Do we need another "Goldberg Variations"?

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parla wrote:

parla wrote:

..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.

Me too Parla, for the most part. But sometimes it feels like it has to be said.

parla wrote:

..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

That sounds so much better. No one is a scholar here, just keen amateurs, and it is from there that we all speak. After all scholars don't agree either!

parla wrote:

However, I am not the one who argues that much in favour of the necessity of observing the repeats

Yes, as we have all noted before, current practice, many listeners and most players seem to agree with you: repeats must be observed!

Schiff's opinion on the matter, which you share with us, is interesting:

 

"Bach has specifically asked for the repeats, and this is a must". This is the (false) authority argument and I'm just not interested in it.

"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.". In my view he is right here, and as far as I am concerned this is the strongest argument for repeats. As I said before, the repeats highlight this modular structure in a very nice way.

"The music is of such complexity that a second hearing is required; it gives the listener a second opportunity to hear the material again". Which is the "familiarity" argument upside down. We are so familiar with the music that... a second opportunity is not required...

Finally you ask who has the authority to bring this performance changes about. To me the question is meaningless. I'm not interested in questions of authority in art. Everyone has the authority, that is the answer.

Parla wrote:

Parla wrote:

“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 musically meaningful, convincing and, eventually, an established new norm?”

 

Camaron, I’m much less dismissive of this question than you are here.

I paraphrase the question as: how do changes in opinion concerning performing practice occur over time?

My quote from the 1958 Gramophone review of Tureck’s Goldbergs, although flippant and selective, illustrates well the point I’m trying to make. The reviewer at that time, himself a scholar, considered it peculiar to insist on taking every repeat. Similar views were common concerning repeats (I mean marked repeats) in much of the classical repertory.  That this view has changed over the intervening years is I think incontrovertible. So, how did we get here?

I think, as I’ve suggested before, that the scholars, the musicologists led the way. Now, we owe a great deal to musicological research for increasing our understanding of performance practice in baroque music, and even more so for opening the door to performance of ever earlier music that had seemed intractable in the past, or had been ignored completely.  This is the great achievement of musicology. But I think that has come at a price. 

I strongly believe that the musicological has nosed its way ever more deeply into places in performance that used to be the preserve of the individual performer. Of course, I agree with Parla, that any performer worth his salt will not simply follow convention, but his own conviction is inevitably fashioned in part by what he has learned during his formative years. Certainly the weight of musicology bears more heavily on the modern performer than it used to.  Of course that may change again.  Mahler’s idea of fidelity to the score was no less sincere than today’s performers. In 30 or forty years time we too may find that our views have changed again.

 In the meantime any performer who challenges the musicologist line is 'fighting against the tide'. But, as everyone knows the tides come and go. Who has the authority to turn the tide? Perhaps we'll be able to answer that in forty years time

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

Hi Chris, I'll have time

Hi Chris, I'll have time later on tonight to comment on your post

c hris johnson wrote:

c hris johnson wrote:

Camaron, I’m much less dismissive of this question than you are here.

I paraphrase the question as: how do changes in opinion concerning performing practice occur over time?

Not entirely sure I understand the above Chris. To be clear,  what I’m dismissive of is the idea of authority as an argument. I’m certainly interested in the questions of how and why performance practices have changed. And I agree with your excellent analysis, in the sense that there is a clear musicological burden for interpreters today.

But I also think that we can go beyond and see that musicology itself is affected by wider social changes which we see in places like the “mania” to play all repeats: the ideal of indiscriminate completeness. As a taster of what I mean: very few people care nowadays about Gould’s recording of Mozart’s sonatas, and probably even fewer people would buy them as such. But publish Gould’s Complete Recordings and that is a never ending hit.

I once heard of an Amazon reviewer who said that he “needed” to have every single note Beethoven had ever composed. This was obviously not an artistic/aesthetic choice, nor a scholarly one (although it could easily look like it): it was just a psychologic anxiety. Instead of wondering about it (for which he might have needed a psychotherapist) he was just feeding it.

So I do think there is some of this anxiety dressed with respectable attires, like musicology.

Camaron wrote:

Camaron wrote:

I’m certainly interested in the questions of how and why performance practices have changed. And I agree with your excellent analysis, in the sense that there is a clear musicological burden for interpreters today.

But I also think that we can go beyond and see that musicology itself is affected by wider social changes which we see in places like the “mania” to play all repeats: the ideal of indiscriminate completeness. As a taster of what I mean: very few people care nowadays about Gould’s recording of Mozart’s sonatas, and probably even fewer people would buy them as such. But publish Gould’s Complete Recordings and that is a never ending hit.

I once heard of an Amazon reviewer who said that he “needed” to have every single note Beethoven had ever composed. This was obviously not an artistic/aesthetic choice, nor a scholarly one (although it could easily look like it): it was just a psychologic anxiety. Instead of wondering about it (for which he might have needed a psychotherapist) he was just feeding it.

