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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Repeats

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 12 Mar 2000 12:36:26 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (95 lines)

Jocelyn Wang replies to me:

>>Not all that differently.  I agree that the score can be an excellent
>>document of what the composer wanted.  I don't, however, see the need to
>>have recourse to intent at all.
>
>You are truly a master of self-contradiction.  Exactly how do we have no
>"recourse to intent at all" if the score is "an excellent document of what
>the composer wanted?" Did the composer intend something he did NOT want?

I don't contradict myself at all.  I contradict *your* definition of
intent, not mine, since for you intent=score.  For your last question, I
would rephrase it as "Did the composer write something he did not intend or
want?" If you don't see this as possible, then a composer has no reason to
revise, and composers have done this.  I've given several examples, which
I won't repeat here.

>>The last statement is undoubtedly true.  But this is becoming an "all or
>>nothing at all" argument.
>
>Because one either plays the repeat or does not.  There is no middle
>ground.

There is no middle ground to playing or not playing a repeat.  There is,
however, a middle ground - indeed, many, many middle grounds - as to how
to judge the result.  Or, at least, so I believe.  As I've said, I don't
like to judge things I haven't heard, and absolutism in the adoption of
a generally-good principle rankles precisely because it allows us not to
listen.

>>Why does Mozart have to be an insensitive boor and mindless because he
>>may have made a less-good choice at a particular point in the score?
>
>There is absolutely no basis for concluding so because Mozart was the
>foremost authority on what his intent was.  His genius was greater than
>that of all such conductors combined.

The congregation will now sing the hymn.  I infer - wrongly? - you yourself
have never heard the Jupiter taken with all the repeats.  Other than your
faith in Mozart's genius, what in the musical, as opposed to the formal
structure, makes you believe that all those repeats work? If you have heard
it with all the repeats, the answer will come even more easily.  But here's
something else to consider:  Do you have to be as great a genius as Mozart
to make a valid criticism or are such criticisms a priori invalid? To put
this another way, do I have to know as much about filmmaking as James
Cameron in order to say that Titanic bit?

>>Again, this is all suppositional, because, as Jocelyn has pointed out,
>>it's quite unusual to hear the last movement of the Jupiter with all the
>>repeats.  I've probably never heard it that way.  And, rankling or not,
>>it's really up to someone to show whether the performances of Szell,
>>Walter, and just about everybody else have completely ruined Mozart's
>>Jupiter Symphony for us.
>
>That's not difficult.  All it requires is pointing out that they have
>robbed us of however many minutes of the work by sisregarding the repeats.
>Do we remove a column from a piece of architecture on the dubious
>rationale that it has another one like it?

Your analogy doesn't really work.  Or, rather, I can twist your analogy to
my view.  Of course you can remove it if (1) the building doesn't fall down
and (2) the aesthetic result is better or at least not harmful.  Are you
telling me that Mozart performances have become garbage because these
repeats weren't followed?  It certainly seems to be.  Why then is this
symphony so well regarded?  Most people don't know whether the repeats have
been followed or not.

>I find it ironic that you find the
>judgement of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, etc.  so questionable, but not
>Szell's and Walter's as if they dwelt on a musical Olympus that rendered
>them immune to having any of their recordings' flaws pointed out.

I don't see why you should find it ironic, although it does save you from
having to answer the question I posed: what musical advantages occur from
their having done this?  I don't regard anybody as semi-deities: not Szell,
not Toscanini, not Walter, but also not Mozart, Beethoven, or Schubert.  I
want to know reasons, not catechisms.

>>>Now perhaps we're making progress.  See, I don't care about any of that.
>>>I expect performers to communicate as much of what the composer musically
>>>intended as possible.  This is what "realizing the score" means to me.
>>
>>Well, since I have no idea how they do that, short of channeling, I don't
>>agree with that definition of "realizing."
>
>No channelling is necessary.  The repeat is down there, on the score.
>Thank goodness the composers did not rely on the supernatural.

We've had this out before.  The repeat is there.  Its meaning is
unambiguous.  The intent of the composer is unknown.  Now it's up to
you to justify taking the repeat and me to justify either taking or not
taking it(since I've never said that all repeats should be disregarded).
Hopefully, we can do this on musical, rather than religious, grounds.

Steve Schwartz

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