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Minuets the the Canadians (1807)

George Heriot (ca. 1759-1839)1


Etching and aquatint, handcolored through watercolor national Archives of Canada, Ottawa (Accession No. 1989-479-3)

As part of his beforehand education—a gentleman"s education—Thomas Jefferson learned to read music and also to play the violin, and also by period fourteen he was capable of writing down his favourite fiddle tunes. Plenty of years later he recalled that as a young male he regularly exercised three hours a day. Unfortunately, he broken his best wrist in 1786, and also his playing was severely curtailed thereafter.

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The huge library that music he eventually collected, contained works by old master such as Vivaldi (d. 1741), Corelli (d. 1713), and Handel (d. 1759), plus functions by modern-day composers such as Carlo Campioni (1720-1788) and also Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). In addition, over there were publications of renowned songs, and also a couple of volumes that psalms, hymns, and also anthems.

During his lifetime he owned numerous violins, the best of which may have actually been an Amati, made in Cremona, Italy in the 17th century.2 Also, there to be harpsichords, fortepianos and guitars in his household, yet they were mainly ladies" instruments.

While he was in Paris throughout the 1780s Jefferson may have actually purchased a bow through François Tourte (pronounced toort; 1747-1835), which represented a far-ranging change in the mechanics of bow design, and also has remained the accepted standard ever before since. The inverted bend in the stick makes possible an also pressure between bow-hair and also string with the entirety stroke, which make it less complicated to pat the long lyrical melodies and also intricate, wide-ranging allegros that the music that Corelli and also Haydn.

Thomas Jefferson"s younger brother, Randolph, that as a youth also studied the violin, was more inclined toward the vernacular idiom. Follow to Isaac, a family slave, Randolph "used come come out amongst the black color people, beat the fiddle and also dance fifty percent the night."3

The violin

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Classical violin


J. Agee photo

In his very first dictionary, published in 1806 if the Corps of exploration was tho on the road, young name Webster characterized violin in four an easy words: "A sweet music instrument."4

The violin developed in Europe throughout the Renaissance (between about 1450 and 1600), in the vernacular ("popular") music tradition, to administer music for dancing, often out-of-doors. Early in the 17th century it ended up being the mainstay of crucial ensembles in the cultivated ("classical") idioms, the opera and also the sinfonia, which climate were performed in the small private salons that the aristocracy. In the vernacular legacy the instrument kept its older name, fiddle; in the grew tradition the was dubbed a violin.

It got to its first peak of basic popularity in Western culture during the so late 18th century. Around 1800, in the vicinity of simply one southeastern German town, Klingenthal, eighty-five violin-makers (luthiers) created an average of thirty-six thousand tools a year, while a comparable number of cottage craftspersons created strings and bows. Many other cities and also towns throughout Europe were equally productive, and component of their complete output to be exported to phibìc America for its relatively huge number of run musicians, and also its much less numerous however equally thank you very much devotees of the cultivated tradition.


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The pole of the bow Heriot"s fiddler is using is curved away from the bow-hair, fairly than toward it, and also is perhaps four inches shorter than the later Tourte bow. The 18th-century bow stick in the illustration at appropriate is straight when the hair is loose. When it is tightened, either v the player"s right thumb or by way of a screw in the nut, the stick bends upward. The bow-hairs will certainly then easily touch 2 or much more strings in ~ once, one or two sounding a "drone" pitch, while the remaining one dead the melody. That also method that the player need to not use any kind of vibrato in the melody due to the fact that it would sound out-of-tune with the drones.

With the 18th-century bow the heaviest press on the cable is in the facility of the bow-hair, so the the center of a lengthy note or a melodic figure will it is in louder 보다 the beginning or the end. Fiddlers did not play v the too much ends—the allude or the heel—of the bow, and also the melodic layout was linked rather 보다 detached, because that the bow hardly ever left the strings. A tune was played with an countless stream that up-and-down bowings, varying chiefly in repetitive patterns of long and short up-and-down strokes. Over there were plenty of different bowing patterns, comparable to regional speech dialects, such together the Georgia bow and also the Tennessee half-shuffle.

Jefferson"s favorites

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One of cutting board Jefferson"s favorite compositions to be the Sonata because that Violin and Continuo, Opus 5, created by the renowned Italian composer, Archangelo Corelli (1653-1713) in 1700. It included a set of twenty sports on a graceful old Spanish tune called (in Italian) La Follia—pronounced la fo-LEE-ah, and definition something favor "A Madness," presumably a musical meaning of love.5

The well-thumbed and also copiously annotated copy the the music in his library suggests that, at the very least prior to his wrist injury in 1786, Jefferson was qualified of performing the complicated bowings required in countless of the twenty intricate variations the the straightforward theme.

Using a German-made instrument date from the second fifty percent of the 18th century, as well as a modern-day violin such as Jefferson owned, violinist Samuel Taylor plays the theme and two that the variations indigenous Corelli"s composition. He likewise discusses and demonstrates several differences between the styles of playing commonly used through fiddlers such as Pierre Cruzatte in the vernacular tradition, and also cultivated-tradition violinists such as cutting board Jefferson.

Three demonstrations

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Mr. Taylor an initial demonstrates the expressive layout of play that Jefferson would have applied to the lovely theme. The expressive atmosphere is established partly with the usage of vibrato—moving the finger earlier and forth swiftly to impart a breakable wavering high quality to each note. Expression is also heightened by subtle alters in loudness in ~ the boundaries of every phrase—one of the advantages of the new Tourte bow. We may assume the Cruzatte would not have actually played expressively, together Jefferson would. He then shows us just how Jefferson would have had to change the place of his left hand up and down the fingerboard in order come execute one of the wide-ranging, ornate variations in Corelli"s composition.

You will hear Mr. Taylor use the the term v which Corelli"s era has actually been labled—Baroque (pronounced bah-ROHK)—an Italian word an interpretation "irregular in shape," which refers to the sophisticated ornamentation and also embellishment the was usual of art, architecture, and music throughout the years in between 1600 and about 1750. Probably, Cruzatte would not have shifted his left hand through as numerous different positions, for the music that played would not have forced it.

Mr. Taylor speaks of the difference in between standard tuning in our own era, and also standard tuning throughout Jefferson"s time. Jefferson would have actually checked the tuning that his harpsichord or piano using a tuning fork—a metal machine invented in 1711 that was produced to vibrate with standard pitch as soon as struck—then tuned his violin to enhance that the the keyboard instrument. Various other instruments connected had an in similar way to tune to the keyboard instrument. Cruzatte, on the various other hand, wasn"t a "team" or ensemble player, so equivalent a standardization pitch was unimportant to him. He without doubt would have actually tuned the strings the his violin to one one more "by ear"—by listening come the intervals resulting from bowing adjacent strings—but he would cheerfully have actually tolerated at the very least slight differences in the in its entirety tuning of his instrument brought about by fluctuations in humidity or temperature.

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A variation of La Follia played v a modern bow held in the old-fashioned gamba manner. Jefferson would certainly no doubt have actually used the gamba grip prior to he obtained his brand-new Tourte bow in Paris. The brand-new style that playing fast notes v a "bouncing" bow compelled an overhand grip through a three-fingered fulcrum—thumb, middle finger, fourth finger—on the manage or "frog," as demonstrated in the 2 previous examples.

Notice that Mr. Taylor is not making use of a chin rest. Till Jefferson received his an initial one, that would have actually braced the instrument versus his neck or his collarbone. (Cruzatte would have actually braced his against his chest or, if his instrument were small enough, against the crook the his left arm.)