Friday, October 18, 2013

Staccato or Not Staccato? What's In a Dash?

Objective observation of these two markings affirms over and over again my feeling that there is, indeed, a difference: Staccato (i.e., the dot) indicates a detached tone within a prevailing meter.  The dash (that upright mark) indicates a detached tone against the prevailing meter.  In other words, a regular staccato will not alter your sense of where the beat belongs.  A dash staccato, on the other hand, wants to do just that.

It gets tricky in triple meters where one is never sure exactly what kind of meter is in play, whether that of the time signature or a hemiola-type augmentation (a la the minuet) or a courente-type diminution.

Having just reviewed the markings in two Mozart Sonatas, I can hear how players of today have little notion of such subtleties.  We live in an era of beats pounding into beats, all predictable.  Yow.

Don't do this to Mozart.  Or Beethoven.  Or anyone else, for that matter.