June 16, 2020

The present book is an exposition, of the utmost comprehensiveness, of convertible counterpoint in the strict style. In using it as a textbook the teacher should. Has anyone read this? Understood it? I am always interested in books by notable composers, but this one is expensive and said to be fairly dry. Results 1 – 30 of 37 Convertible Counterpoint in the Strict Style (Classic Reprint) (Paperback) by Serge Ivanovitch Taneiev and a great selection of related books.

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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. If anyone ever raised the question as to what author commanded the most comprehensive and ready knowledge of counterpoint through the ages I believe none other than Taneiev could be named, because this work is the synthesis of two centuries of study and learning in the realm of counterpoint. Serge Ivanovitch was one of the most extraordinary intellectuals of the many to which Russia has given birth.

In addition to music he acquired a really deep knowledge of natural science, sociology and philosophy. Russia’s artists and thinkers sought him out all through his life— even flocking to visit him in the poor dwelling of his last years. Tschaikowsky, fifteen years his senior, would submit to criticism from this pupil of his which he would tolerate from no one else.

Rimsky-Korsakow, with all his technical brilliance, felt like a student musician in the presence of Taneiev, and admitted it. This great treatise was published in Moscow in Since I practised composition in my early career I fairly devoured the book and urged on many others the advantage of doing likewise. When I had to devote most of my time to my career as a double-bass virtuoso, and later when my activities emphasized conducting to the detriment of com- posing, I found that Taneiev ‘s Counterpoint was an invaluable asset on innumerable occasions in working out interpretation of orchestral scores— especially those of Bach, Handel and Brahms.

In Moscow we lived in the same neighborhood and frequently called on one another. We had long, interesting talks, and he amazed me by the boldness of his ideas; often in the field of musical interpretation he was daring to the point of radicalism. I recall when I was preparing for the first time to conduct Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that I used to go to Taneiev with the score. His conception was so striking and free from established traditions that even I, revolutionarily inclined, did not dare to accept it.

I knew him, of course, ij one of Russia’s formost pianists-although unknown to America. I have never heard the Fourth Concerto of Beethoven given a more brilliant and vivid performance; free and logical at the same time.

And I knew him also as a composer of unique qualities. So much was he the master of contrapuntal theory and not its slave, that his music concealed his immense technique in its application. This is particularly true of his only opera, Oresteia, his chamber music, and especially his cantata On the Reading of a Psalm.

It was my privilege to introduce this masterpiece to the public in two different ways. Taneiev in his last years was much reduced from lifelong affluence, and was living in a primitive dwelling with not even running water. In the beginning of he told me how he wished to compose a cantata which would require two years of intense work, but that he could not even dream of doing it because he must make a living-giving lessons and so forth. I immediately offered to give him the sum he needed, and to publish the cantata in my publishing house, Editions Russe de Musique, which, by coincidence, had been founded the year his book appeared.

The sum he mentioned was ridiculously small even for those days. This may well give an idea of how modestly he lived, but he positively refused a higher offer. It was indeed a masterpiece— a great and noble work. When I conducted two performances in each city in April,it was declared by all competent judges to be the finest work Taneiev had produced. I have never seen Serge Ivanovitch as happy as at these performances of his cantata.

Later in the month he caugh a severe cold at the funeral services for Scribin, and this produced a heart complication which caused his death on June 19, The enlightment on musical structure, the mental stimulus, in Taneiev’s book are of far-reaching service. As counterpoint is presented by Serge Ivanovitch the reader finds himself, like the author, making of it not so much the analysis of a process as a habit of thought, a second thought, a second nature, which leads on to the creation of beauty- flawless in its form and proportions.

Taneiev’s compositions must speak for themselves; the present purpose is neither to attempt a critical estimate of them nor to give a biographical sketch of their composer, but to introduce to teachers and students of composition his work on advanced counterpoint. It is difficult to discuss this book in terms of restraint. Since the fourteenth century, or earlier, many books on music theory have appeared.

Amid a mass of indifferent writings and conuterpoint of considerable value but not outstanding there are a few that have made history; one of the countrepoint was the Dodechachordon of Glearanus, another was the Gradus ad Parnassum of Josph Fux.

