The baryton (Part 2)

October 19, 2009

Further investigations tonight, courtesy of that musicological treasure trove, http://books.google.com.

Yet more composers… Unsurprisingly, there were more than just Papa Haydn and his expert violinist comrade-in-arms (if not student), Luigi Tomasini from Pesaro. One speculates that Tomasini might have played some of the baryton trios scored for violin and basso; certainly he composed for the baryton, as well as for his own instrument, including violin sonatas and about 30 string quartets. It seems the Duo Concertante opus 1 number 1 is just about his only published piece of music readily available these days. At the tender age of 15, he was engaged in Prince Nicolaus’ son’s orchestra in 1756 and was there till 1790 when he was pensioned off as part of the disbanding of Haydn, the court orchestra and the lead tenor singer, not long after Prince Nicolaus’ wife died (Nicolaus to follow shortly afterwards).  Apparently on the Tactus label, three Italians have recorded trios on two violins and ‘cello. I’ve not deduced where the manuscripts are these days; any C20 publishing of the baryton trios will involve detective work, to be sure.  But I digresss… I must add the names Joseph Burgksteiner, J-H Fiocco and Hans Pischner – as recorded on a Berlin Classics (2000) CD entitled “Eighteenth century music for baryton”.

The plucking and the bowing of it…  is something that’s been bugging me all day – how the plucking is notated in the score, as opposed to the bowing, and if for example it typically becomes a pizzicato accompaniment to the viola in slow movements. I’m surprised to see the virtuosity of the baryton parts in the few free scores I’ve noted so far; I thought something more like the plodding rhythmic beating of the gamba parts in the Bach Brandenburg Concerto #6, with its brilliant ‘solo’ parts for the top parts (viola da braccios). In any case, Beghin (Tom Beghin and Sander M Goldberg, “Haydn and the Performance of Rhetoric”, Univ Chicago Pr 2007) mentions combined bowing and plucking in No.107’s minuet.

Testing new musical ideas… seems to be part of the importance of the baryton trios by Haydn. Giving them due attention and valorising them looks obviously not to have been easy, given the nature of musicological discourse around Haydn and his works. There is the somewhat predictable stance that the bt trios must be light and unimportant compared to the string quartets and the significance accorded sonata form. The trios seem to have been marginalised along with the early string trios and the early string quartets; significant focus appears only to have been given to the string quartets of op.9. I’m thinking traditionally-minded musicologists can’t cope with three-movement works, with fugues after Fux, with the use of variation as discussed by Sisman. I guess coming from the gamba world where the same norms about canon don’t exist or don’t apply and where one swims among a welter of good music written on many a bad day at the best of times, I  just revel in the simplicity and unpretentiousness of ordinary chamber music-making (I notice one musicologist coyly describes the baryton trios as ‘overtly modest’). I think it’s absolutely glorious that Haydn has left us his musical jottings, his ideas-in-development at all, notwithstanding that apparently nothing much seems to happen in the first of the gold-and-leather volumes, Hob.XI:1-48 (1762-1767 approx.), or at least the baryton seems not to come into its own. I guess this translates into the those trios chosen by performers to record and certainly none seem to come from the first forty.

The dates… just to be clear (as dated by Geiringer in “Haydn: a creative life in music”, p.230) are

#1-48, 1762-1767 (approx 1766);

#49-72, 1767 and 1768;

#73-95, 1769 and (the end of?) 1771 – which correspond to the string quartets of op.9 (c1769-70) according to Strunk and Landon;

#97-126, 1778 (including earlier works, 1771-1775, and by which time Prince Nicolaus had lost interest in the instrument and become busy with opera instead).

Prince Nicolaus ‘the Magnificent’… may according to John H Baron (“Intimate music: a history fo the idea of chamber music”, Pendragon Pr., 1998: 195) have been influenced by professional performers including Karl Franz, Anton Kraft and Josef Weigl. Baron sums up the structure of the bt trios extremely well: “…three are for violin instead of viola. All but a few are in three movements and have a minuet with trio, but the order of movements and tempi vary considerably. Most opening movements are in binary form, but a few are themes with variations; in several cases, the final movements are fugues. No.97 is unusual with seven movements, including two minuets and trios, with a final fugue”.

Efrim Fruchtman… wrote a doctoral thesis of 446 pages in 1960 at the Univ of North Carolina on “The Baryton Trios of Tomasini, Burgksteiner and Neumann”. Would it were available in print at all! Which is where I began today’s note.

John PringleAmerican luthier makes them for $11K, one having been sold for $7K, in two styles, both with string lengths of 70cm (which makes them on par with my French 7-string basse de viole) which means to me that the fingerboard with case for sympathetic strings must be really quite wide (no wonder the Prince never played the bottom two strings). Pringle’s first style is an all-rounder suitable for the Haydn period; the second, interestingly is a design from 1645 and will appeal to those who have followed Tim Crawford’s splendid exploration into the English connectons involving Walter Rowe (1584/5-1671), English viol player who worked for most of his long life at the Brandenburg court in Berlin and Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad, Lithuania).  My old mate Mersenne (1644), who tells me all I need to know about gamba in France in the first third of the C17, gets a guernsey implying that the hybrid bowed/plucked string technique was known in England before 1625.

Enough for one day! My next obvious step is to look at the free internet downloads, even though they have no Hob. numbers. Set for oboe, cor anglais and bassoon, I hope they have kept the same key as the original; I’ll have to assume the baryton plays the top, oboe part since No.6 of this set puts it there.

One Response to “The baryton (Part 2)”


  1. Of course, what a great site and informative posts, I will add backlink – bookmark this site? Regards, Pierre Man.


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