A Timeline history of the Violin Bow - from c. 1600 - 1800

... the sources in detail ...


Johann Joachim Quantz 1697 - 1773)
Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (Berlin, 1752)

You can find an online version of the complete facsimile on imslp in German and French, and the English translation by Edward R. Riley is readily available both as printed and e-book.

Quantz's Versuch is one of the most important sources for 18th century performance practice. While its main topic might be the flute and flute playing, there is invaluable advice for the strings, with a lot of information about the appropriate bow stroke. The relevant part for us here is Chapter 18, Section II - Of the Ripieno Violinists in Particular . The whole chapter is worth reading - here are a few extracts:
§3 In the case of the violin and related instruments, what matters most for performance is the bow-stroke.

After some discussion designed to demonstrate just how important bowing is - and how important it is to play as the composer intended), he writes:
§7 This is not the place to deal with all the principles of bowing, because I assume I have a reader who understands both the violin and bowing.

The principle feature of good bowing is this: that the notes that should have an up or a down bow should be played in that way, as much as is possible.

From here §8 to §18 Quantz presents a very detailed account of various types of stroke, and how to use them in particular contexts. It is pretty much essential reading - but not always completely clear ...
"When several notes are repeated, and mixed with syncopated notes, then each must have its own stroke, or the bow must be detached/lifted after the syncopated note. If one played the eighth-note here without a repeated bow [the fourth 1/8-note in the bar with a new upbow?], or a detached/lifted stroke, then not only would this sound very sleepy, but also it would have a completely different meaning.

The problem here, and with his following examples, is that while he is very clear that musical performance/meaning is affected by the bowing, he is often rather unclear about exactly what bowing he means - two ups, retake a down, or 'as it comes' but detached. (Compare, for example, the clarity in Leopold Mozart's Chapter IV, "Of the Order of the Up and Down Strokes")
As a rather significant digression here, we need to understand what Quantz means by "abgesetzet" - detached (but the bow left on the string, rather like the later French detaché, or lifted, actually removed from the string. On balance, I think he means 'lifted' - see for example §27 of this section, where he discusses Staccato.
When Staccato is seen in a piece, then the notes should all be played short, and with a lifted [abgesetzet] bow.
He proceeds then to qualify this a little - maybe not all notes short, but only where a stroke/dagger appears - also pointing out that in fast notes, there isn't time to lift the bow, so they should simply "be played with a very short stroke, but never lifted, or removed from the string" [mit einem ganz kurzen Bogenstriche gespielet, der Bogen aber niemals abgesetzet, oder von der Seyte entfernet werden]
Particularly interesting is Quantz's observation in the last sentence of this paragraph: "if there are dots over the notes, they must be separated or articulated with a short bow, but not lifted [my emphasis]. It is worth comparing this with Geminiani's Essempio XX where he shows the different strokes appropriate for each note value in slow and fast music.

To return to our brief survey, in paragraphs 25 - 26 Quantz presents a summary of which stroke is appropriate for which movement/tempo :
§25 "Until now we have considered the bow stroke itself, how the individual notes should be allocated, and through that expressed. Now it is necessary to discuss what sort of stroke is needed for each piece, each tempo and each mood to be expressed."
His introductory sentence to §26 is yet another lovely historical insight: "Generally we should note that in the accompaniment especially of lively pieces, a shorter more articulate French-style bow-stroke has a better effect than a longer, dragging Italian stroke"

The chapter is well worth reading and understanding in its entirety (it's available on imslp in German and French, and the English translation by Edward R. Riley is readily available both as printed and e-book.