In this arrangement of Wachet Auf, there are quite a few mordents sprinkled around, as well as trills and grace notes. I understand most of them, but in the middle of this excerpt, enter image description here

right before the bar line, there is a mordent that appears to the left of the F, instead of over it. Does it mean the same as a mordent over a note?

And what about the slur? That seems to suggest that the mordent is actually played below the F. Here is a magnified view of the mordent and slur in question:

enter image description here

Update and state of the question:

It's been argued convincingly by guidot and alephzero that the "slur" is not a slur, but is actually an attempt to graphically reproduce (with modern, more automated tools) the notation shown in this older, hand-engraved manuscript:

enter image description here

But the question remains, what does this notation mean? Including, how should it be realized? I don't think it's a doppel cadence (reversed or otherwise) from Bach's guide to ornaments, since it appears to the left of, and below, the principal note.

Meyer and Patrx say that it's a slide (two grace notes leading up to the principal), which makes a lot of sense in the context. I haven't yet seen a source (like Lovelock) where a slide is documented as being written with a tail, but the realization is confirmed by recordings like this one (0:24) and others.

  • 1
    That is the first time I saw the slide sign with a slur. – Neil Meyer Jun 27 '16 at 20:18

When the Mordent sign is used in front of the note it actually indicates a slide. If you can excuse the poor photo of the source material I think it can still be of some worth to you.

It says the following...

THE SLIDE. This is written as a Mordent sign before a note and consists of the two notes below the principal note taken consecutively, and leading up to the principal. Note-values, speeds, grouping etc. as for the Mordent.


|improve this answer|||||
  • 3
    Thank you, this seems likely the intended meaning. What is the source you showed there? – LarsH Jun 27 '16 at 21:17
  • 5
    Ornaments and Abbreviations for Examination Candidates by William Lovelock. – Neil Meyer Jun 28 '16 at 7:14

Since I can't attach an image to a comment:

@guidot said in a comment he was "unconvinced" by non-professional engraving here. I agree that in the OP's image the ornament seems to have been "faked" (and rather crudely), but the same ornament appears in the (old, hand-engraved) Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe, Band 25: http://ks.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/6/69/IMSLP04105-Bach_-BGA-_BWV_645-650.pdfenter image description here

|improve this answer|||||
  • Hmm... It does not, however, show up in the original Schubler edition. – user16935 Jun 28 '16 at 0:47
  • 2
    OK I think it's a slam-dunk then, that the PDF I linked to has "faked" the graphical presentation of the ornament; the curved line is not a slur at all, but part of the mordent or slide or doppell-cadence symbol. However the question still remains, what does the symbol actually mean? – LarsH Jun 28 '16 at 2:31
  • 1
    It's a slide - the "squiggle" is the starting note of the slide. You would play C and D very quickly taken out of the value of the following E quaver (eighth note) - rhythmically, it is handled very much like a mordent. I just question whether the slide is actually required. or a later editorial addition. – user16935 Jun 28 '16 at 4:01
  • 3
    Not that this is any kind of authority, but the usual interpretation of this, in all the recordings and performances I've heard, is exactly what Patrx2 says: a slide, C and D played quickly before the Eb. – Scott Wallace Jun 28 '16 at 13:12

Bachs autograph here in wikipedia shows something similar: the round tail (first line, last two bars) appears on the left side and indicates a three-note-group followed by the zig-zag line symbolizing the alteration between two notes, and the direction of the tail indicates, whether the notes descend or ascend.

I would conclude, that in your example the three-note group should be played at the end in ascending variant.

|improve this answer|||||
  • See the zoomed-in view that I just added. I don't think that slur mark is supposed to be a tail on the mordant. – LarsH Jun 27 '16 at 20:57
  • 1
    @LarsH: I'm definitely unconvinced - scores, which are not set professionally (let alone ones, which use a music typesetter of the below-average quality of your IMSLP sample), may resort (or enforce the user to resort) to any method approaching the intended output. As proof of the low quality you may enlarge the PDF further and detect, that the note stems end visibly beneath the heads, the number eight of the octavation bass clef touches the clef and similar. I would not take that specific score too serious. – guidot Jun 27 '16 at 21:14
  • What you say about the quality of the typesetting makes sense. Maybe you're right about the tail. But the fact that the symbol is to the left of the note, while Bach's autograph shows it above, makes the connection less clear to me. How would you propose the ornament would be realized -- would there really be 8 grace notes? Would the three-note group at the end be C D E leading up to the F? – LarsH Jun 28 '16 at 2:19

Supplementing Neil Meyer's correct answer with more information...

Kochevitsky (p. 28, requires registration) confirms the slide notation with a "tail," like the one in the sheet music I was originally asking about:

enter image description here

However in Kochevitsky's text there is no clear example of a the mordent-with-tail slide notation without a preceding note for it to lead from.

|improve this answer|||||

Looking thru the Dolmetsch online, I found a couple interesting suggestions. First, the Bach-specific set of ornaments, and then the

symbol called custos (Latin), Wachte (German), guida (Italian), guidon (French) or 'direct', placed at the end of a line to indicate the pitch of the first note on the next line

(from the front page ) . However, as the notation in question is not at the end of a line, I'd say it's a Bach ornament as the other answers state.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.