Chapter 2: Understanding the relationship between voice and violin and the presence of portamento in Schubert’s context
This Chapter explores the influences of vocal style and techniques on violin playing of the late-18th and early-19th centuries through analysis of treatises and performance reviews of the period. It also compares the written documented evidence of vocal and violin portamento use during the late-18th and early-19th centuries. Through the analysis of expressive fingerings indicating portamento use in the music of Schubert’s time, and the exploration of the playing styles and portamento use in violinists of Schubert’s circle, I discuss possible appropriate applications in the music of Schubert and his contemporaries.
Vienna had undergone rapid expansion during the 18th century, as it was the centre for the Hapsburg dynasty, known as “the Austrian Monarch,” whose territories had expanded to include Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, Transylvania, Croatia, most of Lombardy and Belgium.1 This fast-growing polyglot city at the turn of the 19th century was home to some of the most influential composers in history, including Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Schubert took lessons in composition from Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) at different points in his life, with Salieri encouraging him to find inspiration and models in Italian opera. However, having studied, played and admired the instrumental music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and early Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) at the prestigious Kaiserlich-königliches Stadtkonvikt (Imperial and Royal City College), this push to explore vocal music conflicted with Schubert’s instrumental interests at the time. Nevertheless, Salieri’s suggestion must have had some influence, as he was repeatedly involved in some sort of opera production between 1811 and 1823 and wrote over 600 Lieder, subsequently revolutionising the form.2 Schubert was one of the most influential composers for the voice in the 19th century and his sensitivity to vocal phrasing and expressive capabilities can be seen throughout his instrumental music, particularly that for violin. Therefore, it is important to explore the vocal expressive tendencies of Schubert’s time to gain insight into the sound world in which he was composing.
Influence of vocal style and technique on 18th- and 19th-century violin playing as documented in treatises and performance reviews
The voice and violin have shared a close relationship throughout documented musical history and vocal techniques and expressive devices have often been the basis of guiding solid and tasteful violin technique and style. The ability to imitate the voice was amongst the highest praise lavished on instrumentalists and particularly violinists during the 18th and 19th centuries, and advice for cultivating this ability dominated violin treatises of the period. In the mid-18th century, Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) stated in his The Art of Playing on the Violin (1751) that, "The Art of playing the Violin consists in giving the Instrument a Tone that shall in a Manner rival the most perfect human Voice."3 Kreutzer, Baillot and Rode’s French Violin School, established at the Paris Conservatoire at the turn of the 19th century, incorporated many fundamental aspects of singing style and technique in order to teach violin. The importance given to the French style of violin playing at the turn of the 19th century can be seen at the beginning of Michel Woldemar’s (1750-1815) Méthode de violon de L. Mozart (1801) where he states that Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824) was the “leader and model of a new school.”4 As Clive Brown explains, the French Revolution was responsible for the spreading of the French style throughout Europe, and specifically to Austria and Germany. “Musical ambassadors of contemporary French taste” such as the fathers of the French School—Pierre Baillot (1771-1842), Rudolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831) and Pierre Rode (1774-1840)—travelled extensively to and via Vienna in the first two decades of the 19th century, spreading the styles and ideals of violin playing established in their joint publication of the Paris Conservatoire’s teaching manual, Méthode de violon par Baillot, Rode et Kreutzer; redigee par Baillot (1803).5 One extensive review of a performance of Kreutzer’s Violin Concerto no. 12 in the Leipzig Allegemeine musikalische Zeitung (June, 1804) shows that the public, as well as leading French school violinists of the time, were in agreement about this change in style of playing, explaining that passages “that only produce their effect when played on a single string … must be executed with an artful use of position changing” (i.e. portamento). Furthermore, in order to affect the listener, the performer should have “security in the highest and to some extent unconventional positions, power and flexibility of the fingers of the left hand in passages … and taste and correct feeling in executing nuances etc.”6 Schubert’s contemporary and musical colleague, Louis Spohr (1784-1859), openly admitted that he was largely influenced by the French style,7 particularly the playing of Rode,8 and, after being refused by Viotti, studied with Franz Eck (1774-1804), who greatly influenced his singing bowing technique.9 In 1805 Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814) criticised Spohr’s portamento as “an exaggerated copy of Rode’s,” which shows the extent of Sophr’s embodiment of the French style.10 More examples of concert reviews praising the French style and condemning others throughout Germany and Austria can be seen in Clive Brown’s book Classical and Romantic Performance Practice (1750-1900) and his article, "Polarities of virtuosity in the first half of the 19th century."11 This range of written evidence clearly shows that the French violin school not only had great influence in Paris but also across Europe at the turn of the 19th century. Therefore, the ‘singing’ French style of playing should be explored further in order to understand the sound world in which Schubert was writing.