Not without good reason has Lazare Saminsky referred to Convertible Counterpoint as “having the same meaning for musical science that Newton’s Principia has for cosmology. It is a book that will reveal possibilities for the art of composition that have hitherto been but vaguely realized or actually unknown. Though applying, according to the title, only to the strict style of the Styyle Period, its principles, as the author himself says, may be extended to the free style of later times and to the modernism of today and of the future.


To study and master its contents will give the student a command over the resources of composition that can be obtained in no other way. The variety of subjects in it, the thoroughness and clearness with which they are presented, their logical arrangement, the examples illustrating the text, and above all the astounding originality of the author’s thought— all this makes this a work compared to which other books on counterpoint seem elementary.

From this it may be inferred that Convertible Counterpoint is not a beginner’s text, yet its study may be undertaken sooner than might be expected.

To this I would add that there seems to be no reason why the exercises in two voices should not be successfully attempted as soon as two-voice mixed counterpoint i. The student should then be well able to cope with the simpler of the fascinating problems set by Taneiev in the earlier chapters of Parts One and Two, though the more difficult ones will require skill in the manipulation of from three to six voices.

The first thing that is likely to surprise the reader who may think that this is “just another book on counterpoint” is the proposition advanced by the author in his Preface- that the study of counterpoint is here put on a mathematical basis— algebra vounterpoint fact.

Convertible Counterpoint in the Strict Style

Yet this is quite in accordance with present-day tendencies, and the fact that Taneiev thought about it as far back as shows that he is a pioneer in a field of research that converfible includes several prominent names in the musical world. But the student may be assured that he is not expected to know more than the fundamentals of algebra; of this more will be said presently.

Taneiev’s method opens up an enormous extent of untried resources, heretofore inaccessible because of the lack of an adequate approach— and only mathematics can provide it. The effect of Taneiev’s method is quite the opposite; it releases the imagination, pointing the way to endless possibilities that otherwise would never have been thought of.

Here a few statistics may be enlightening, as showing how inadequately a vast subject has hitherto been treated. Referring to eighteen standard texts that claim to teach double counterpointI find that while all of them deal with double counterpoint at the octave or two octavesnone mentions double counterpoint at the fifth, only three at the sixth, two at the seventh, six at the ninth, seven at the eleventh, all except two at the tenth and the twelfth, six at the thirteenth and five at the fourteenth.

Two of them deal with double counterpoint only at the octave. Several speak disparagingly of double counterpoint at intervals other than the octave, tenth, and twelfth. Not one mentions a use of combined themes that is found in Bach but which can be classified as neither simple nor double counterpoint.

Put together, these texts provide for only nine ways of writing counterpoint in which the interval-relationship could be changed; Taneiev deals exhaustively with twenty-three, not by giving endless lists of rules and exceptions but by equations in simple algebra that eliminate all trial-and-error methods and that give positive results. All of them tne practicable in the strict style, not to mention the free. Furthermore, none of these texts deals with triple counterpoint at any interval other than the octave, and one of them Jadassohn definitely states that such a thing is impossible.

Taneiev shows how it isdone Of the authors cited in the first footnote and who could be expected to know about Taneiev’s work only one, George Conus, mentions him. Again, the changes possible in the time-entrances of two or more melodies, called in this book the horizontal shift, are countrepoint in all texts except Taneiev’s, though some authors call attention to this interesting phenomenon in occasional quotations from Bach.

But none of them throw the faintest light upon how it is done. Finally, the principles of duplicated counterpoint and the horizontal shift combined with other varieties of counterpoint in both two and three voices leave one amazed at the enormous scope of the subject.

An inventory of what is still untried in counterpoint would, by the application of Taneiev’s methods, run almost into astro- nomical figures. Now as to algebra: Three hours spent with convertiblle algebra textbook should be enough for the most complicated of Taneiev’s problems. Marquard, Morris, Prout, Richter, Riemann, Spalding, and Stohr; by no means exhaustive of the literature on the subject but, I think, a fair cross-section.

In Russian; it is published by the Soviet Government. The musical quotations have been verified— a necessary measure as the original edition contains many misprints. On the last page of comvertible original is the word konyetz, which I have omitted, as this srrict was not “the end” but was followed by a sequel dealing with the canon, doing this difficult style of composition what the present work does for convertible counterpoint— puts the study on a scientific basis. I am indebted to several whose interest, advice, and information are in no small measure responsible for the appearance in English of the monumental work of Taneiev.

