Repeats?

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Repeats?

How do you like your music? With or without repeats?

I am thinking, in particular, of the repeats you get in large-scale works - repeats, say, of the entire exposition of a symphony or piano sonata. Or, worse still, a repeat of the development section just when you think you are almost home again. I am here, I can see my cottage at the end of the road: no, you're not home - bam! - you're back to the beginning of the development. Snakes and Ladders.

Personally, I can't stand them and usually reach for the fast forward. In some cases, though not very many, I have used editing software to surgically remove the offending repeats. I've got a Mozart set somewhere which observes so many repeats, you feel you'll never get to the end. Six minutes of wonderful music somehow becomes an interminable fourteen.

A general case can be made on both sides, of course. The repeat is, technically, part of the score and is presumably what the composer intended. It helps make the structure more obvious and "prepares the ear" for future development.......and so on. On the other side, it is not obvious that we need a repeat to hear the structure or "prepare the ear" when we have heard the work a hundred times. And plenty of composers are on record as saying they don't really mind, one way or the other.

Performers take different sides, too. I've got two sets of Pires playing the Mozart piano sonatas - an early one with Denon (no repeats) and a later one on DG (repeats). The Denon beats DG hands down in every respect for me; it is even a better recording. But I would still favour it over the DG because there are no blasted repeats. No blasted repeats. Brendel usually skips the repeat in Schubert, Uchida doesn't. Gould left them out in most of his later Goldberg Variations, but retained them for the canons.......

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear what you have to say on the subject......Do you fast forward like me, or do you feel robbed if they are removed?

 

RE: Repeats?

I never prefer to intervene in the score and, subsequently, to the score of the performer. So, I listen to the performer's view, whether it's "comfortable" or not.

Generally speaking, if the repeat is a totally identical part of a segment of the score, it is up to the performer (hence to the listener?) to decide whether it has to be omitted. If it looks as an identical part but, actually, there are some differences (even the slightest and normally unnoticed ones), the repeats have to be performed. Besides, if the composer clearly indicates that the repeats have to be performed (for whatever obvious or not reason), they should be performed.

If you wish, you may try an experiment with two 99% identical repeats in a well known work. Take the second and last movements of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet. The movements are constructed on two totally symmetrical and identical segments. The only difference is few transpositions passing practically unnoticed. So far, these "repeats" are considered as integral part of the work and they never omitted. So, you may listen to these two movements with and without the repeats, so you may see whether they are needed or not or to what extent.

A final question: what about all these da capo movements, arias, choruses etc. blossoming in Baroque and even early Classical eras? Do we need a full da capo repeat or a dal segno one would be more comfortable?

Parla

RE: Repeats?

Exposition repeats I generally prefer - especially if the composer has written a special lead-back to the start - but second half repeats are too much of a good thing. I have also used editting software to remove second half repeats from Pinnock's Mozart symphonies and from some of the Mosaiques' Haydn Quartets (although Haydn also wrote some lead-backs there too). However, I also added one to Firkusny's performance of Dussak's magnificent F minor piano sonata. The explosive way that the end of the exposition leads back to the opening should not be missed.

RE: Repeats?

Repeats originated in a time when music was not recorded and in some instances are simply a way of familiarising the audience with the music 'on the spot'. 

RE: Repeats?

Interesting topic Jane, though it may open a Pandora's Box!

Currently we seem to be in a phase of 'take every possible repeat', wherever repeat marks are shown (or even whether the composer might have 'meant' to include them). This sometimes now extends even to taking the repeats in the reprise of the minuet (after the trio) in, e.g. Mozart symphonies.

One thing I do find most odd is that in live performances in concert, repeats are often omitted, but in recordings they are included. Surely there is a stronger case for the other way round - after all we only hear the live performance once so it may be worth hearing what's going on twice, especially in less familiar music.  But on a CD, do we need all repeats?

Another difficulty is in baroque music, especially (for me anyway) Bach. Repeats are almost always marked. But here there is a real problem. Players in Bach's day, including Bach himself, would surely not have played the repeats 'plain', but would improvise ornamentation the second time round. Fine, but on a CD, do you want to hear the same ornamented version again and again. There isn't an obviously correct solution. Leonhardt's draconian solution was almost always to leave out the repeats altogether.

