This is the viola part from Stravinsky "Pulcinella" Suite, movement 3a "Scherzino".

Rehearsal mark 29, first four measures

How should the harmonics (diamond notes written on open string places) sound? Norman del Mar, "Anatomy of the Orchestra", says that Ravel writes this intending the sound to be 2 octaves higher, but does not mention Stravinsky. The unknown person who wrote the piano reduction of the score interpreted them as 1 octave higher.

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    That's strange. Harmonics notation usually indicates the "note" where the finger is put (not the resulting sound). While the first two pairs can be done (G/D) and will sound at an octave higher, the lower note of the other two doesn't make a lot of sense: that C is the lowest open string, which obviously cannot be used for harmonics. Where is that taken from? In the parts I found on IMSLP they're not harmonics. – musicamante Mar 17 at 0:16
  • @musicamante, unfortunately there is no "usually" about harmonic notation. There are many different notations, probably the fault of composers not talking to performers enough. Hence my question. Norman del Mar's book which I mentioned has a number of truly horrible examples. – David Mar 17 at 2:05
  • If composers don't have clear ideas about that, that's another story: I'm a percussionist, and I've seen composers writing the most terrifying things, even for simple and well known instruments. I asked my girlfriend, who is a professional violist, and she confirmed that that writing is just wrong, at least for the lower C. It is possible that that notation indicates some other intention or technique (alla corda?), probably specified in the introduction of the score, otherwise it's just an assumption that only the copist made. – musicamante Mar 17 at 2:15
  • I wish it were wrong and that all composers wrote harmonics consistently. Unfortunately that really doesn't help because at some stage the performers have to decide what to do. The question is not "right or wrong", it is "what did Stravinsky intend here?" – David Mar 17 at 2:18
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    Don't be so surprised: there's plenty of scores that have unconventional (or just wrong) markings, that's also a reason for historical-critical editions. It's not uncommon to find these problems especially in music from late XIXth century and the first half of the XXth: they were using new playing techniques (or instruments) that had no established standard yet, hand written parts were much more common, and copists didn't always know what they were doing in these cases (I know harmonics are not that "new", but that's not the point). In situations like this, one of the following happens: – musicamante Mar 17 at 2:56

What I'm curious about is that the sound being two octaves up means it should be notated (at least, with the notation I've most commonly seen albeit as a cellist) like this:Played notation and sounding notation; played notation has open diamond noteheads one fourth (!) above normal noteheads

At least, unless a chord is intended, which wouldn't make a lot of sense considering it would imply a fingered open C string.

My opinion is subjective, since all we have to go on is notationally ambiguous; this is how I'd play it if I had to. Not an easy choice, though!

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    The main issue is that sometimes composers do not use "correct" or "textbook" notation, and we need to figure out to the best of our ability what they meant. – David Apr 20 at 3:36

The diamond note heads seem to be incorrect.

The viola parts on IMSLP (the 1924 French manuscript) are notated martelé, but with regular note heads.

"Pulcinella Suite" viola, rehearsal 29, 3 measures

Listening to recordings of both the suite and the ballet suggest the same: martelé, but not harmonics. (However, the bowing technique, to my ear, does produce a sound that might be confused with harmonics.)

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    I have that part and am not sure I believe it. There is no score on IMSLP, which suggests that this is an unauthorised hand copy. It's easy to believe that the "normal" notes were copied by mistake for diamonds, a bit hard to believe that it could have been the other way around. – David Mar 17 at 2:10
  • Thanks for posting the recordings. To my ears, no way the recordings sound like the written "normal" notes (going down to an octave below middle C). I think it's 2 octaves up, though maybe just 1. This is easier to hear a few bars before the bit I posted, when it's one viola instead of the whole section. – David Mar 17 at 2:14

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