Corda Music Publications – Books by Judy Tarling

On this page: Handel's Messiah: A Rhetorical Guide, The Weapons of Rhetoric and Baroque String Playing . . . for ingenious learners

See also our Early Music catalogue for the following books by Judy Tarling: 

Baroque Violin Technique (CMP 487 - £9.00) and The Baroque Dance 1660-1725 (CMP 496 - £9.75).     Early Music List

Yfile:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Windows/My%20Documents/CordaMusic/Web%20Sept%202021/author.htmlou might also be interested in:

Concertos  of the Classical Viennese School, c.1780-1810, and their Scoring  by Richard Maunder.  see  Concertos     £15.00  


HANDEL'S MESSIAH: A Rhetorical Guide by Judy Tarling


Published August 2014

(see postage costs below)

This is a book for all lovers of Handel's Messiah, whether performer or listener, choir member or director, solo singer or orchestral musician. The story of the creation of the Messiah is followed by a close unpicking and rhetorical analysis of the biblical text as presented to Handel by his friend Charles Jennens. Then Handel's setting of the text to music is described, showing how devices such as word-painting, repetition, questions and exclamations portray and enhance the Christian message and add to its impact on the listener. This is followed by a performer's guide to delivering Handel's ideas using rhetorical techniques of delivery; the book finishes with a review of the audience's reception of this great work, put into the context of contemporary ideas about what constituted the sublime, and revealing many layers of rhetorical craft beneath the familiar music.  See also:

Rhetorical ideas from Classical Roman and Greek authors are used alongside texts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which were written to help people to read and understand the Bible in the Protestant Church tradition. Judy Tarling's book The Weapons of Rhetoric introduced musicians and audiences to the connection between performing music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the techniques of oratory. This book takes us from the general to the particular: not for nothing were many of the great works of Handel described as Oratorios.


 If ordering together with copies of Baroque String Playing and/or any other of our editions, the post & packing cost per book will be much reduced.

We regret that the UK Post Office has increased prices by large percentages in recent years. Where possible we will try to avoid the Post Office and find a cheaper method of delivery for you.




Following the success of Baroque String Playing 'for ingenious learners' (see below BSP 1), Judy Tarling's second book strikes at the heart of musical performance with a study of the relationship between music and rhetoric, which was much remarked upon during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Revised edition 2013 now with enlarged index and references.

Comparisons between oratory and the performance of music are to be found from the beginning of the 16th century and continue until the late 18th century. Thomas Mace (1676) asks the musician to show as much wit and variety as an orator. Geminiani (1751) compares all good music to a discourse, and recommends that the musician should use the same effects as an orator. Quantz (1752) requires the musician to use the skills of an orator to become the master of the hearts of his listeners.The absence of further detail implies that the musicians of the day knew what this meant in practice.

Using the works of the classical rhetoricians Cicero and Quintilian as a framework for the book, their ideas are traced through the Tudor classroom and popular Renaissance eloquence books through to the late 18th century. Concentrating on performance techniques that aid communication of musical ideas to an audience, historical source material is used to demonstrate how to hold the attention of the listener and at the same time move and delight him, as in the classical oration. Quotations from the rhetoric manuals, Shakespeare and the Bible are complemented by over one hundred musical examples, drawn mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries, which illustrate the connection between speaking and playing in the rhetorical style.

Subjects covered in the book include: A survey of the sources from ancient times, Renaissance educational method, the iconography of eloquence and persuasion, the audience, decorum, stage manner, style, imitation, affect, 'the passions', word painting, allegory, speech-based delivery, tone quality, dynamics, length of notes or syllables, exclamations, emphasis, humour, nerves, sprezzatura, articulation, rests, sighs, surprise, silence, tempo, structure, rhythm, ornamentation, figures, repetition, and rhetorical schemes.

Review from The British Clavichord Society Newsletter, October 2005.
Judy Tarling is a distinguished string player familiar to English audiences through her work with the Parley of Instruments ensemble. Following on from her recent tutor book Baroque String Playing 'for ingenious learners', this guide is aimed at both performers and listeners and attempts to chart the relationship between music and rhetoric during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. An impressive and daunting quantity of material has been condensed into a modest-sized volume (271 pages), and while the range of subjects is vast, the content is logically organized and the written style approachable.

The argument for the rhetorical interpretation of music goes something like this: The skills of an experienced and fluent orator (such as an actor or a legal advocate) have striking similarities to a successful musical communicator. Through Humanist education, the rhetorical traditions of the ancient classical world shaped the thinking of those who influenced musical taste. Composers and performers must have been influenced by this, as writings frequently compare spoken oratory and musical performance. Unfortunately, those writings fail to show how this was done in practice, so the extent to which rhetoric manifested itself in sound can never be proved. Although attempts to interpret music according to rhetorical principles remain a speculative exercise, Tarling's book must be applauded for inviting us to share her considerable knowledge of the historical background and apply her findings creatively.