Giovanni Batista Viotti (1755-1824), arguably the father of the French Violin School, passed on his “beautiful singing” way of playing to his student, Rode, and disciples, Baillot, and Kreutzer.12 French Violin School admirer, Spohr, stated in his 1833 treatise that “the Violin possessed among other advantages the power of closely imitating the human voice, in the peculiar sliding from one tone to another, as well as in soft and in passionate passages.”13 Franz Clement (1780-1842), when he premiered Beethoven's Violin Concerto at Leopoldstadt Theater in 1806, was criticised for his “lack of expressive singing-quality.”14 Furthermore, in 1835 Baillot urged players of the violin, “more than any other instrument to participate in this progress because of its similarity to the voice, a similarity which leads it to imitate the voice even in the very accents of speech.”15
Another notable, documented example of the close relationship between the voice and violin is found in Charles de Bériot’s (1802-1870) Méthode de violon (1858), where he warns against “diverting the instrument from its true mission – the noble mission (of imitating the human voice).”16 Bériot bases the expressive repertoire of the violin on the singing styles and techniques outlined in a vocal treatise by his brother-in-law, Manuel Garcia (1805-1906): his Ecole de García: traité complet de l'art du chant (Paris, 1840). It is also interesting to explore the links between shifting exercises in violin treatises and explanations of connecting notes in vocal treatises. It is difficult to define the physical vocal techniques of the 18th and 19th centuries, as there was no way to observe the inner-workings of singers’ throats until the invention of the laryngoscope in 1854 by Manuel Garcia. However, with the recent publication of Sarah Potter’s PhD thesis, Changing Vocal Style and Technique in Britain during the Long Nineteenth Century (2014), we now have much more insight and can make more defined and accurate assumptions about the changing vocal techniques and fashions of this period.17
Evidence of portamento use in vocal and violin treatises and performance reviews of the 18th and early-19th centuries
There are many examples of portamenti in both vocal and violin treatises dating as early as the mid-18th century and continuing throughout the 19th century, as well as documentation from performance reviews of the period. Considering the strong influence of vocal technique and style on violin playing, as indicated above, it is important to gain a better technical understanding of vocal technique in the 18th and 19th centuries and how this influenced the use of portamento of the time. One issue is the inconsistency in notation of techniques, such as portamento, and the distinction between legato singing and portamento as an expressive device. This inconsistency can also be seen in violin treatises, as it is sometimes unclear as to whether violin pedagogues indicate obvious portamenti when shifting, or just a smooth connection of sound. To make these technical distinctions clearer, I first discuss documented evidence of the definitions of legato singing and portamento in vocal treatises and then compare this evidence to that of the shifting techniques and portamento use in violin treatises and historical performance reviews.
Even though portamento was fundamental to the art of stylish singing, the notation and application of the expressive device in treatises was not consistent.18 Therefore, we must define the differences between legato singing and portamento in order to better understand the expressive tool.
The art of legato singing, or connecting and sustaining vocal tone throughout, was an essential element to cantabile singing of the 18th and 19th centuries, for as “legato vocalization being the most frequently used, needs no sign to indicate it, pupils should therefore be warned against singing staccato, slurring, marking or detaching any notes in plain passages.”19 We also see as early as 1723 in Pier Francesco Tosi’s (1653-1732) popular Opinioni de’ cantori antichi moderni (1723) the encouragement of artistic joining of notes, albeit without further specific explanation.20 Garcia also states that regular continuous air pressure enables the singer to “intimately unite notes with each other.”21 Similarly, Gesualdo Lanza (1779-1859) in his treatise of 1820 referred to legato as singing “smoothly, in a flowing style, the voice going from one note to another, without any breaking of the sound, or any aspiration.”22
Garcia gives more specific explanation of the difference between legato singing and portamento in both his New Treatise (1856) and Hints on Singing (1894). Fig. 2.1 shows “slurred sounds” or portamento, which Garcia explains “is to conduct the voice from one note to another through all intermediate sounds” with “continued pressure of air.”23 Contrastingly, Garcia’s “smooth sounds” could be interpreted as instantaneous pitch changes. However, due to the anatomy of human vocal chords, singers cannot make abrupt instantaneous pitch changes (such as stopping a string with a left-hand finger on the violin) and will always pass through all the divisions of each pitch change, subtle or not. As such, I would interpret this indication as a “smooth” subtle change in pitch, where the notes are still connected but without obvious or drawn-out sliding between notes.
