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String Ensemble Vibrato: A Spectroscopic Study

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A systematic observation of the presence of ensemble vibrato on early twentieth century recordings of orchestral works has been carried out, by studying spectral line shapes of individual musical notes. Broadening of line shapes was detected in recordings of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Brahms’ Hungarian Dance no. 5; this effect was attributed to ensemble vibrato. From these observations it may be concluded that string ensemble vibrato was common practice in orchestras from the continent throughout the twentieth century. British orchestras do not use much vibrato before 1940.

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