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Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
#3032274 10/05/20 08:45 AM
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I have heard two rationales for the repeats:
1. They are necessary for the overall balance, structure, etc. of the music.
2. They are there mostly because there was so little chance to hear music during those periods(no radio or recordings)that listeners needed the repeat to absorb or understand or remember the music.

Which is correct? Are there other reasons for repeats?
I am thinking about pieces like Bach dance suites. Scarlatti Sonatas, and sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert.

Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
pianoloverus #3032280 10/05/20 09:09 AM
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Probably both are correct. But i am always very grateful to the players that omit the repeats. They are for me the most boring thing that exists in music

Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
pianoloverus #3032285 10/05/20 09:32 AM
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In performing, I like repeats: If I don't get it right the first time, maybe I'll nail it on the repeat. On the other hand, there's always the chance ... oh, well.

I've never heard a rationale for repeating or not repeating in the eras you are referring to. Recordings don't seem to favour one over the other.

It is (was?) common practice in Baroque music to use the repeats as an occasion for the performer to add ornamentation to what appears in the first iteration of a section. So, in the context of the music of that era, there is a third justification for repeats.

On page 219 of Interpreting Mozart by Eva and Paul Badura-Skoda, the authors write:

Literal repeats are a basic form of artistic expression; they create a feeling of symmetry comparable to equally constructed wings of a beautiful castle; they help the listener to recognize and to remember themes.

On the other hand (pp. 219-20):

If we recall that most of the performed music in the eighteenth century was ensemble music, varied repeats would have created serious problems. (In Spohr's autobiography he tells of a shocking experience when he conducted an orchestra in Rome and some woodwind players started to decorate their melodies, resulting in musical chaos.

The Badura-Skodas have much more to say about repeats in the Classical era. If I find anything more that is relevant to the question, I'll post.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
pianoloverus #3032354 10/05/20 02:05 PM
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A lot said already. When it comes to embellishing repeats, there is a lot more you can do as a solo pianist. Someone like the American Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett would play the Bach French Suites with different ornaments in the repeats and even changing a few notes around like Jazz improvisations. A performer in an ensemble doesn't add notes to embellish a piece with complex harmonies unless the changes were tested beforehand. Even slowing down at the end of a piece would be worked out during a rehearsal so that all the musicians would play at sync.

Students who are learning Classical music tend to follow the score and not try to add notes that were not written in. In the first few years of learning, many would play Minuet in G & Gm by C. Petzhold out of the "Notebook for Anna M Bach". A student would play the repeats exactly. If there are ornaments written in, the ornaments would be played the same both times.

Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
pianoloverus #3032359 10/05/20 02:39 PM
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I remember a long time ago a comment that the audience listening to a live performance of a Bruckner symphony would make "oh, no" noises when the musicians turned back their pages to repeat the whole Scherzo.
As for Bach (J. S., not P. D. Q.) the editors say that we have manuscripts with ornaments, without ornaments, and with different ornaments, not to mention different notes and sometimes sixteen bars of them. I wonder about the repeats in his Minuets and other A:B:A pieces, which make them AA:BB instead, but apparently that's what he always wrote.
Just heard on the radio that, one day, Franz Schubert invited his friends over and sang to them the entire Winterreise. That would have been a surprise I could have done without. "Hey, Ilsa, how 'bout going over to Franz's place and hearing a few songs?" After two hours, I imagine Ilsa would have been peeved. Also, I didn't know Franz was a singer.
Hans von Bulow says the "traditional" repeat at the start of the third movement of the Moonlight Sonata is a "chilling tautology". I regard it as another chance to get the notes right. I've never asked my listeners what they thought.

Last edited by edferris; 10/05/20 02:39 PM.
Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
pianoloverus #3032372 10/05/20 03:22 PM
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Heinrich Schenker wrote:

"Only by repetition can a series of tones be characterized as something definite. Only repetition can demarcate a series of tones and its purpose. Repetition thus is the basis of music as an art. It creates musical form, just as the associations of ideas from a pattern in nature creates the other forms of art. "

Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
Sidokar #3032392 10/05/20 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Heinrich Schenker wrote:"Only by repetition can a series of tones be characterized as something definite. Only repetition can demarcate a series of tones and its purpose. Repetition thus is the basis of music as an art. It creates musical form, just as the associations of ideas from a pattern in nature creates the other forms of art. "
I don't think he could be talking about the kind of repetition discussed in this post because, if that was the case, most music would have no "purpose" or be "something definite"(whatever that means).

Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
pianoloverus #3032407 10/05/20 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Sidokar
Heinrich Schenker wrote:"Only by repetition can a series of tones be characterized as something definite. Only repetition can demarcate a series of tones and its purpose. Repetition thus is the basis of music as an art. It creates musical form, just as the associations of ideas from a pattern in nature creates the other forms of art. "
I don't think he could be talking about the kind of repetition discussed in this post because, if that was the case, most music would have no "purpose" or be "something definite"(whatever that means).

You are right, he was not specifically talking about that particular point but he wrote a full chapter on the concept of repetition as the driving force in composition, which includes a rationale on ternary forms, da capo, .... It is intesresting to read the underlying assumptions, and i think it does provide some answers to your question, in a general sense. Though it is not the only reason.

Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
edferris #3032524 10/06/20 03:34 AM
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Originally Posted by edferris
Just heard on the radio that, one day, Franz Schubert invited his friends over and sang to them the entire Winterreise. That would have been a surprise I could have done without. "Hey, Ilsa, how 'bout going over to Franz's place and hearing a few songs?" After two hours, I imagine Ilsa would have been peeved. Also, I didn't know Franz was a singer.

"Winterreise" is the most gripping chilling shattering song cycle in the literature. It lasts about an hour and a quarter. If I had been invited to Schubert's run-through it would have been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
pianoloverus #3032566 10/06/20 07:37 AM
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We have a lot of information confirming baroque musicians used to improvise a lot. (I'm not saying "performers" because they weren't just some robots playing music off music sheets and arguing about a single trill on multiple forum pages). It seems pretty logical that a musician wouldn't just repeat everything in an exact fashion and perform the trill in question exactly as agreed on page 38 of the HarpsichordWorld's thread about that trill. They certainly used the repeats to improvise.

IMO smile

Last edited by CyberGene; 10/06/20 07:38 AM.

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Re: Repeats in Baroque and Classical music
pianoloverus #3032619 10/06/20 10:21 AM
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I've always thought of repeats as the last of a hierarchy of repetitions. Repeat two notes, repeat pairs, repeat two phrases, repeat two sections. Structural, like nested dolls. Or examples from nature, like the moon around the earth, the earth around the sun.


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