Figure 2.1: Garcia, New Treatise, page 11.24
Vocal portamento definitions
Although portamento stemmed from the Bel canto art of legato singing as an expressive device,25 it has its own distinct place and application in 18th- and 19th-century treatises.26 Portamento was generally considered the primary tool of expression, even more so than vibrato and trills.27 Domenico Corri (1746-1825) claimed this expressive device was the “perfection of music.”28 John Galliard’s (1666-1747) translation of Tosi’s Observations on the Florid Song (1743) included more specific terminology than previously documented: “dragging,” “slurring,” “gliding,” and distinctions between “portamento” and “legato.”29 Additionally, the father of the German Singspiel, Johann Adam Hiller (1728-1804), further develops Tosi’s explanation in his 1780 treatise, stating that “by portamento I mean the passing, the blending of the voice from one tone to another, with perfect proportion and union, in ascending as well as descending. The singing will be near perfection if the student can produce it without interrupting his tone by taking his breath perceptibly, because it must be a straight and limpid graduation that must pass, support and blend from one tone to another.”30
Later in the 19th century, in one of the last treatises to explain portamento in detail, Norris Croker’s Handbook for Singers (1895) makes the difference between legato singing and portamento (“slur”) more explicit:
Slur (portamento) and legato
Slur defined: To slur is to carry the voice, either quickly or slowly, from one note to another- whatever may be the interval. The intervening notes are heard, but faintly and indistinctly. This means that the tones between the notes that are connected by a slur are not to be heard as when the voice sings a scale, but as when a violinist slides his finger up the string, to gain the same effect. It is an ornament that must be only occasionally employed, as its frequent use (a great and common fault, especially with sopranos) is very worrying to the listener; it gives an impression of dragging, and an air of sick sentimentality to the singing. It is useful in exercises for blending the registers and removing inequalities of tone.31
During Schubert’s time, Corri describes portamento di voce in his 1810 treatise as the “sliding and blending [of] one note to another with delicacy and expression – and expression comprehends every charm which music can produce.”32 Nicola Vaccai (1790-1848) also describes portamento in his 1832 treatise as the “perfect connecting of two notes, each being confined strictly between its sound limits.”33 In 1859 Sabilla Novello (1821-1904) described portamento as the “art of carrying the voice from one note to another, letting the intermediate notes be heard, but not distinguished” in her exercise in the application of portamento to a melody (Fig. 2.2).34
Figure 2.2: Novello’s Voice and Vocal Art (1859).35
Like in singing, violinists were encouraged to use connected bow technique and smooth shifting techniques to imitate the voice. However, as for the voice, it is important to distinguish the differences between smooth shifting techniques and specific portamento use in violin playing.
Connected playing style and smooth shifting techniques
Connected and legato bowing styles were advised in violin treatises of the 18th and 19th centuries in a similar way to their vocal equivalents. Spohr details specific bow technique in Chapter 8 of his Violinschule, encouraging the pupil to manage bow “division” and pressure for different passages in order to create evenness of tone, which shares similarities with Corri’s and Garcia’s advice for air pressure and connection of notes in singing.36 Similarly, Spohr advises shifting “uniformly” when changing positions on the violin in order to create smoothness in the “sliding finger.”37 Spohr explains that, “if two tones lying at a distance are to [be] drawn together in one bowing … the leap from one tone to another cannot be made without the sliding of the hand being heard.”38
Evidence of portamento in violin playing and treatises of the 18th and 19th centuries
Portamento, being an essential element of the violinist’s repertoire of expressive tools, appears in most treatises of this time and, like other expressive devices or graces, portamento was encouraged to be used sparingly and in good taste, although this still may well have been more frequent than modern taste. While late-18th- and early-19th-century vocal treatises explained specific definitions of portamento, those of the violin were less explicit in the definitions of portamento, rather discussing the device in terms of audible smooth shifting techniques.
