Do we need another "Goldberg Variations"?

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Consistency

Parla, just to add (editing not being possible), your earlier comment that taking all or no repeats has the benefit of consistency seems to me to be reasonable (and obvious I suppose) and perhaps is a reason why some performers make those choices. It's the easy option, which does not necessarily make it the wrong one, but.....

...... I think its the 'but' that we have been trying to discuss.

Chris A.Gnostic

In the woods.

By trying to discuss this "but", Chris, you might get lost in the forest looking for a specific tree...Stick to Bach's score, at least to start with (apart from the "ghostly consortium of scholars", at least Koroliov, Zhu Xiao-Mei and Vinikour specifically mention their conviction that the repeats are there to be observed, among other things, by virtue of the prevailing authority of the composer).

Parla

Clarifications.

To clarify a couple of points in your post #51, Chris:

- I never mentioned that any repeat by any composer should b observed. I stated that the repeats that are in the score specifically (not as an option), they should be observed. There are repeats particularly in the operatic works, where the performer has the liberty to repeat or omit whole parts or passages, intervening in them and so on. However, when the composer put a repeat in the score without any indication of optional use but intentionally, it has to be performed.

- To observe the written repeats does not exclude the ornamentations, embelishments etc., if there is no clear indication by the composer that they are not allowed, but this is another can of worms that, for the moment, we can leave it aside.

Finally, if we consider the score of the Goldberg used nowadays as authentic/genuine (whether we have the autograph or not), we cannot claim that the repeats are not.

Parla

parla wrote:

parla wrote:

- I never mentioned that any repeat by any composer should be observed. I stated that the repeats that are in the score specifically (not as an option), they should be observed. 

 

Well, I believe it is understood that these are the repeats we are all discussing Parla.

We're stuck here I think.  If you believe that all such repeats should be taken, always, then I suppose you debar yourself from the discussion the rest of us are tying to have, a discussion which is not built on that premiss.  We have to respect your opinion, of course, and it is noted, but please allow those of us disagreeing with it continue our own discussion.

And I would add that, amongst those disagreeing, I mean not only the few of us here, but all those performers who clearly are of the same mind. Having said that, I'm finding it hard to believe that you would reject out of hand so many fine performances (and not only of Bach) that have not followed your maxim.

I'm as much in favour of fidelity to the composer as anyone, but it's that dry 'musicological' view that you seem to be espousing here that seems to me a barrier rather than a help towards that worthy aim.

 

Fortunately there is room, as usual,  for more than one view on this.

 

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

...a room with a view.

I don't think we are "stuck" anywhere, Chris. This is a free forum. Anyone can raise any relevant to the thread issue and discuss it at will and at length. Likewise, I do not feel I have to "debar" myself from any discussion I find it interesting, in any possible way.

In the same vein, I do not reject any performer who can produce a compelling recording of this work, in any "original" way (lately a good deal of mostly Anglophone reviewers praised enough a sort of post-baroque but quite intriguing interpretation by this new "star" named Mahan Esfahani). By the way, I will be more than interested to find out who are, in your assessment, these fine (recording) performances, based on a judicious selection of the repeats. As I clearly stated before, I (and none eventually) can have any objection on what may be opted for a live performance (which is a radically different thing than a studio recording).

Finally, I fail to see why the view of exploring and indulging in the composer's intention and the final score results in a "dry musicological view", which, in turn, becomes a barrier than a help in an aim that, by definition, is worthy.

In any case, there is indeed room for more views on this issue, not necessarily resulting in any broad agreement as long as there are different starting and reference points.

Parla

Let me see if I understand it

Let me see if I understand it Parla. Just 3 o 4 days ago you didn’t even know about repeats o no repeats in the Goldberg, which shows an almost total ignorance of the work (regardless of the dozens of recordings filed away somewhere  which you surely have). I don’t think you still quite know (“The whole work practically has to be repeated!”. What on earth does “practically” mean?). But still you are gracious enough to argue, quite randomly, on this very issue. Why would you do such a thing?

When Bach asks for repeats it is NOT because he thinks this composition demands them. It is because he is following the old-time convention, followed automatically by any other composer of his time, and for at least 100 years that says that all binary pieces (the dances that form the suites and other collections)  have their both halves repeated. There is nothing unique here, it was just the the norm. All of Bach suites, partitas, etc call for repeats of those pieces. So do Rameau’s, Couperin’s, Biber's, etc, etc.

Weather those repeats are actually played or not belongs, then, in the field of convention, and performance circumstance, not the composer’s authority.

So, if anyone is going to repeat again that the composer has the last word on this, he should remember (he should learnt, actually), that the composer was following tradition, that’s all. Brahms again illustrates this very well, when he writes down the repeats and then goes on to play his own music without them. What on earth would you tell Brahms, Parla? Would your brain explode in its incapacity to understand what is going on?

It is interested to have a look at those Barroque pieces that do NOT call for repeats. On the top of my head: fugues, (ritornello) concertos, certain dances of a repetitive nature like Chacone, opera arias…

Do you spot something? All those pieces have built repetition of the thematic material into their own extructures: fugue is the subject, concerto is the ritornello, aria is the ritornello again, chacone is the bass progression, etc…

But binary piece do not have anything by design where there is repetition, and therefore there are no guides to the listener unfamiliar with the music, which was the very norm back then: unfamiliarity. That’s what the repeats are for, just like the exposition repeats in the sonata form, etc.