If the composer writes first time and second time linking passages, probably he was serious about wanting the repeat, the first movement of the Schubert D960 is a case in point. But it is a very peculiar linking passage and, as you say Jane, has caused as much controversy amongst pianists as amongst listeners.

Then I think there are a few repeats that, even though marked, really should not be taken. One I feel particularly strongly about is the second-half one in the last movement of Mozart's Symphony No.39. The throw-away 'joke' of an ending should never be repeated!  It's like telling the same joke twice, isn't it?

Anyway, enough from me. I'm sure there will be more to follow!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Repeats?

Yes, Bazza, I have done the same with the Pinnock's! Otherwise, I like them so much I hardly ever listen to any others. My collector's instinct is pretty much insatiable with many composers (Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, Beethoven), but with Mozart it tends to die once I find a piece that is ideal (ideal for my tastes, that is.) I will never look for another set of quartets, for instance, because I have the Hagen and the Mosaiques........I don't even care what other ensembles sound like. Ditto, with Pinnock.  

RE: Repeats?

 

It seems that in years gone by
conductors treated repeats pragmatically. Sir Adrian Boult, in his
book "My Own Trumpet" tells of the time Bruno Walter gave a
performance of the Mozart E Flat Symphony (no. 39). After the concert
Boult said to Walter "Some day I will ask you to play that
movement will both repeats". Walter shouted in reply "Both
repeats, how right you are. It should be done but it would kill me!".
 

On the other hand, Britten in his 1968 recording of Mozart 40 observed every repeat which was quite rare at the time. Mackerras did in his 2008-2010 recordings of the Mozart Symphonies with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but by then it was more common.

Seems that even the greatest conductors had strong but different feelings on
the subject.

RE: Repeats?

Jane, Naupilus,

The Schubert seems to be a real problem case! Another example: Kempff didn't take the repeat in 1951 (Decca) but did in 1961 (DGG).

As regards the  repeats in Bach, my point was slightly different.  You wrote, Jane, "As for Bach, quite a lot of pianists do vary ornaments with repeats. Angela Hewitt  also changes the balance of the hands so different voices stand out."  Yes indeed, but if you heard Angela Hewitt play the same Bach piece live, would she play the ornamentation the same twice?  I rather think not. My question was: do you mind hearing the same ornamented version again and again on a CD. At any rate it's quite difficult choosing ornamentation that survives multiple hearings, something that Bach didn't have to consider!

Parla,

Concerning the da capos in baroque arias, I almost always feel the need for more than a repeat of just the ritornello. Sometimes a partial repeat of the first section is enough for me though. Not all baroque arias are amenable to such truncation though. Only on a case by case basis perhaps? 

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Repeats?

 

One more comment - it is interesting to
note that Karajan was roundly castigated at the time, for ignoring the first
repeat in the first movement in his 1963 recording of the Pastoral
Symphony. Karajan's reasoning was that Beethoven had already stated
his "Awakening of happy feelings on arriving in the country"
and there was no need to say it twice! Hearing the recording again
recently I must say I agree with Karajan. To me it gives the symphony
more momentum. Others may think differently.

RE: Repeats?

 

One more comment - it is interesting to
note that Karajan was roundly castigated at the time, for ignoring the first
repeat in the first movement in his 1963 recording of the Pastoral
Symphony. Karajan's reasoning was that Beethoven had already stated
his "Awakening of happy feelings on arriving in the country"
and there was no need to say it twice! Hearing the recording again
recently I must say I agree with Karajan. To me it gives the symphony
more momentum. Others may think differently.

RE: Repeats?

Chris,

Oh, I see what you mean. Very interesting. I hadn't even thought of that before. Hmmm.

Hearing the same ornaments again and again has never bothered me.......But in some cases, I do remember the thrill of hearing them the very first time. Perahia throws in some really fabulous twiddles in the first variation of the Goldbergs and I thought they were really exhilirating the first time round. With repeated listening, they have just become part of the music: not in the least annoying or tedious, but not especially thrilling, either.

Interesting point indeed. 

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