Reading the book at one sitting will be found rather hard going, and it is better dipped into as a reference tool. It is divided into five parts: an introduction to classical rhetoric, and four sections concerning rhetorical performance — audience and affect, delivery, structure and ornamentation. The clear structure and extensive index make for easy use, while frequent quotations from primary sources and over 700 references lend the book a scholarly air. The ideas of the classical rhetoricians Cicero and Quintilian form the core of the book, and the common threads that unite this material are drawn upon throughout. The sections on the Tudor schoolroom and popular Renaissance eloquence books are particualrly interesting, and throughout Tarling discusses performcnce techniques as ways to hold an audience and excite emotions.

So how can any of this be applied on a practical level? I can only answer for myself. A performing musician relies heavily upon creative instinct. Each performnce is a new interaction between the music, player and listener, and, like an athlete, the performer must be ready and poised: well prepared in the gesture and choreography of the music but also free to react to and create each moment afresh. All this requires instinct, and one must continually renew the sources of inspiration which fuel it. As a tool for honing and focusing musical instinct, rhetoric undoubtedly has its uses. The strength of Tarling' s approach lies in her ability to move beyond rhetorical analysis for its own sake and to enliven our understanding through her experience as a performer.

And can I recommend ths book to British Clavichord Society readership? Yes, I think I can, but with certain reservations. Anyone looking for a specific reference to the clavichord (or organ or keyboard) will be disappointed. This is a pity, as much of its repertoire exemplifies rhetorical thinking. Something on the vogue for clavichord performance in the later eighteenth century and the aesthetic theories it inspired an certain artists and thinkers would have been welcome. Nonetheless, the interpretative issues covered will not be lost on readers of this Newsletter and keyboard players generally. For example, the sections on string phrasing and articulation are particularly relevant to clavichord playing. The theory of affects is well covered (about a fifth of the book), mainly from Mattheson's monumental writings, with salient points usefully précised in tabular form for easy reference. The section on structure contains a very well illustrated discussion of rhythm and metre as a structural principle and briefly applies the forms of classical oration to non-keyboard music (a refreshing change, as keyboard music has been analysed to death with this approach).

I think listeners and musicians will find much to fascinate them, and as an introduction to a difficult but central topic this book has much to recommend it. It is very reasonably priced (costing little more than a full price CD) and for its factual information alone (just under half the book) it is well worth the money. I liked the size and feel of the book (especially the chosen page size and quality of paper). The paperback binding is solid and the layout clear to use and understand. It is strewn with excellent illustrations and over a hundred musical examples to support the author's interpretative opinions.

Paperback, 296 pages, including many illustrations and more than 100 musical examples.

Postage costs vary according to destination and weight of package.


If ordering several copies, the postage costs are proportionately less per copy; please contact us for a quote. We can also quote shipping costs for one copy each of either Handel's Messiah, Weapons of Rhetoric, Baroque String Playing and/or The Original Songs of Shakespeare's Plays when sent in a single package.





Second edition, newly updated June 2013

(see postage details below)

All you ever wanted to know about performing early music, but were afraid to ask. Well, fear no more. Subtitled . . . for ingenious learners . . . . this is a landmark publication that sets out in meticulous detail the many varied skills required for playing string music from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. It will be required reading for amateurs and professionals alike. In a lucid and practical style, Judy Tarling has distilled 30 years of experience in playing chamber and orchestral music of the period, and her brilliantly researched book sets out all the finest points with copious quotations from dozens of historical sources. All bowed string instruments are dealt with; there is extensive information about playing basso continuo and a host of other important topics. Included in the book is a CD with recorded examples to illustrate the finer points of interpretation.

Subjects discussed in the book: Affect, articulation, bow vibrato, bow-hold, bowings, buying Baroque equipment, the 'cello, chords, consort style, continuo instrument choice, dance, dissonance, divisions, dotted notes, double bass, double stopping, dynamics, editions, ensembles, facsimiles, figured bass, fingering choice, harmony, holding the instrument, identifying French & Italian style, inequality, intervals, messa di voce, ornamentation, pitch, position changing, publishers, range, recitative, repeats, rhetoric, rhythm, rubato, rules, scordatura, signs, slurs, speed, staccato, strings, temperament, tempo, time signatures, treatises, tuning, the viola, vibrato, violone.

Musical examples by: L'Abbé le fils - Bach - Biber - Bonporti - Caccini - Castello - Cima - Corelli - Corrette - Couperin - Feuillet - Geminiani - Gibbons - Handel - Leclair - Locke - Lully - Marais - Mattheson - Matteis - Mealli - L. Mozart - Muffat - Ortiz - Piani - Playford - Purcell - Quantz - Rameau - Schmelzer - Simpson - Tartini - Walther - Westhoff - Veracini - Vivaldi - Zanetti.


 If ordering one copy each of Baroque String Playing and Weapons of Rhetoric please contact us for a quote.

Postage costs vary according to destination and weight of package. We will find the cheapest and most effective rate for you.

See also our Early Music List for two more books by Judy Tarling: Baroque Violin Technique (CMP 487) and The Baroque Dance 1660-1725 (CMP 496).

For details of Ensembles, Concert artists who use Corda music editions, etc., click on Concerts.

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Last updated 15th April 2022