In a world/time/society where familiarity and over-familiarity are the norm, the old convention has to be reviewed. It really is very simple.

Whether there is artistic/creative scope to be selective in how repeats are played or left out, that's what we were trying to discuss here.

I've been listening again to

I've been listening again to several versions of the Goldbergs and hope to have something less flippant to write tomorrow, but I couldn’t resist this, the opening lines, verbatim, from the first review of Tureck’s recording of the Goldberg Variations, Gramophone, February 1958:

 "’That strain again! It had a dying fall’. Possibly Miss Tureck has been reading Twelfth Night, for she gives us all the strains again, so that we begin to wonder whether certain recording companies will  contemplate reissuing the entire classical repertory with repeats.” 

And lo! The prophesy of Gramophone critic Dennis Stevens came to pass and the Lord ***** saw that it was good. (perhaps).

 

Camaron, and indeed anyone: how about a section by section discussion of the music - we could go three variations (i.e. one canon) at a time?

 

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

c hris johnson wrote:

c hris johnson wrote:

 

Camaron, and indeed anyone: how about a section by section discussion of the music - we could go three variations (i.e. one canon) at a time?

 

Chris

Sure, I'm up for that. Just start off a new thread any time.

c hris johnson wrote: Camaron

c hris johnson wrote:

Camaron, and indeed anyone: how about a section by section discussion of the music - we could go three variations (i.e. one canon) at a time?

Count me in. Three at a time sounds about right. New thread, I presume?

Reply to #57.

I will try to let you understand it, Camaron.

First of all, I try to refrain, to the maximum possible effect, from attributing qualities or features to other posters that might seem to me as the truth about them. So, I hope you may do the same and do not assume anything as a fact based on what you may read from a post. I know the work but I am not obsessed with it (as I am not with almost any work).

"Practically" means...reasonably, really. If a performer has to stick to the score (and, normally, quite a few of them do it), the repeats have to be observed. Of course, there are always those who know better...

I cannot contest your argument about the repeats in Goldberg Variations, since I am not a scholar and I have no evidence to the contrary. However, even if Bach felt that he had to do it on account of "the old-time convention", still the tradition is an issue here that even a musical personality of such gravity as Bach respected it instead of being more inventive and creative and move forward. Perhaps, tradition is more than a "norm".

However, I am not the one who argues that much in favour of the necessity of observing the repeats but, mostly, the consistency of either repeating all or none of them, as most of the key players have done so far (e.g. Tureck, Koroliov, Schiff, Vinikour, Schornsheim, Hewitt, Zhu Xiao-Mei one on hand and Leonhardt, Gould on the other). 

In any case, the argumentation in favour of the repeats come from the authority of some eminent players of the work. For instance, A. Schiff, in one of his interviews, he stated : "Bach has specifically asked for the repeats, and this is a must. It is not a matter of choice. The structure is symmetrical, the Aria is in two halves, both 16 bars long, and each half is to be repeated. All the variations follow this pattern. The music is of such complexity that a second hearing is required; it gives the listener a second opportunity to hear the material again, and the player another chance to correct certain shortcomings. In tennis terms this is our "second service". Needless to say, a repeat should never be the same as the first time, it should be varied by means of dynamics, phrasing, articulation and imaginative ornamentation. Claudio Arrau said that the greatest danger for a performer is to want to be interesting and original. We should never be afaid to be "boring". What's boring to you might be interesting to others".

Tureck also noted in her Harpsichord recording: "The infinite beauty and richness of this work may be most fully perceived and experienced through the unity of diverse ideas. The process of unification can only be achieved through the artistic perception and fitting treatment, both structurally and stylistically, of the repeats in all the variations as these are indicated in the musical text. Whether in the concert hall or in the personal atmosphere of one's home the listening experience becomes complete as a result of the totality of the unified view. The repeat is not conceived or treated as a simplistic repetition or echo or 'contrast' to the first playing. It is a fresh view of the kaleidoscopic relationship of the structure".

As for Brahms, what he did in public was his prerogative as a player and what he wrote down his duty as a composer (e.g. in his vast First Piano Quartet in g minor, there is only one short repeat of 12 m. in the Finale that cannot but be observed. It is an integral part of the score).

By the way, the exposition repeats are also integral part of the Sonata form and make a complete different "rhetoric" effect, if they are omitted.

Going finally to your argument about this "very simple" notion about the "over-familiarity" (for whom?) of a Clasical Music work, if the "old convention" is to be "reviewed", who has the authority to first identify that and secondly to choose what has to be changed and how? I don't think us the audience. 

Chris, in his most eloquent post #45, stated that "a judicious selection of repeats is enough" (mentioning, however, "putting logic aside"). I cannot agree or disagree but I put the inevitable question: who has the authority to do that in a way that is going to be musicially meaningful, convincing and, eventually, an established new norm?

Parla

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