Nachschlag

Music of Yesterday
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The German name for one of the graces of instrumental and vocal music. It consists of a note played or sung at the end of the note to which is serves as an ornament, and it thus forms, as its name indicates, the antithesis to the Vorschlag, or short appoggiatura, which is played at the beginning.

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Like all graces, the Nachschlag forms part of the value of its principal note, which is accordingly curtailed to make room for it, just as in the Vorschlag the principal note loses a portion of its value at the beginning. Emanuel Bach, who is the chief authority on the subject of grace notes, does not approve of this curtailment. He says, ‘All graces written in small notes belong to the next following large note, and the value of the preceding large note must therefore never be lessened.’ And again, ‘The ugly Nachschlag has arisen from the error of separating the Vorschlag from its principal note, and playing it within the value of the foregoing note,’ and he gives the following passage as an instance, which he considers would be far better rendered as in 4 below than as in 3.

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Nevertheless, Emanuel Bach’s successors, Marpurg, Turk, Leopold Mozart, etc., have all recognized the Nachschlag as a legitimate grace, thought they all protest against its being written as a small note, on account of its liability to be confounded with the Vorschlag. Marpurg refers to an early method of indicating it by means of a bent line, the angel being directed upwards or downwards according as the Nachschlag was above or below the principal note as in 5 below, while for a springing Nachschlag, the leap of which was always into the next following principal note, an oblique line was used as in 6 below. ‘But at the present day (1755), ‘ he goes on to say, ‘the Nachschlag is always written as a small note, with the hook turned towards its own principal note’ as in 7 below.

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The Nachschalg was not limited to a single note, groups of two notes (called by Turk the double Nachschlag) forming a diatonic progression, and played at the end of their principal note, being frequently met with, and groups of even more notes occasionally.

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Modern composers, on the other hand, have returned to some extent to the older method of writing the Nachschlag as a small note, apparently not taking into account the possibility of its being mistaken for a Vorschlag. It is true that in most cases there is practically little chance of a misapprehension, the general character and rhythm of the phrase sufficiently indicating that the small notes form a Nachschlag.

Thus in many instances in Schumann’s pianoforte works the small note is placed at the end of a bar, in the position in which as Nachschlag it ought to be played, thus distinguishing it from the Vorschlag, which would be written at the beginning of the bar as in 10 below. And in the examples quotes below from Liszt and Chopin, although the same precaution has not been taken, yet the effect intended is sufficiently clear – the small notes all fall within the time of the preceding notes as in 11 below.

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Although the employment of the Nachschlag is so general in composition, it appears to have no distinctive name in any language except German. Some English authors have adopted the translation Afternote, but it has never come into general use, while among the old French agremens there is one called Accent, which is identical both as to sign and execution with the Nachschlag described by Marpurg in 5 above, but which, according to Rousseau, who speaks of it as a coup de gosier, only belonged to vocal music.

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