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In the recording it sounds like the chords are simply tied... I've been playing piano for 20 years and this seemingly simple question is escaping me. Any help would be appreciated!

The piece is "Caprice in E-Flat" for Piano/Violin by Wieniawski (Kreisler arr.) (from Wieniawski's L'Ecole Moderne, Op. 10, No. 5 "Alla Saltarella").

measures 8–10

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The chords in question should be fully tied — no repeated notes.

Although the notation is ambiguous, the music demands ties. The tied chords occur at the ends of musical gestures, and a repeated chord in the piano would interfere with the violin. The editor's reasoning for tie-ing only the top and bottom notes seems to have been (an attempt) to clarify them against the violin part, rather than writing them as dotted quarter notes.

The first and second endings (m. 12), where the violin itself plays a dotted quarter, the piano part also contains a dotted quarter.

First and second endings

Elsewhere in the piece, the chords are tied as expected. For example, measure 24:

Measure 24

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  • 3
    Bit off a lame excuse for the editor - who could have done better.
    – Tim
    Jul 31 at 19:42
  • Hey this makes sense! Glad to know I'm not crazy for wondering... I naturally tied them but then gave it some more thought and was like... 'should I actually be tying these based on the engraving..?" I saw that elsewhere in the piece, chords were tied as expected, which made it all the more confusing. Thanks for your insight! Jul 31 at 20:14
  • Any explanation for why the first example's notes have only the bottom notes tied, then? It doesn't even look like shorthand for tying all notes in the chord at that point.
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 2 at 12:28
  • @Dekkadeci In both examples, the ties are placed opposite the stems. The whole thing seems very weird to me, but that seems to be the guiding convention. (Also the ties are outside the staff, so less visual interference.)
    – Aaron
    Aug 2 at 16:29
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The strict interpretation of this notation is top note tied over, repeat the other two.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn the composer's intention was something else though!

And it could just be sloppy engraving.

More information would help. What's the piece?

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There are some typesetting conventions and inconsistencies involved here revolving around the difference of slurs and ties. A slur indicates that there is no separate release of the preceding note (when the note pitch is not continued, the release coincides or even overlaps with the coming attack), a tie indicates that the release is postponed and no new attack is given, prolonging the preceding note value.

Slurs are conceptionally from note column to note column, ties are from note head to note head. So one typically gets one slur per voice, with voices usually recognised by having their notes connected by a single stem. The ends of this slur may start from above/below the top/bottom note head and may even encompass the stem. Sometimes for chords double slurs are used, namely one at the top and one at the bottom of the note column.

The chords you are asking about apparently use that convention. However, it is rather clear from the musical content that here not slurs but rather ties are intended. In that case conventions call for one tie each from every note head on the left to the corresponding note head on the right.

This kind of typesetting error resulting from the confusion of ties and slurs is comparatively common with the output of typesetting programs where the editor entering the music does not understand the difference and does not use the program's facilities for specifying either.

I am not sure this is the case here, but as a player I'd clearly interpret this as tied chords even though it is notated as slurred chords (ties tend to be flatter and more to the side of the note heads they correspond to).

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  • I suspect the confusion between ties and slurs probably stems from instruments where they would usually mean the same thing, which in turn results in the musical meaning varying depending upon what instrument one is using. On violin, for example, if a slur connects a double-stop containing d' and b' to one containing d' and c'', the d' should sound like a continuous note, but because the same bow is used to produce both notes simultaneously, all notes in a double stop must have the same notated duration, making a tie inappropriate. A keyboard performance of that same piece...
    – supercat
    Aug 1 at 19:45
  • ...should likely hold the first d through the duration of the second double-stop (meaning a part which is printed for keyboard should use a tie for that note rather than a slur between two double stops), but a keyboardist reading from a violin part should interpret the slur as connecting any notes that don't change pitch.
    – supercat
    Aug 1 at 19:48
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There's little point, in 2/4, to not make those note clusters dotted crotchets. That would clear it up nicely. Then we wouldn't need a question about them!

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  • 5
    The reason they're not written that way is to align the piano and solo scores. Very important for an accompanist.
    – Aaron
    Jul 31 at 17:31
  • 2
    @Aaron - I don't agree. It's not a complicated arrangement, and any decent accompanist could follow with my suggestion.
    – Tim
    Jul 31 at 18:34

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