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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Repeats

From:

William Hong <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 18 Mar 2000 12:18:09 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (99 lines)

"Charles L. L. Dalmas" wrote:

>Before the symphony and the Sonata de Camera and Sonata de Chiesa, there
>were simple, binary songs (that is, having only two sections, or themes,
>with no development, and no need for recapitulation).  Necessarily, these
>were very short pieces (probably lasting no more than thirty seconds to a
>minute each).  Composers might have added the repeats to "get more for
>their money," or notes, in this case.

Charles, are we talking instrumental pieces only? I would cite the more
elaborate madrigals that were about during the time that early sonatas
were being written as being FAR more complex than what you describe.
Instrumentally, there was a great deal of emphasis on binary forms, but
even then they could be some minutes long and quite elaborate in nature.
Byrd's longer keyboard works as an example, such as in his Pavanes.

>Once the Sonata de Camera and Chiesa came in to the picture, repeats were
>kept.  This could be for any one of a number of reasons, such as: 1) "that
>was the way it was done." 2) when there were voices involved, most of the
>time there were multiple verses, so repeats were necessary to get all the
>verses in (this is especially true in the Sonata de Chiesa, which followed
>the church/hymn tradition).  and 3) It's easier to slap a repeat onto
>something already written than it is to write another 100 measures of new
>material.

This is where I'm confused.  I've always read that Sonatas de Camera/Chiesa
were instrumental works.  If they were sung, then a different name would
apply, such as was used in the context of the word cantata.  Where did I
get mixed up?

>In the Baroque, you don't find a lot of repeats, except in choral works
>with multiple verses.  In the Concerto tradition (using the ritornello
>form), there were two groups that played: 1) the ritornello group that
>consisted of the "main body" of instruments, and 2) the concerto group,
>who were essentially the soloist(s).  Form in the Baroque was a series
>of blocks theme A stated by ritornello group, expounded upon by concerto
>group.  Then Theme B did the same thing.  There was no need for a repeat.

Perhaps a little different take on this is that ritornello represents the
way the main theme of the movement would "return", rondo-style, after each
episode of dialogue between the main orchestral body (perhaps the word you
were thinking of was "ripieno"?) and the solo concertino group.  There were
no repeats, as you say, except for the ritornello theme itself.

>In studying Bach's music, one finds very few repeats.  The Preludes and
>Fugues have none.  The major choral works have none.  The same is true of
>Handel (I don't think there is a single repeat in the Messiah, or in Judas
>Maccabeus).

Well, the da capo aria has already been mentioned.  But look at these guys
and their dance suites, sonatas etc.  and there's lots of repeats.  How
many times have we discussed whether one or another performer's version
of the Goldbergs have them or not?

>By the end of the Baroque, when K.P.E.  Bach was developing his own style
>(the famous Empfindsamer Stil), and experimenting with form, repeats began
>to creep in.  A lot of instrumental music was based on dance forms (Gigue,
>Galliard, Pavane, to name three).  Dance forms needed repeats so that those
>dancing to the music had a reference point to begin each section of the
>dance.

Except that old KPE would have been about a hundred+ years too late,
especially with the Pavane and Galliard, which were more common to the 16th
and 17th centuries.  Dance forms with repeats (A/B form or otherwise) were
around MUCH earlier than KPE's dad, who wrote quite a few dances himself
(with repeats).

>With the development of Sonata form, one begins to see repeats more and
>more often....  Perhaps the repeat craze that hit the early Classical
>period was a way for composers to let orchestras experiment with new
>techniques (do it one way the first time, and a different way the second
>time).  Also, dance forms persisted in all aspects of music (symphonic,
>chamber music, Suites, etc.) The Minuet is a dance form, and the incessant
>repeats of most minuets are a holdover from the times when musicians were
>only there to provide a way for wealthy dancers to dance (with all the
>accompanying repeats to give the dancers their place, and remind them when
>certain moves were to be done, etc.).  The Gigue was also still used
>extensively, mostly in Suites.

See my comments above.  Again, I think you're basically correct here,
but I disagree with the chronology, with the practice of repeats having
nothing to do with the creation of the sonata form as practiced in the
18th century and later.  And FWIW, much of the current practice of playing
earlier *17th* century dance forms use *multiple* repeats, with varied
levels of ornamentation and different instruments each time, kind of an
early Baroque form of "vamping".  And it's not just in the minuets for the
rich folks, either!

>Now, on to whether or not we should take these myriads of repeats....
>To reiterate, I think the matter is personal in nature...Personally, I
>think repeats are a good thing when not blindly adhered to (well thought
>out in advance), and not merely repeated.  If you repeat, do SOMETHING
>differently so that the audience doesn't say "Here we go again."

Your good advice is already being followed by many performers these days.
But again, it's the stuff that comes before the time of Bach that seems
to be where the "action" is.

Bill H.

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