Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Discuss the rules of notation, standard notation practices, efficient notation practices and graphic design.
Post Reply
NeeraWM
Posts: 223
Joined: 30 Nov 2021, 12:11

Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by NeeraWM »

There are I believe hundreds of examples, especially in the Romantic repertoire, where different designs of a diminuendo hairpin get exchanged with different designs of an accent.
Most glaring examples coming to mind are Schubert's String Quartets, where a long(ish) accent is actually something.

Now, how would you interpret this (ca. 1855)?
Screenshot 2024-06-06 at 00.51.34.png
Screenshot 2024-06-06 at 00.51.34.png (3.47 MiB) Viewed 751 times
This is one of tens of similar examples just in a single movement of this piano trio.
The interesting thing is: if one tries to think exclusively from a musical point of view (i.e., how one would play it), there are places where it is *clearly* an accent, and other places where it is *clearly* a diminuendo.

I can certainly take a strong position and then write Critical Notes for each instance, but I would like to hear from you about your experience with similar scenarios in the repertoire.
Thanks!
User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 2515
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by John Ruggero »

Composers of this period seem to have used dim. and cresc. in the same way that we do today, that is, start the dynamic change at the preceding dynamic level.

Hairpins, however, often meant a subito drop (for a cresc. hairpin) or a subito rise (for a diminuendo hairpin) where the hairpin starts. So the accent mark was really just a small diminuendo sign. Careful engravers engraved the size they saw in the manuscript.

Only later when hairpins lost this special meaning did the small diminuendo hairpin become something different, our present "accent mark".

This view is born out by various occasions where these composer used dim. and cresc. side-by-side with (as in your example) or even simultaneously with hairpins as we see sometimes see in Beethoven and Chopin. See viewtopic.php?t=924
M1 Mac mini (OS 12.4), Dorico, Finale 25.5, GPO 4, Affinity Publisher 2, SmartScore 64 Pro, JW Plug-ins, TG Tools, Keyboard maestro

http://www.cantilenapress.com
NeeraWM
Posts: 223
Joined: 30 Nov 2021, 12:11

Re: Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by NeeraWM »

This is so enlightening, thank you John!
Could we roughly pinpoint the time limits of this practice?

This first-edition engraving, of which the manuscript is lost, is not so accurate in general, meaning that there are plenty of glaring musical errors throughout, alongside inconsistencies on the usage of cautionary accidentals, for example.
Were you to create a "critical performance edition" of this piece, would you put two accent marks in the violin, a short diminuendo in the cello and a diminuendo plus an accent in the piano?
User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 2515
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by John Ruggero »

I have seen it in the music of some composers of the first half of the 19th century but would have to see the entire piece to decide whether your composer was adhering to the practice or he/she and/or the engraver was just sloppy. For example, it is unclear if the diminuendo hairpin in the piano part should start from the forte as part of a swell or is actually an accent to create a syncopation on the second quarter note of the measure. And clearly the violin and cello "accents" (?) in the last measure should conform. But how? Only looking at the whole piece would convey some idea of the composer's general practice and how these instances fit in. Critically editing a badly engraved score without access to the manuscript or other manuscripts by the same composer is not an easy thing.
Last edited by John Ruggero on 07 Jun 2024, 22:46, edited 1 time in total.
M1 Mac mini (OS 12.4), Dorico, Finale 25.5, GPO 4, Affinity Publisher 2, SmartScore 64 Pro, JW Plug-ins, TG Tools, Keyboard maestro

http://www.cantilenapress.com
NeeraWM
Posts: 223
Joined: 30 Nov 2021, 12:11

Re: Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by NeeraWM »

With this composer, of whom I have more than one hundred scores and manuscript, I can say I had always been confused because I could not understand if those symbols were accents or hairpins. Thanks to your explanation, though, everything is clearer now:
1. if the note is short, it is an accent mark
2. if the note is longer and, especially, slurred to anything else, it is a hairpin, no matter how short
It now makes perfectly sense musically and it is such a great opening in the understanding of his music.
He lived long (1780s to 1860s) and was composition student of a student of a student of J S Bach. From what I can see, he never "modernised" his writing during his production to the point of fusing "cresc." and "swelling hairpin" (and the opposite) together like we do today.

On a tangent: when I was taught about gradual dynamics as a youngest cellist, I was taught to get quieter before a <<< and louder before a >>> and it always served me well. I don't know why, in notation, I seemed to have lost this knowledge.
Talking about digital notation: do you at this point think that Dorico is being semantically wrong in fusing hairpins and cresc./dim. into the same function?
User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 2515
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by John Ruggero »

I a glad that that was helpful, Neera. It sounds like you are on the right track. While perhaps related to the performance strategy you mentioned, this would be a true subito effect that happens the instant the hairpin begins, which is what makes the small diminuendo hairpin correspond to our present accent mark. This subito effect would mostly be the case with individual hairpins. Paired hairpins to show a swell (messa di voce) maybe less so.
M1 Mac mini (OS 12.4), Dorico, Finale 25.5, GPO 4, Affinity Publisher 2, SmartScore 64 Pro, JW Plug-ins, TG Tools, Keyboard maestro

http://www.cantilenapress.com
Anders Hedelin
Posts: 291
Joined: 16 Aug 2017, 16:36
Location: Sweden

Re: Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by Anders Hedelin »

John Ruggero wrote: 07 Jun 2024, 22:56 ... this would be a true subito effect that happens the instant the hairpin begins, which is what makes the small diminuendo hairpin correspond to our present accent mark. This subito effect would mostly be the case with individual hairpins. Paired hairpins to show a swell (messa di voce) maybe less so.
I had an instructive experience having mistakenly written two consecutive diminuendo hairpins instead of the intended one. Of course the musicians made two diminuendos, the second restarting from a louder level. Correctly read, but sounding quite weird. My mistake, of course.
Finale 26, 27 on Windows 10
Anders Hedelin
Posts: 291
Joined: 16 Aug 2017, 16:36
Location: Sweden

Re: Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by Anders Hedelin »

A comment on the last post.

If a composer would have written two "dim." shortly after each other, the reader would probably see it as an oversight, or an unnecessary reminder. Two hairpins of the same kind following each other seem to be more intended, interestingly enough.
Finale 26, 27 on Windows 10
User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 2515
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: Diminuendo hairpin or accent

Post by John Ruggero »

That's a very good point, Anders. Perhaps we still react somewhat differently hairpins vs written cresc. and dim. At least it is the way I would react to what you described.
M1 Mac mini (OS 12.4), Dorico, Finale 25.5, GPO 4, Affinity Publisher 2, SmartScore 64 Pro, JW Plug-ins, TG Tools, Keyboard maestro

http://www.cantilenapress.com
Post Reply