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Thread: Rhythm in Handel's Water Music Suite III, Movements 21 and 22

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    Default Rhythm in Handel's Water Music Suite III, Movements 21 and 22

    Hello, I'm an enthusiastic amateur musician. I was hoping that someone could shed some light on this question. Hopefully this is the correct area to bring up a question like this, if not perhaps a moderator could move it to the correct sub-forum.

    In all the notation that I've seen so far the lively gigue-like rhythm of movements 21 and 22 of Handel's Water Music is notated with a mixture of dotted-eighth, sixteeth pairs and triplets. Presumable the dotted notes are a shorthand way of representing a 2:1 rather than 3:1 proportion: that is, the first and last notes of the triplets coincide with each note of the dotted-eighth, sixteenth pair. This is certainly the way I've heard every recording of the work played. However, surprisingly for me, you also have eighth, eighth pairs thrown into the mix as well (in the violino II part of movement 21 and the bass part of movement 22)! Similarly one finds the rhythm quarter, eighth-rest, eighth under the triplet rhythm of the upper parts. While I've certainly played music which has a duple under triple polyrhythm before, it seems from the recordings that I've heard that these eighth, eighth pairs are played in the same triplet rhythm as the dotted-eighth, sixteenth pairs are, but it is rather hard to catch. While this seems like a natural approach, it feels odd that the composer (editor?) would have included both types of notation if no differentiation was intended. I'll try to attach an image to illustrate what I'm talking about.

    Does anyone have any insights into this matter?

    Handel.png

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    No, the dotted rhythms are different than triplets, if anything they should be played closer to a double-dotted 8th & 32nd

    https://www.organduo.lt/home/what-is-overdotting

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    Thanks! I was actually reading about "overdotting" this morning. It is interested to note though that one often hears the rhythm of these particular movements rendered thus:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1PVh2NUrHc

    This sounds more like a "swing" to me. There is the question about how authentic the rendition is, though I have to say that it feels quite natural. I'll have to experiment with playing it both ways.
    Last edited by Fanelia; Oct-19-2020 at 21:14.

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    This is really tricky. The dotted eight-sixteenth should be played double dotted and 32nd - the French tradition which players in this period would have known and done automatically. BUT - in the 19th c a lot of editions (Breitkopf eg) modernized the notation. To add to the confusion, there is ample evidence that when a dotted eight/sixteenth is found among a slew of triplets, the should all be played as triplets - that was the style in the 19th C - Charles Rosen explains it well in one of his writings. This is one of those topics the HIP crowd spends a lot of time on. Baroque notation is really complex. If I were conducting this, believing it's a 19th c edition, I'd play the entire line as triplets. Besides, the audience will never know.

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    No, the dotted rhythms are different than triplets, if anything they should be played closer to a double-dotted 8th & 32nd
    https://www.organduo.lt/home/what-is-overdotting
    Indeed. The first movement of the Moonlight sonata contains rhythms like this

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