ABSTRACT

The array of different ornament signs (agréments) that French composers employed in their music can be a potential source of confusion for players today. Not only were there many different signs that represent the same ornament, but there were often several different names for a single ornament. Some composers employed familiar ornament signs without further explanation; only a few composers included explanations of how the signs they used should be interpreted. Fewer still added a table of ornament signs that applied to their music. Another source of confusion for players today arises from what is essentially the same ornament being marked with a different sign for the voice than for harpsichord; ornament signs in solo viol music may also be different from those in violin music. Fortunately, most French ornaments used in Baroque music fall into a few general categories, each of which can be understood to include several variants. Among the most common are trills, mordents, and appoggiaturas. Each of these categories will be discussed below, followed by explanations for a few additional ornaments that appear in French music for strings.