#intonation #intoning

From the recent lesson with an intermediate level student. No pictures. 

Please note I am not talking about the intonation as a pitch placement, or the intonation as a recognizable melodic unit (B. Asafyev). I am speaking about the expressiveness of intoning, or inflection.

The student and I discussed how to intone the melodic line. Intoning is an organic part of Russian pedagogy. My Western colleagues tend to use different word(s) but obviously we all mean tasteful expressiveness. Intoning depends on many elements such as the melodic intervals and their various widths; metrical position of the notes in the measure; the possible harmonic undertones even if the harmony is not directly present as in the polyphony; the general direction of a phrase; and much more. So, here we are analyzing the possible intoning of Bach’s Two-part Invention in C Major and Chopin’s Mazurka op. 7 No. 2. 

Chopin has written many nuances to help us understand how to intone. Bach wrote nothing. And yet, as we look closely, we can’t help but notice a remarkable similarity regarding the intoning. In both, we will follow all the subtle signals mentioned above. 

We are not surprised with this correlation. We know Chopin played Bach every day. It is just that Chopin spelled his intentions out and Bach did not. At the end of the lesson, we conclude that studying Chopin’s Mazurka helps us to better understand Bach’s intentions. 

And here I see Bach smiling gently: “Look at her. Here is another one who thinks she understands my intentions. Do you like my music? Just play it then!” I do, I do! 

(PS I hope no one will take this musing as a recommendation to play Bach’s Invention like Chopin’s Mazurka)

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