So I do think there is some of this anxiety dressed with respectable attires, like musicology.

Yes I'll go along with that Camaron.  Perhaps it is not only, or quite, an obsession with completeness but also a desire for neat and tidy solutions.  Anyway enough from me on this!

I've spent a lot of time today fruitlessly searching for my score of the Goldberg Variations. It has either not made it here at the last move or I lent it to someone who I can't now remember.  That has delayed me but I've also been listening to several versions again. Unfortunately I shall be busy for most of tomorrow so probably it will be Saturday before I can contribute again, and I can't start the analytical discussion until I have a score!

 

Good night (it's two hours later here than in the UK)

Chris

veyht

Chris A.Gnostic

c hris johnson wrote:

c hris johnson wrote:

I've spent a lot of time today fruitlessly searching for my score of the Goldberg Variations. It has either not made it here at the last move or I lent it to someone who I can't now remember.  That has delayed me but I've also been listening to several versions again. Unfortunately I shall be busy for most of tomorrow so probably it will be Saturday before I can contribute again, and I can't start the analytical discussion until I have a score!

 

Good night (it's two hours later here than in the UK)

Chris

veyht

Cheers Chris. Take your time, no worries

Reply to post #62.

Camaron, allow me some comments on your post in the subject:

- Scholars might disagree, rather often, but it is quite interesting how they defend their position and fascinating enough whenever they managed to converge...

- I believe that if Schiff's interview section on the repeats is interesting (and not only), it is in its entirety, since its integrity and value lies there, not in cherry picking parts of it.

- The "familiarity" argument may apply to listeners, not to performers, who play any work (in a recording format) for a potentially much larger public, most of which consists of people who are not "familiar" with the work, sometimes not at all.

- If the authority question is "maeningless", I cannot see how Classical Music, as an Art form, has any artistic value, meaning and scope. However, if the answer is "everyone has the authority", then the question is far from meaningless, although the "meaning" is quite..."slippery", while the word "everyone" needs a great deal of an agreed definition.

Parla 

parla wrote:

parla wrote:

The "familiarity" argument may apply to listeners, not to performers, who play any work (in a recording format) for a potentially much larger public, most of which consists of people who are not "familiar" with the work, sometimes not at all.

 

Given that performers play for listeners not sure where the distintion is.  The key to my argument is not that someone might be already familiar with the work. It is that he has the work in a cd which he then can play (and likely will, if he likes the music) 10 times a day for the next two weeks. Or will play regularly (maybe a couple of times a year) for the rest of his life.

 

Missing bars

Looking through my score just now, I realised I had never really noticed the first and second time bars which crop out throughout. In all, five variations have first and second time bars (as opposed to a straight repeat): variations 2, 4, 6, 16 and 25. (Unless I have missed one.......) Now, I am not saying that this means one ought to perform all the repeats, but the presence of these bars would certainly make me a little nervous if I was a perfomer. If you don't do the repeats, you essentially miss out whole bars written by Bach - notes the audience will not get to hear. One of them includes the so-called "Black Pearl", too.......

If these bars are an argument for performing the repeats in those particular variations, they are also an argument for performing the repeats of every single one, since it would be a bit odd (from a performing point of view) to single these particular variations out. 

 

janeeliotgardiner wrote:

janeeliotgardiner wrote:

Looking through my score just now, I realised I had never really noticed the first and second time bars which crop out throughout. In all, five variations have first and second time bars (as opposed to a straight repeat): variations 2, 4, 6, 16 and 25. (Unless I have missed one.......) Now, I am not saying that this means one ought to perform all the repeats, but the presence of these bars would certainly make me a little nervous if I was a perfomer. If you don't do the repeats, you essentially miss out whole bars written by Bach - notes the audience will not get to hear. One of them includes the so-called "Black Pearl", too.......

If these bars are an argument for performing the repeats in those particular variations, they are also an argument for performing the repeats of every single one, since it would be a bit odd (from a performing point of view) to single these particular variations out. 

 

That would indeed change the whole discussion. This is the first I ever heard about this. My first thought was: what kind of edition do you have? Could that have been added by the publisher/editor? Did Chris say that there is not an autograph score?

It would be particularly puzzling for 25, the Black Pearl, since this one is often left out by performers who play all repeats. I’ve just checked 3o 4 recordings.  Even Tureck, who was quite dogmatic about playing the repeats, does not play 25 in her 1988 recording (she plays all others I believe)

Today I checked on David Schulenberg’s The Keyboard Music of JS Bach. I was surprised not to find more references to repeats, for the Goldbergs and elsewhere. But I did find this, for the Goldbergs:

“It is harmless to omit some of the repeats, especially in very long movements such as variations 13 and 25, or those in which the two halves are very similar, such as variation 17”

Schulenberg is both a clavier player and scholar, and I liked his no-dogmatic, pragmatic comment, referred to actual performance. But I would be very surprised that he would have such approach if the repeats were written out like that.

The mystery deepens...

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