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Repeats in classical music

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Author Topic: Repeats in classical music  (Read 282 times)
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« on: June 30, 2014, 04:20:16 am »

My previous understanding of repeats in Classical music is up until some way through the C19 (ie in some works of Beethoven and Schubert and some later composers), the exposition of the first movement was repeated. These repeats were not respected in all performances and recordings in the C20, but now almost always are.
There were also more repeats than we are used to in the slow movements, minuets and scherzo and finales, but these are not as generally respected.
However, the other day I was reading a work of musical history and learnt that in Classical works usually the entire development and recapitulation was also marked for repeat. I was amazed at this, and number of questions sprang to mind:
1.Was this generally observed? If so it would make the first movements of classical works much longer than the other movements, disproportionately so I would say.
2. Was this repeat also marked in sonata form finales?
3. Why, if these repeats were observed, are they not played in modern recordings?
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2014, 05:00:28 pm »

Repeats in the "classical" era have their origins in 'baroque' repeats - where the repeat offered a chance to introduce some elements of deocration, ornamentation, or variation.  Telemann gives us (in his flute sonatas) a rare example of the elaborate degree of ornamentation considered normal in his day.

Repeats are not only there for structural purpose, but for interpretative variety. I was astounded recently to hear Mikhail Pletnev conduct the ballet music from EVGENY ONEGIN with all the repeats intact - but without the slightest alteration between 'first time' and 'second time'. If you don't do something different the second time around, then why indeed bothering with repeating the material?

My old and cynical piano teacher used to claim that the purpose of repeats was "to give you a further chance at cocking it up" Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2014, 09:03:46 pm »

An interesting case of that is Schubert, who in some works (notably the 8th symphony) exploited the transition between the exposition and exposition repeat - a few bars that have to be skipped if the repeat is not observed. Schubert's view was that the transition from exposition to exposition repeat should say something different from exposition to development. This is lost when the repeat is not observed.

Incidentally, it is interesting to look at the score of Janacek's Sinfonietta - it is one mass of repeat signs!
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