One of the earliest documented uses of portamento in 18th-century violin performance was by Nicola Mestrino (1748-1798) when he performed his Violin Concerto in B flat in 1786 in Paris.39 However, it is very likely that there was widespread use of portamenti earlier in the 18th century, as Burney’s comment in his General History (1780) states:
[Geminiani] was certainly mistaken in laying it down as a rule that 'no two notes on the same string, in shifting, should be played with the same finger,’ as beautiful expressions and effects are produced by great players in shifting, suddenly from a low note to a high, with the same finger on the same string.40
The Allegmeine Musikalische Zeitung of 1814 commented that portamento had been “taken over from singing into instrumental music.”41 However, Salieri was not in favour of portamento use in performance, complaining in his 1815 manifesto that “maniera languida” and “smorfiosa” were creeping into violin and vocal methods in a sickly grimacing manner.42 Others complained of the abuse of portamento creating a cat-like whine in violin playing, examples of which can be found in Clive Brown’s Classical and Romantic Performance Practice: 1750-1900.43 However, like Brown, I would argue that these complaints do not dismiss the use of portamento altogether, but rather warn against the inappropriate use of particular types of portamento, such as sliding with the destination finger in violin playing or reiterating the destination consonant in singing.44 It was emphasized throughout treatises of the time that portamenti should be executed with care and used sparingly. Spohr, who was known for imitating the “sighing sound of the passionate voice,”45 suggests using the original finger when sliding to avoid “unpleasant howling,”46 and Manuel Garcia (1805-1906) states, “to avoid a cat-like squalling ... the slur of the voice should be allowed a little more motion in the higher than the lower part.”47
Michel Woldemar (1750-1815), a self-described “élève de Lolli” (pupil of Lolli), took lessons with Lolli in Paris and included both the Mestrino chromatic portamenti and enharmonic scale in his Grande méthode, ou Etude élémentaire pour le violon of 1798.48 The explicit enharmonic chromatic notation of Woldemar’s exercises below (Fig. 2.3 and 2.4) show a similar, albeit more detailed, indication of connecting notes in a portamento to that of Novello in Fig. 2.2, although in both examples the extent to which either Novello or Woldemar would like the intermediary notes heard is not completely clear.
Figure 2.3: Woldemar’s Mestrino glissando exercise.49
Figure 2.4: Woldemar’s Mestrino enharmonic scale exercise.50
Fingerings in violin music indicating smooth audible shifting (portamento)
By comparing the markings in scores made by 18th- and 19th-century editors and contemporaries of the composers who were playing their music and working closely with them, we can gain a deeper understanding of the expressive techniques and aesthetics of the time. This will provide current players a larger tool-kit of expressive devices from which to choose for any given context. One of the most important markings in violin music is fingerings, as they indicate different ways of adding expression and variety to music, such as passages on one string to affect tone colour or to indicate connection and/or sliding between notes.
Baillot wrote about the importance of fingering choices influencing expression in violin playing, as he states:
While studying the music of various composers, the violinist must have noticed the difference in their methods of fingering; depending on the feeling they wanted to give to their passages, they either stayed in the same position, or shifted up and down on the same string, or did both in the same passage, in order to present its character better. In order to perform their works in the spirit in which they were written, the violinist must use methods similar to those of the composers; if he does not do this, he misrepresents their thought, and falls into a confusion of styles. This is the most fatal pitfall in art which rests on the fidelity of feeling that cannot be changed without destroying all interest.51
It is also interesting to note that the portamento examples in Baillot’s treatise are often employed in passages marked as singing in character.52 Baillot commented that Kreutzer and Rode used fingerings in similar manners; Kreutzer “shifted frequently on all strings; this style is appropriate for brilliant melodies and bold passage work” (Fig. 2.5 and 2.6).53
Figure 2.5: Kreutzer’s fingerings indicate frequent shifting in order to keep passages on the same string as much as possible in his Violin Concerto in A Major, No. 15, first movement, bars 147-154.54
Figure 2.6: Kreutzer’s fingerings indicate frequent shifting in his Violin Concerto in D Minor, No. 19. 1st movement bars 210-219. Note that he specifically advises the violinist to play difficult large leaps in the first 2.5 bars in order to keep the melody on the G string.55
Like Kreutzer, Rode “shifted on the same string; this style favours ports de voix (portamento) in graceful melodies and gives these melodies a certain unity of expression which comes from the homogeneity of sound of a single string,”56 as can be seen in Rode’s marking of the sul A passage (indicating to remain on the A string) in the Cantante (singing) section in Fig. 2.7 below.
