A Conductor's Guide To Performance Issues Arising From The Use Of Eighteenth-Century Pitch Levels In The Performance Of Handel's Four Coronation Anthems
AuthorShawn, Terry Alexander Lee
AdvisorChamberlain, Bruce B.
Committee ChairChamberlain, Bruce B.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn this study I attempted to create a historically informed performance of Handel's Four Coronation Anthems at the pitch of a1 = 423, without the benefit of baroque instruments. The issue of lowering the performance pitch from a1 = 440 to a1 = 423 had varying effects on the singers and instrumentalists. Replicating the baroque sound required some modifications to modern instruments and some mental and vocal adjustments for the singers. Several singers experienced vocal relief due to the lowered pitch, while some instrumentalists were faced with re-adjusting their technique to compensate for the modifications made to their instruments. The modifications ranged from exchanging the violin and viola strings from steel to gut to lengthening the oboe reeds and the bassoon's bocal enough to effectively lower the pitch almost a half step, or .17 Hertz (Hz.). Through the aid of audio and visual recordings of the performance and the performer's questionnaires, several discoveries were made about creating a historically informed performance. Primarily, when changing the pitch of a composition, it is better to adjust the pitch in half steps rather than quarter-tone increments. It was further revealed when changing the pitch that some singers experienced difficulty maintaining pitch due to their vocal muscle memory, whereas, some instrumentalists possess varying degrees of individual pitch memory and perception. In order to deal effectively with the issue of maintaining pitch, it was revealed that it is important to have more rehearsal time at the adjusted pitch. With respect to the modifications made to the instruments, it is vital to the success of the performance to allow the players enough time with modified instruments to be able to maintain consistent tuning within the instrument. The musician's individual pitch perception and preference have an affect on the performance, and the conductor would be well advised to refer to the discoveries presented in this document. This study was successful in discovering ways to present a historically informed performance at a pitch other than a1 = 440 and several suggestions for creating further historically informed performances were explored.