Ornaments (Mordente & Grupetto/Apoggiatura)

Ornamentation is one of the most necessary, prominent and milestones of violin literature. The usage of ornamentations are indeed varied by the aesthetical notions of compositions. However, in Baroque Era,the composers usually preferred not to add anything on the score, that is why, the players generally decided to make, their own interperatitions and improvised many kinds of ornamentation variations while they were playing the pieces…

As a matter of fact, the composer after Baroque; especially Classic and Romantic composers –such as Kreisler, Rode, Kreutzer, Spohr and so on- would definitely prefer to indicate the ornamentations in their work as they want to get it performed. As a result of this, the player needs to play and obeys only the directions (notes, ornaments etc.) of the score related to works of these composers.

The ornaments, as I want to mention in this article, are mordents and grupetto –also known as ‘turn’ and ‘grace-notes’ in English-. “They were mainly employed in airs, in slow movements whose expressive,playing depended on the good taste and musical feeling of the artist.” (Auer) Unfortunately, the players did not use to have written source to play the embelishments including grupetto and mordents, so they sometimes exaggerated the usage of ornaments. For example; “Leopold Mozart complained in his Gründliche Violinschule, that the solo violinist abused to an extent which threatens the total extinction of the principle thing, the melody itself.” (Auer) That is the reason why, the great masters like Paganini, Viotti and Beethoven used the combinations of embelishment (in particular trills) in their formidable works (concertos, sonatas, symphonies etc.) and mentioned on the score, so nobody will be able add any kind of ornamental variations or change them, since it is unnecessary.

There are many kinds of ornaments in violin music. For instance, appogiatura or “grace-notes” can be seen in the example:

“Inspite of the small notes the rhythm is not and should not be disturbed. These grace notes, as notes, do not count in the rhythm, and in playing them the violinist should be guided entirely by his rhythmic sensibility.” (Auer)

In other words, the players should play these grace-notes in very limited time period, because these notes do not have any functions other than aesthetical sense.

As we look at the example above; we can see two ornamental patterns which are two variations of same embelishment; the first one (a) is played quite short, while the unbarred note (b), borrows half its value from the note preceding, but in such fashion that the rhythm remains unchanged save, of course, for the change in time value of the note from which it borrows” (Auer)

Another notable examples demonstrate one other important ornamental variety; mordente or ‘turn’ which is marked with the sign ‘’. Before making an analysis; I should say it is consisted of three notes, “…in which the accent invariably falls on the long note.” (Auer)

According to Auer –which I totally agree with- the principal rule which is supposed to be observed by (violin) player in slow movement or in cantabile sections, s/he should avoid playing mordente (turn) so fast that, s/he will be able to make its rendition conform to the character of the musical phrase. (Auer)


  1. Auer, Leopold, ‘Violin Playing as I Teach it’, Frederick A. Stokes Company, 2009 http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/7/7d/IMSLP29626-PMLP66515-Auer_Violin_Playng.pdf,  27.11.2012

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