This section gives advice on the following topics:
The sixteenth note we learn, A flat in the second octave on the bass recorder, lies on the top line of the bass clef. The enharmonic equivalent is G sharp - it has the same fingering as A flat. Click on the play button in the Sibelius score to hear it. Below that we give the standard fingering for this note, the fingering you would use under normal circumstances.
Using the standard nomenclature, the fingering for second octave G sharp, or for the enharmonic equivalent A flat, is written 2 3 4 5 6a 6b. The alternative fingering for these notes adds the top finger and is written 1 2 3 4 5 6a 6b.
We have given two fingerings for the note A flat in the second octave because you may find one or the other easier when moving quickly to A flat from other notes. You may also find that one or the other fingering is better in tune on a particular instrument and might be better particularly if you have to hold A flat for a significant length of time where imperfect tuning would be more obvious.
You may already have noticed, particularly if you have taken a look at our alternative trill fingering chart, that recorder players are quite prepared to sacrifice accuracy of tuning for comfort when playing trills or sequences of notes moving at speed. The human ear is a poor judge of pitch within quick passage work. This is one reason why judging a players skill on his or her ability to play at speed gives only an incomplete picture of the player as a musician. It has long been recognised, by Quantz, Telemann and many other teachers and performers, that the most severe test of good musicianship is the performance of slow movements.
Quantz, in On Playing The Flute, writes: 'The Adagio ordinarily affords persons who are simple amateurs of music the least pleasure. There are even some professional musicians who, lacking the necessary feeling and insight, are gratified to see the end of the Adagio arrive. Yet a true musician may distinguish himself by the manner in which he plays the Adagio, may greatly please true connoisseurs and sensitive and feeling amateurs, and may demonstrate his skill to those who know composition. Since it does remain a stumbling-block, however, intelligent musicians will, without my advice, accommodate themselves to their listeners and to the amateurs, not only to earn more readily the respect befitting their skill, but also to ingratiate themselves.'
So the proper test of a complete musician is the player's ability to retain your interest in his or her colour of tone, accuracy of pitch and musicality of line when the notes are moving only slowly, Many a musician who dazzles with astonishing mechanical facility can be brought down to earth by a limited musical imagination. We shall spend some time later discussing musical line and how this can be projected on the recorder, even with its undeserved reputation for limited tonal range. We believe that, in so many cases, this has been a case of an inferior workman blaming his tools.
Some recorder players have taken a more extreme position and have thrown caution to the wind in the search for a greater musical freedom - Frans Brüggen, for example, after starting his career with a commendable approach to musical line and tuning (one has only to listen to his early recording of the Sammartini Concerto for Descant Recorder), developed an idiosyncratic 'bulge' in his recorder playing which was then taken up by his colleagues and pupils, and even the pupils of his pupils, leading to what many recognise as a characteristically 'Dutch' school of recorder playing. One might argue that this alternative attitude to the relationship between musical line and intonation arose from ideas in avant-garde twentieth-century musical thought and that this had made so great an impression on Frans Brüggen, whose promotion of avant-garde recorder writing is probably his finest achievement, that it coloured his approach to baroque performance. The problem with this wholly 'modern' attitude to pitch and musical line is that it entirely contrary to the attitude of seventeenth and eighteenth century teaching and as a result the recorder has gained a poor reputation outside its own immediate world. Many fine players have worked hard to regain for the recorder a more appropriate status but on the whole this has been sought by playing music faster and faster rather than through a deeper understanding of musical language. One is left still dreading the slow movements while the fast movements pass as a hot puff of wind.
It is now time to try the next piece no. 16 where we introduce A flat.