Twenty Six Golden Rules of Ensemble Playing


by Walter Bergman (1903-1988)


1.  Never worry whether you play the same piece as the others;  they will soon find out.
2.  Stop at every repeat sign and enter into a palaver about whether you should, should not, would, would not, could, could not, want, or want not, to repeat.
3.  Which is the most important part in an ensemble?  The other one.
4.  Always aim for the highest number of n.p.s. (notes per second).
5.  If you play a wrong note, give your partner a dirty look.
6.  Always keep your fingering chart handy.  If, in the middle of the piece, you don’t know the fingering of a note, look it up, try the note, and then catch up with the others.
7.  If a passage is difficult, slow down; if it’s easy, speed up.  In the long run it all evens out.
8.  A right note, at the wrong time, is a wrong note (and vice versa).
9.  Do take your time turning a page – it gives everyone a nice rest.
10. Rests are difficult, especially on the recorder.  If you are not sure of their lengths, ignore them.
11. If you alone are right and everyone else is wrong, follow the wrong.
12. If you have irretrievably lost your place in the music, stop everyone and say, ‘I think you need to retune.’
13. Blessed are the poor in intonation, for theirs is the kingdom of music.
14. Memorize the following line, which you can have ready for a variety of situations: ‘I alway play in tune, because I play a Moeck (Coolsma, Aulos, Dolmetsch, Koch, Kung, von Huene, etc.) recorder.’
15. Tune carefully before playing, and then you can safely play out of tune for the entire evening.
16. Your conductor has been paid.  There is no need to look at him.
17. But be sure to _follow_ the conductor (don’t be together with him).
18. Spare the breath and spoil the tune!
19. Remember, vibrato _always_ starts on the upper frequency.
20. An ornament should be an embellishment and not an embarrassment.
21. Remember Shakespeare’s immortal lines:
“A rest is silence” (Hamlet)
“My kingdom for a semiquaver.” (Richard III)
“My foot my tutor?”  (The Tempest)
22. Pick out of old books (Quantz, etc.) what you like, and bypass what does not suit your preconceived ideas.
23. Authentic interpretation is not achieved until not a note of the original is left.
24. Do be careful to select the right edition. The best editor is he who writes _forte_ at the beginning of a fast movement, and _piano_ at the beginning of a slow one.  He puts breath marks over rests and omits them where they could be helpful. He also write prefaces that make the performance of a piece completely unnecessary and sometimes even undesirable.
25. Remember, _forte_ and _piano_ marks, dots, and crescendos and decrescendos are not there to be observed.  They are decorations for the eye, invented by frustrated engravers, and they have no special musical meaning. As communications from the composer they are equally unimportant, because composers are mostly dead and don’t understand their own compositions, anyhow.
There are, however, three exceptions to this rule:
a)  A dot over a note prolongs its duration by one half-step.
b)  Crescendo and decrescendo hairpins are essential over rests.
c)  In examples like the following, adhere carefully to directions: [six measures of tied whole notes, marked ‘Nicht schleppen (do not drag)’]
26. Thou shalt not play the little bit left over at the end… [Here there should be the little musical example. The little bit left over is the 2nd entrance of a repeat.]