First to be mentioned in Lazare Saminsky, counteropint, about twenty years ago, told me of Taneiev ‘s book and how radically different and superior it was to other texts. Without his description of the book and his enthusiastic recommendation of it I might never have known about it. Next are the obligations Stle owe to Alexander Siloti and Nicholas Orloff, both pupils of Taneiev whose reminiscences of their teacher were of the greatest interest. From Serge Rachmaninoff, Leopold Godowsky, Moritz Rosenthal, and Gregor Piatigorski I have received encouragement in a project that I entered upon with some doubts as to its interest to a publisher but none as to its value.


Serge Koussevitzky, whose activities in the musical life of America were too well known to need further comment, contributed an Introduction. From books I have got valuable help from the Memoirs of Taneiev, by Leonid Sabaniev, and from the second volume of the History of Music in Russia, a symposium on Taneiev, published in Moscow.

Tha manager of Bruce Humphries, Mr. Brown, convetrible the members of the editorial and production staff have solved most successfully the peculiar mechanical problems that the printing of such a complicated text involves— the first of its kind to be done in English. The system expounded in the present work appears to me to be simpler, more accurate and more accessible, as the result of applying the processes of elementary algebra to contrapuntal combinations, and by restating certain essential rules in terms of the con- ventional symbols of mathematics.

This enabled me to take into consideration a far greater number of relevant facts, and to bring them under control of a comparatively small number of general principles. For many years I have used separate parts of this theory in my classes in counterpoint at the Moscow Conservatory, and I have tried to simplify the treatment at those places where experience has shown that difficulties were encountered by students.

The present book is an exposition, of the utmost comprehensiveness, of convertible counterpoint in the strict style. In using it as a textbook the teacher should select, from amid the detailed development of the subject, what is most necessary for the student. I have dedicated this book to the memory of H. Laroche, whose articles especially Thoughts on Musical Education in Russia have had a profound influence on the trend of my musical activities. The differences between the contrapuntal writing of these two eras are to be found both in hte nature of the melodies themselves and in the char- acter of the harmonies formed by these melodies in combination.

Strict counterpoint, developed on the basis of the so-called ecclesiastical modes, was a pre-eminently vocal style that had not been exposed to the kind of influence that instrumental music later exerted; antedating such influence, it attained counterpoknt complete self- fulfilment. Strict counterpoint excludes everything stritc presents difficulty to voices singing without instrumental accompaniment.

Melodies in the strict style show evid- ences of their origin in the chants of the Catholic Church — they exhibit many char- acteristics of these early canticles.

Full text of “Convertible counterpoint in the strict style”

They are strictly diatonic, are written in the ec- clesiastical modes, and in them are no. Two-voice counterpoint is subject to the rules governing the progression of intervals, these being employed in a way that for fonvertible normal hearing is the most simple and natural.

A jn of the rules of simple counterpoint in the strict style is es- sential in order to understand the present work, though this is not the place to explain them.

In strict writing the rules of two-voice counterpoint apply also to more intricate polyphony. With a few exceptions it is observable that in a multi-voice combination each voice together with every other forms correct two-voice counterpoint; that multi- voice counterpoint is an association of several two-voice combinations, as a result of which is obtained a series of varied consonant and dissonant harmonies, foreign to con- temporary harmony and often sounding strange to iin.

Although isolated harmonies may be classified under the heads of certain chords, the term “harmony,” in the sense in which it is used in the music of today, counrerpoint not applicable to the old contrapuntal style. Harmony of the strict style is not subordinated to the requirements of our modern tonal system, in which a series of chords is grouped around a central tonic chord: In the harmony of the strict style there counterpoknt no such dependence of some parts upon others, or of what may be called harmonic action at a distance.

Only in the perfect cad- ence, where as a result of the ascent of the leading-tone to the tonic the gravitation of dominant to tonic harmony is temporarily brought about, can be seen the embryo of our present tonal system.

Aside from such cadences the strict style does not present a ser- ies of harmonies that are unified in this sense; key-continuity may be entirely absent, and any chord may follow any other, on a strictly diatonic basis. In music of the Polyphonic Period — essentially vocal — coherence was provided for first of all by a text. The result of this use of a single on that counterpoinnt in different voices was to sthle the thematic material equally among all of them, giving to the whole a high degree of coherence.

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