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I am singing Messe de Minuit pour Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier and stumbled on some notation unknown to me. There are quite a few mordents in the piece and some of them are denoted with a preceding dot, like in the tenor voice in the image below.

score sample with a mordent symbol preceded by a dot

What does this mean? I am obviously supposed to do something differently from the normal mordents (which are also present, like in the alto and bass voices in the image), but I could not find any reference to this notation online.

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  • It must probably be an error in the edition of the sheet (i.e a misplaced staccato), caused by the software or accidentally by the creator. Dec 30, 2023 at 18:03
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    @schrodingerscatcuriosity Unlikely. The dot is not in the position of a staccato and the score seems otherwise flawless. There is not a single staccato in the whole piece. Unless you have some reference of this notation appearing elsewhere as a result of such an error, I find it much more likely that it is a notation specific to the era and region of the piece (or a modern representation of such).
    – schtandard
    Dec 30, 2023 at 19:32
  • Indeed, you are right, found some manuscripts with that same notation, and the answer below explains it. The lack of reference made me think that, given that transcriptions and edition software errors can occur, and that then can be replicated, it was a strong possibility. But the original scores can't lie. Dec 30, 2023 at 20:09
  • These are trills, not mordents.
    – phoog
    Dec 30, 2023 at 20:50
  • @phoog- well, the sign certainly means upper mordant - trills will have 'tr' above - sometimes with a wavy line, but longer than the mordant sign.
    – Tim
    Dec 31, 2023 at 11:56

1 Answer 1

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In the introductory notes to a critical edition of Charpentier's Élévation au St Sacrement, C. Jane Gosine writes (emphasis added):

With no extant ornament tables by Charpentier, nor explanations of ornamentation, interpreting Charpentier’s ornamentation remains somewhat conjectural. Charpentier uses two ornament symbols in “O amantissime salvator noster Jesu dulcis”: the tremblement simple (which is the most commonly found ornament symbol found in Charpentier’s autograph manuscripts) and a tremblement symbol preceded by a dot. Although in many instances within the Meslanges autographs, Charpentier writes out a termination for the tremblement (and this is even more common where Charpentier uses the double tremblement sign), there are no such instances in this motet. Evidence found elsewhere in the manuscript and comparisons with contemporary French composers suggest that the tremblement was usually approached from above.

The second ornament appears to be similar to that used by D’Anglebert and described as a tremblement appuyé––a tremblement with a preparation on the given main note. In some instances elsewhere in the Meslanges autographes the dot is written over a half note tied to another half note of the same pitch, over which is written the tremblement. In this motet the dot and tremblement occur over long notes.... The evidence suggests therefore that the dot indicates the tremblement should begin with the main note being held before the tremblement itself begins. The main written note therefore becomes part of the ornament pattern––part of the trill itself.

I.e.: While most of these trills start from above, this one starts by sustaining the main note, and the trill comes toward the end of its duration.

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