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Bach Chorale Preludes - Varied Reprises


mrbouffant
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I note the fashion for varied reprises when performing Bach Chorale Preludes. Can anyone shed light on why this should be "authentic" ? I found a quote by CPE Bach from 1760 talking about varied repeats in keyboard sonatas, but what other evidence is there? Thanks all.

 

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by reprises in Bach's Chorale Preludes but it is a generally accepted principal in Baroque music, both vocal and instrumental, that repeated sections provide an opportunity for additional embellishment. The slow movements of the organ Trio Sonatas are an obvious example of such opportunities.

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It's generally accepted, yes, but I think mrbouffant's point was what's the evidence for it. I've been wondering about this recently and would be very interested to know.

 

In the New Grove (1980 edition), Jack Westrup's entry for the da capo aria says that it was understood that the repeat would be ornamented, but he cites no authorities. For all I know it could be a misunderstanding.

 

Broadening the subject of ornamentation slightly, there's no doubt that performers felt perfectly entitled to ornament music as they saw fit - it seems to have been regarded as a facet of interpretation. But I suspect that many manuscripts of Baroque music contain all the ornaments the copyist thought appropriate, so in many cases it might be perfectly legitimate just to play what's there and nothing more. Of course someone else might come along and copy the piece with entirely different ornamentation - the variant version of Bach's Canzona in the New Bach edition is a classic example of what could happen (but is this version for organ, I wonder?)

 

So the freedom to ornament is not really in doubt. The question is: who said a repeated passage had to be performed plainly the first time through?

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It's generally accepted, yes, but I think mrbouffant's point was what's the evidence for it.

Donington (The Interpretation of Early Music Ch X Sec 3(a)) cites CPE Bach (as above), but also Quantz (1752):

. . . in the repetition of one and the same passage, the variations ought to be different; which is to be observed as a general Rule . . .
Speaking of the lesser need for ornamentation in Allegros, Quantz writes:
But if it is desired to make some variations, that must only be in the repeat . . . when by the inadvertance of the composer there are too frequent repeats which might easily cause tedium; then the player is obliged to correct them by his talent.  I say correct; but not disfigure.
Make of that what you will!

 

Paul

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Thanks, Paul. Seems unambiguous! But both Quantz and CPEB were galant composers weren't they? Not sure how safe it is to extrapolate their evidence backwards to the true Baroque. But having said that, there are many ways in which Bach is galant too, so quite possibly he would have agreed (and the Krebses too for that matter).

 

Do any earlier writers say the same thing?

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Do any earlier writers say the same thing?

Donington doesn't cite any (I would have said).

 

Dart (The Interpretation of Music doesn't cite any texts about this, but remarks on the number of written out varied repeats in music from the English Virginalists through to Handel, Bach and Corelli, and suggests that it is difficult to believe that similar varied repetitions were not played extempore when required. This argument can be widely found. There are cases of Bach arranging his own organ music for other instruments (e.g. BWV 527 -> BWV 1044) in which a repeat in the organ version is replaced by fully written-out versions with variations of both the ornamentation and the instrumentation (cf registration of the repeat on the organ). "Do as I do" even if I say nothing?

 

Paul

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