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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Repeats

From:

Roger Hecht <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 28 Mar 2000 23:46:45 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (51 lines)

Deryk Barker wrote:

>My point was that there are known instances of composers knowing less
>about certain aspects of some of their compositions than some performers.

Ursula Vaughan Williams claimed that Adrian Boult showed VW how the slow
movement of his Fourth Symphony should go.  Apparently, VW himself still
wasn't sure.

For the record, as far as repeats go, they are not at the top of my list
of concerns when it comes to performances.  Some of this depends depends
on the work, but it's not a huge issue with me.

That said, I have a couple of odds and ends that I haven't seen mentioned.
Maybe they have been, but I haven't followed this thread that closely.

1) I wonder how many times performers eschew repeats, or a repeat, on
purely physical grounds.  I'm not a string player, but I've heard, for
instance, that the Schubert Great Symphony is very tough on bow arms.
If I recall there are major repeats in the outer movements.  Now today we
know a lot more now about the physical stresses on performers--in this case
tendonitis in bow arms--than they did in Schubert's time.  Maybe this has
something to do with not taking these repeats.  To do so would make a tough
piece to play that much tougher.  Also, orchestras playing three- and
four-concert subscriptions and performers touring and playing many concerts
may play a role.  Maybe older quartets pass on repeats for the same reason.
Obviously, it could be argued that performers taxed in this fashion
shouldn't play the works in question.  I don't take that position.
Obviously, some would.  But I just thought I'd raise the issue.

Now a question.  I am not a musicologist--just a trombone player--and am
not expert on the Baroque and Classical eras.  I do not know for sure how
composers back then felt about repeats.  As far as I can tell, the standard
contention is that if a composer from these period wrote a repeat, they
meant it to be observed.  Do we know this for a fact? My limited
musicological knowledge about this period has led me to believe that they
were flexible about ornaments and even orchestration at times, and that, in
fact, they did not adhere to the written score as strictly as we supposedly
do now.  Was there the same leeway grated to repeats? I realize this matter
has been brought up before, but now I want to look at this issue from an
angle that I, at least, have not seen.  Is it possible that a repeat
doesn't mean "do this again" but rather "you may do this again?" Put
another way.  A composer writes a work with rehearsal letters from A to G.
He puts repeats between A and B and D and F.  Is he saying repeat A to B
and D to F or else, or is he saying that if you want to extend the work or
otherwise see fit to do so, you *may* repeat between A to B and/or D to F?
Could that be the convention, at least for some composers:  repeats as an
opportunity to do something, not an instruction? Is there any documentation
on this?

Roger Hecht

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