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GG: repeats of B section

Good observations, Juozas.  And I agree with you.

I think that at this distance from the composition of the music we're
talking about, we've all been spoiled (or at least deeply influenced) by
the past 250 years of "sonata-allegro" form in classical music.  Sonatas,
symphonies, concertos, all the way from CPE Bach and Haydn and Mozart
through the present.  In *that* type of music, cast in that mold, at least
in the music that is tonal, it is true that there is modulatory arrival at
the end of a large-scale B section.  And repeat of the B section is a
convention that eventually went away.  As you've pointed out, we're
emotionally ready for it to be the end.  (We've had 250 years to develop
that expectation.)

And that *expectation* colors the way we hear music that was not written
in that pattern.  As you've pointed out, we hear the ending of the B
section (the first time around) as enough of an ending for us, and it
feels odd to go back and do it again.

In recordings of Mozart's symphony #38, "Prague," how often do we hear the
finale played AABB?  Sometimes, yes.  I like it that way.  Mozart notated
it that way.  I do remember how weird it felt when I heard it that way for
the first time, given that I'd grown up hearing it played only AAB.  Same
for #41, "Jupiter."  A real shock the first time you hear them go back to
the middle and wind around to the end again.  But, in the scale of the
entire symphony, it makes the movements balance one another better.

Again, people were taking 19th century customs (B section no longer
repeated) and reading them back into the 18th century.  Gould is not the
only one "at fault" here, it's part of the tradition he grew up in.  But
he did more than most in taking it into the keyboard works of Bach, where
it still sounds (to me) VERY weird to hear only AAB.  It's not that type
of music!

Yes, Bach was drifting away from true dance forms and toward a more
developmental form, like we see in sonata-allegro of his successors.  But
it's also true that he *did* write in the conventional AABB forms, it's
clearly notated that way.  And I think it's reading too many expectations
into him (backward from the future) to just wholesale change his form
because later styles of "development" went in that direction.

I'd much rather hear Bach (and any composer, really) as coming *forward*
from the tradition(s) that s/he knew, rather than looking backward from a
rosy future where form and expectations have changed what we're hoping to
find there.  Take Bach seriously on his own terms, rather than revising
his intentions to make them more palatable....

"Most logical" to me is letting the composer's music stand as it was
written.  :)  As one of my teachers used to say, in Bach's day about the
fastest large object one could ever see moving was a racehorse.  The pace
of life was not to zoom around.  What's the harm in hearing each section
of the music twice, a second chance to hear how it's put together or to
hear what the performer does with it the second time?  What's the hurry to
go on to something else?


I just thought of another good example of music where all the sections are
repeated, including the last one: marches by John Philip Sousa.

Maybe the distinction we're really talking about here is Popular Music
(all this music that has the repeats of all the sections: dances and songs
and the instrumental forms derived therefrom) vs Serious Classical Music
(that grew out of 19th century expectations where things progress
"forward" only as a dramatic experience, and make a big ending to be heard

And, since Bach is thought of as a Great Composer, we want to hear him
back into that Serious Classical Music mode even when he was really just
writing Popular Music within conventions he was perfectly happy with.  :)

Bradley Lehman, Dayton VA
home: http://i.am/bpl  or  http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl
CD's: http://listen.to/bpl or http://www.mp3.com/bpl

"Music must cause fire to flare up from the spirit - and not only sparks
from the clavier...." - Alfred Cortot


Juozas wrote:

>> If those are the only three performances you've heard, then you've
> heard it played the correct (and most logical) way yet.  That is, A1 A2
> B2.  That is, AABB (the complete standard dance form) where the second
> time for each section uses the more highly ornamented version, as an
> elaboration.
>> Get a good recording: Edward Parmentier or Alan Curtis.

>Thanks! While I agree completely that repeating the A section is
undebatable, I cannot see how repeating the B section is *logical*.
Historically correct - no doubt. But logical? There was AN END. Why do you
logically need one more?

>If B1 parts were written by the composer without the very ending (which
can durate tens of seconds, incidentally), then repeating them (with the
very ending this time) would be justified for the new ornaments included
in it. But as long as the B part obviously ends the whole piece, its
repeat right away sounds much like a "bis". Furthermore, pieces like the
Sarabande from the 6th partita are already quite long in Gould's rendition
and in the AABB form, they'd be huge. To me personally, it tends to
dissolve the emotional impact of the piece (correctly performed overtures
from Bach's orchestral suites can be downright tiresome).

>I understand that it is a musical tradition of the time, though.