early wind instruments to kick up sales.
The real question may be this- does it make any difference to the audience? Does it bring more people into our concerts? Does it make more people buy our recordings?
I'll bet you can guess my answer to that.
So, glauber, I am sorry that you are forced to suffer "pitch-elitism" as a flute player. But if you do have a 440 horn, you are most welcome to come and play with the recorder players- we do an awful lot of playing and cover a huge amount of repertoire. Unless, of course, you believe we are a bunch of "A=440 elitists"!
Posted by: Labattaille
Posted on: Aug 4th, 2004, 12:51pm
Hanging out on the fringes of many Baroque recorder virtuoso circles, there does seem to be a strange sort of fixation on playing on A=415 altos. I suppose it's mainly for the sake of authenticity. It can be really confusing and frustrating though, when a group of amateur recorder players at a master class have a lot of issues coping with who gets to play first, because the harpsichord is set at A=415 that day, and many of the players only have A=440 altos. It's funny how, we A=440 recorder people almost get looked down on because of our lack of "authentic instruments". Many serious recorder players who want to play a lot of Baroque music just accept A=415 as the norm.
I've gotten a lot of pressure to get an A=415 alto from a few people in the "recorder business", but a nice, lower pitch rarely equals a lower price. That's another problem, but there's somewhat more security in buying an A=415 recorder, since recorders made at that pitch are usually meant for serious recorder players who want to delve into the solo repertoire, and not unenthusiastic grade schoolers, for example.
Still, I have wondered how odd an experience it would be to solo with an orchestra on an A=415 instrument. It certainly has been done by professional players with experienced, tight Baroque orchestras. If you’re playing with a less experienced orchestra that’s not used to playing Baroque literature with Baroque tuning (which they ought to fix ), the experience might not be so pleasant.