Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/176
160 TRANSPOSING INSTRUMENTS.
too weak, if it were not possible to sing the part a note higher. Now in the first mass the counter bass in C can be played on an organ as set, but the other demands transposition to D, with the semitones F J and CJ, which to those who have not practised it, is hard and impos- sible. So therefore, with an oi-gan, as described, the organist may go on playing in C ( E-sol-fa-ut) on the key- board, although the pipes are in D (D-la-sol-re).
We may assume that in course of time the increasing skill of organists rendered mechanical transpositions unnecessary, since for the organ we hear no more about them ; but for the harpsi- chord they were to be met with in the 1 6th and following centuries. Praetorius (A.D. 1619) speaks of transposing clavicymbals (harpsichords) which by shifting the keyboard could be set two notes higher or lower, and describes a 'Universal- Clavicymbal' capable of gradual transposition by semitones to the extent of a fifth. Burney in his musical tour met with two transposing harpsichords; one a German one, made under the direction of Frederick the Great, at Venice ; the other (a Spanish one, also with moveable keys) at Bologna, belonging to Farinelli.
Considering the musical knowledge and skill required to transpose with facility beyond a sup- posititious change of signature and corresponding alteration in reading the accidentals, as from C to Cj or Cb ; it might appear strange that me- chanical contrivances for transposition have not been permanently adopted, but it finds its ex- planation in the disturbance of the co-ordination of hand and ear. Those who have the gift of absolute pitch are at once upset by it, while those who have not that gift and are the more mimerous, find a latent cause of irritation which, somehow or other, is a stumblingblock to the player. In the present day it is not a question of Temperament, equal or unequal, so much as of position in the scale of pitch, of which, if the ear is not absolutely conscious, it is yet conscious to a certain extent.
The transposing harpsichord mentioned by Burney, as belonging to Count Torre Taxis of Venice, had also a Pianoforte stop, a combina- tion in vogue at the time it was made, 1760. A German pianoforte with moveable keyboard was made for the Prince of Prussia in 1786, and about the same period Sebastien Erard con- structed an organised pianoforte, another favoured combination of the latter half of the i8th cen- tury, which transposed a semitone, whole tone, or minor third each way, to suit the limited voice of Marie Antoinette. Roller of Paris is also said to have made transposing pianos.
The most prominent instances of transposing pianofortes made in England in the present century are the following: (i) The square piano of Edward Ryley, patented in 1801, and acting by a false keyboard, which was placed above the true one, and could be shifted to any semitone in the octave. Ryley's idea as stated in his specification went back to the original one of playing everything in the so-called natural scale of C. The patent for this complete trans-
��i This very difficult passage In the quaint original has been ren- dered from an elucidatory footnote by the Editor, Herr Eitner.
poser was bought by John and James Broad- wood, and an instrument so made is in the possession of the present firm. (2) The Royal Albert Transposing piano, brought out by Messrs. Addison & Co. soon after the marriage of Her Majesty the Queen, a piccolo or cottage instru- ment, is described by Rimbault in his History, as having the keys divided at half their length, the front and back ends being capable of moving independently of each other. (3) Messrs. Broad- woods' transposing Boudoir Cottage pianos, made about 1845, displayed the novel feature of the instrument itself moving while the keyboard and action were stationary. In some of theix pianos made in this way, the instrument was suspended between two pivoted metal supporters which allowed the gradual movement, semitone by semitone, effected by turning a pin at the side with an ordinary tuning-hammer. Subsequently the instrument was moved in a groove at the top and on two wheels at the bottom of the outer fixed case, but neither contrivance was patented, nor was long continued to be made. (4) The latest attempt at transposing by the keyboard has been brought forward in the present year (1884) by Hermann Wagner of Stuttgart. He names his invention ' Transponir- Pianino.' We gather from the description and drawings in the ' Zeitschrift fur Instrumenten- bau/ Band 4, No. 12 (Leipzig, Jan. 12, 1884) that the keyboard moves bodily, there being a preliminary movement for protecting the action cranks or rockers by raising them together while the keyboard is being shifted. (5) The last transposing contrivance to be mentioned is the ' Transpositeur ' of Messrs. Pleyel, Wolff, & C 1 *. of Paris, invented by M. Auguste Wolff in 1873. The Transpositeur being an independent false keyboard can be applied to any pianoforte by any maker. It has therefore the great merits of adaptability and convenience. It can be placed upon the proper keyboard of an instru- ment, and by touching a spring to the right hand of the player and a button which per- mits the keyboard to be shifted through all the semitones of an octave, the transposition de- sired is effected. The Transpositeur is patented and is sold by the Pleyel firm in Paris, or their agent, Mr. Berrow, in London, at a moderate price. It is of course open to the same natural objection which we have already noticed in speaking of the transposing clavicymbals of Prse- torius. [A.J.H.]
TRANSPOSITION, change of key, the nota- tion or performance of a musical composition in a different key from that in which it is written. When it is said that a piece of music is in a cer- tain key, it is understood that it consists of the notes of a certain scale, and that, except chro- matic passing-notes and suchlike melodic changes, no note can be employed which is not a part of that scale. Each note of the composition there- fore occupies a definite position as a degree of the scale in which it is written, and in order to trans- pose a phrase, each note must be written, sung, or played a certain fixed distance higher or lower,