Interpretation Discrepancy of Articulations

For a learning orchestrator, score sheet studies on classical works might become quite confusing considering the notation. Quite often, the performances in recordings of certain articulations in the score sheet are very different from what you might expect and you might end up being completely confused about what a certain articulation means. Additionally, orchestration books might even make it worse (for instance Adler claiming that in order to get strings to do a “martelé” using a regular accent (>), a hat accent (^) or a wedge is practically the same).

There are actually two reasons for all that mess. One being actually different understandings of articulations in music history, sometimes even down to a specific preference of a composer in a specific decade, where composers used articulations in a different way than we would do today. The other one which might lead to discrepancy between how it’s written and played are simple performance traditions. Works that have been recorded and played many times have a certain common way to perform them which has been established over generations of conductors, recordings and concerts that simply divert from what was originally written, sometimes because the composer originally requested it or it simply worked better.

So don’t get too confused by these things and trust your gut feeling and experience when articulating or phrasing a score sheet.


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