Figure 2.7: Rode’s markings for the Cantate (singing) section of his Violin Sonata in C Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 24, No. 1. 2nd movement bars 9-12.57 The fingerings indicate playing on the same string as much as possible and Rode even marks “A….” to indicate that the second half of the melody should be played completely on the A string, which, like the vocal style of the 19th century, helps create evenness of tone colour.
Similarly, Baillot also made note of using portamenti in sul or una corda (single string) passages to emphasise the unique voice of each individual string,58 such as the “The E string, which has a clear and silvery timbre, and some of its tones can be considered an extension of the voice.”59 Una corda (single string) markings can be seen throughout the early editions of Schubert’s work, an example of which is in Ferdinand David (1810-1873)’s edition of Schubert’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 137, No. 3: Trio (Fig. 2.8 below). Furthermore, almost all shifts indicated by David are placed under a slur, which indicates that they were most likely audible shifts, due to the connected singing bowing technique of 19th-century musicians.
Figure 2.8: Schubert’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 137, No. 3: Trio.60 David’s fingerings indicate that the opening 20 bars of the Trio melody should to be played completely on the A string.
Mestrino was among Haydn’s musicians between 1780 and 1785 in Eszterházy and Haydn’s fingerings for the parts of his String Quartet, Op. 33 (1781-2) suggest application of portamento, most likely influenced by Mestrino (Fig. 2.9). The same-finger shifting under slurs (1st and 2nd fingers) notated throughout, are very difficult to execute inaudibly, so it is most likely that these shifts were executed with portamento. Haydn also indicates sull’istessa corda (same string) and an obvious jagged line to indicate sliding between the F6 and G5 in bar 17, between the G5 and Eb6 in bar 18, and Eb6 and F5 in bar 19. This could indicate a more obvious and drawn-out slide between notes, as opposed to a subtler portamento between the same-finger shifts under slurs.
Figure 2.9: Fingerings in Haydn’s String Quartet, Op. 33 No. 2, second movement (1781-2) indicate audible shifts (portamento).61
The fingerings in the 6th variation of the third movement of Antonio Lolli (1730-1802)’s Sonates pour violons in C, Op. 9 No. 4 (Fig. 2.10) similarly indicate portamento between position changes under slurs.62 Moreover, Lolli was famously criticized by Salieri for his use of portamenti in what he called his “Cat Concerto.”63 Similar to the markings in the Haydn example above, Lolli indicates same-finger shifts under slurs that were most likely audible shifts (portamento). However, without more specific indication of the execution of each shift, we cannot know exactly how obvious or fast each audible shift was intended to be played.64
Figure 2.10: Fingerings in Lolli’s Six Sonates pour violons in C, Op. 9, No. 4, sixth variation (c1785) indicate audible shifts (portamento).
Violinists in Schubert’s circle: their singing style of playing and use of portamento
In addition to Spohr, other notable violinists closely connected to Schubert were Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), his student Camillo Sivori (1815-1894), Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (1814-1865) and Josef Slavík (1806-1833), all of whom were praised, or at least noted, for their singing quality of playing and/or use of portamento. Paganini, famous for his extreme development of virtuosic violin techniques, used frequent portamenti, but was constantly criticised for his playing style, even though he was respected for his virtuosic abilities.65 As a reviewer in the Berliner Allegemeine Musikische Zeitung of 1829 stated: “His performance on the G string is really affected. Since he mostly uses one finger, a really dreadful meowing and wailing results from the continual movement up and down, which seems to delight Herr P.”66 A diary entry of Thomas Moore, dated 25 June 1831, also likened Paganini’s portamento to an enharmonic scale.67 Reviews of Paganini’s playing varied greatly, as can be seen in a letter from Spohr’s pupil, Elisabeth Filipowicz, to Spohr:
I do not understand how there are persons who say that his adagio on the G string moves them to tears, his eternal sliding of his fingers causes a wailing that made me laugh.68
Despite Paganini’s varied criticism, Schubert liked Paganini’s Adagio playing. Schubert stated in reference to Paganini’s playing in a letter to Anselm Hüttenbrenner in 1828, “I have heard an angel sing in the Adagio.”69 As Paganini was known for sliding frequently throughout his Adagios, it is most likely that Schubert also liked Paganini’s use of portamento. It is also germane to explore Paganini’s connection with other violinists of the time, as he was a highly influential violinist of the period. Sivori studied with Paganini’s former teacher Giacomo Costa and then with Paganini, who in 1828 claimed that he was “the only person who can call himself my pupil.” Sivori was known, among other violinists, for his style of bowing and use of the G string, and for the elegance and singing quality of his tone, which was beautiful and expressive.70 Ernst on the other hand didn’t study with Paganini, but was instead a pupil of Rode’s student, Joseph Böhm (1795-1876).71 Not only did he learn and develop key aspects of the French style but he was also praised for his Paganini-like playing, as this review in the Allegemeine Musikische Zeitung of 1840 states:
