In Search of Bach's Cantabile: The Role and Aspects of Oratory and Singing in Keyboard Interpretation

Author / Artist: 
Publication Date: 
August, 2009

The past generations of performance educators have stressed the smooth sequence of tones as the basis of cantabile style. This notion has infiltrated most of the music literature. The author revisits the influence of the art of ancient oratory on vocal and instrumental music. Sources of the discussion include writings of Plato, Quintilian, and Cicero, as well as treatises on the subject of rhetoric. Other materials include a sampling of the music literature of the Baroque with special focus on the music of J. S. Bach. The reader is introduced to aspects of articulation constituting a cantabile performance, the vocal potential of keyboard instruments, and means of creating an intelligible discourse on a keyboard. The implication is that singing and playing not only require a smooth sequence of tones, but also demand a deep commitment to meaning and clarity of communication. This work should help the reader achieve a more thorough understanding of the message conveyed in music, and should be useful to music students and teachers alike.