Above all, his cantabile on the instrument deserves the greatest acknowledgement, we are presented with a whole world of feeling, full of tenderness and soulfulness; the portamento as well as the swelling and fading of the notes is masterly and the embellishment extremely tasteful … he is the one who most successfully imitated Paganini’s style and stands far above all who pay homage to that Master.72
Lastly, Slavík “got to know Paganini, to value and love him during his stay [in Vienna], had free admission to the idol of his efforts at all hours, received many important, informative hints and clues, [and] explanations of several so-called secrets.”73 After a two-year break from public performance, during which time he devoted himself “to the most patient studies of Paganini’s manner of playing,” he astonished audiences with “everything with which the magician Niccolò enchanted us as a mature man,” including “passages on the G string alone, which went up to the unattainable boundaries and into the furthest regions – and, with these, soul, feeling, expression, purity and solid intonation.”74 Slavík’s style of playing is particularly notable as he premiered Schubert’s Fantasie in C in 1827 so we can be quite sure that portamento and a cantabile way of playing was implemented for this performance and others in Vienna during Schubert’s lifetime.
It is also interesting to note that Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776-1830), a greatly admired early-19th-century violinist who worked very closely with Beethoven and Schubert,75 was praised by Beethoven for his portamento use. Beethoven stated in c1824, “What I noticed particularly about Schuppanzigh was that he took care to slide his finger on the string from one note to another, so that when he played you heard all of the intervening tones, fast and condensed, like a blurred scale” (Fig. 2.11).76
Figure 2.11: Beethoven’s remarks about Schuppanzigh’s portamento use in his fifth conversation book.77
Furthermore, an unknown author by the name of “C.” wrote in 1832 of the famous double bass player, Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846):
Even the immortal Beethoven has stated to the writer of the present article, that his having heard the giant violin of his friend Dragonetti, led him to imagine those magnificent effects of bass in some of his grand symphonies, and those slidings upon one string which impart so beautiful and spiritual a character to his chamber music.78
Beethoven’s admiration for portamento use are important to note, as Beethoven and Schubert probably shared quite similar music tastes, as Schubert admired and was influenced by Beethoven greatly, and was even a torchbearer at his funeral in 1828.79 Therefore, it would not be surprising if Schubert also shared Beethoven’s preference for portamento use in his music.
Summary and Conclusions
Written documentation from the 18th- and 19th century - treatises, reviews and scores - shows us clearly that vocal styles and techniques heavily influenced the violin playing of the time. Violin treatises from the mid-18th century onwards explicitly advised violinists to imitate and take expressive inspiration from the voice. Written evidence of preferences for a fundamental legato or connected singing style shares links with early-19th-century violin treatises, which advised the use of legato and a connected bow and connected shifting techniques.80 Written historical documents clearly show that portamento was seen as a vocal technique that was taken over into violin playing style, so an understanding of fundamental vocal techniques and expressive devices is integral to understanding 19th-century portamento use in violin playing. Portamento use was frequent in performances in Vienna during Schubert’s lifetime, and many famous violinists from Schubert’s circle were praised for their singing style of violin playing and use of portamento, all of which shows the prominence of this expressive device in the musical language of the 19th century.
While we do not have explicit evidence of Schubert’s desire for portamento use in his music, this circumstantial contextual evidence justifies the appropriateness of frequent and varied portamento use in Schubert’s music, as it would have been very unlikely that the performers of his music did not use portamento in their playing.
Having established in this Chapter that 19th-century violinists took inspiration from vocal styles and techniques, and that portamento was a prominent and important vocal and violin expressive tool during Schubert’s time, the next task is to classify the different types of vocal and violin portamento that appear in the written documentation from Schubert’s context and time. This will provide a better understanding of the range of execution of this expressive device and is explored in more detail in Chapter 3.