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HPSCHD-L  April 2001

HPSCHD-L April 2001

Subject:

Baroque Rite of Spring; triplet gigues and movement order and such

From:

Bradley Lehman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Harpsichords and Related Topics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 24 Apr 2001 10:56:10 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (146 lines)

> > >   Counterpoint: perhaps instead of arguing what key or
> > > temperaments to play BWV 910 in we should just put some semi-nude dancers
> > > up there.  That would make subtleties of intonation less noticeable.
> > >
> > It would also do wonders for ticket sales!
>
>OK guys, I've got a great idea for the next SEHKS (pronounced, they
>hastened to inform me, SEEKS!) conclave -- I'll play Bach Toccatas while
>Bradley and Bob cavort semi-nude. Karen, please keep track of advance
>ticket sales in the next few weeks for us, and report.


I grew up in a two-Sacre family; my parents had TWO copies of the
Monteux/Paris Conservatoire record, early 1950's.  Checking that one
against a pile of others this morning, I find that it still has the most
primitive-sounding and "what instrument IS that?"-sounding opening of any
that I've heard.  The Stokowski 1929 comes close.  I don't have
Stravinsky's 1928 recording.

Monteux of course conducted the 1913 premiere, and Stravinsky reports that
Saint-Saens ("a sharp little man") was present at the 1914 concert
performance.

Stravinsky's 1961 record with the Columbia Symphony has a sort of
medium-exotic bassoon at the beginning, but it's nothing like the Paris
Conservatoire player.  How much would it be the instrument's scaling
(tighter bore?), and how much the player?

He has some interesting things to say about revision and adaptation in the
1961 album notes:

"I have seen only one stage version of _Le Sacre_ since 1913, and that was
Diaghilev's 1921 revival.  Music and dancing were better co-ordinated this
time than in 1913--they could hardly have been otherwise--but the
choreography (by Massine) was still too gymnastic and _Dalcrozian_ to
please me.  I decided then that I prefer _Le Sacre_ as a concert piece.

"I conducted _Le Sacre_ myself for the first time in 1928, in a recording
by English Columbia.  My concert debut with it came the following year, in
Amsterdam, with the Concertgebouw, and thereafter I conducted it frequently
throughout Europe.  One of the most memorable (to me) performances of these
years was in the Salle Pleyel, an official occasion, with official speeches
to me pronounced by the President of the Republic, M Poincare, and by his
First Minister, M Herriot.  I have conducted _Le Sacre_ only once before
today in the United States, however, and that was twenty years ago, in
April 1940.

"In 1937 or 1938 I received a request from the Disney office in America for
permission to use _Le Sacre_ in a cartoon film.  The request was
accompanied by a gentle warning that if permission were withheld the music
would be used anyway (_Le Sacre_, being "Russian," was not copyrighted in
the United States), but as the owners of the film wished to show it abroad
(i.e., in Berne Copyright countries) they offered me $5,000, a sum I was
obliged to accept (though, in fact, the 'percentages' of a dozen crapulous
intermediaries reduced it to $1,200).  I saw the film with George
Balanchine in a Hollywood studio at Christmastime 1939.  I remember someone
offering me a score, and, when I said I had my own, the someone saying "But
it is all changed."  It was indeed.  The order of the pieces had been
shuffled and the most difficult of them eliminated--though this didn't help
the musical performance, which was execrable.  I will say nothing about the
visual complement (for I do not wish to criticize an unresisting
imbecility), but the musical point of view of the film involved a dangerous
misunderstanding.

"I have twice revised portions of _Le Sacre_, first in 1921 for the
Diaghilev performances, and again in 1943 (the _Danse Sacrale_ only) for a
performance (unrealized) by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  The differences
between these revisions have been much discussed, though I think they are
not well known or even often perceived.  In at least two of the dances the
bar lengths were longer in the 1913 original.  At that time I tried to bar
according to the phrasing, but my 1921 experience had led me to prefer
smaller divisions (a comparison of the _Evocation des Ancetres_ in the two
versions, although I think I possess the only copy of the original, should
show the principle of subdivision applied in the later one).  The smaller
bars did prove more manageable for the conductor and clearer for the
orchestra.  I also felt that they clarified the scansion of the music.  (I
was thinking about a similar question yesterday while reading a quatrain
from one of the 'Sonnets to Orpheus'; did the poet write the lines at this
length or, as I think, did he cut them in half?)  My main purpose in
revising the _Danse Sacrale_ was to facilitate performance by means of an
easier-to-read unit of beat.  But the instrumentation has been changed,
too--improved, I think--in many ways.  For example, the music of the second
group of four horns has been considerably amended in the later version; I
was never satisfied with the horn parts.  The muted horn note following the
five-note trombone solo has been given to the much stronger bass trumpet in
this version, too, and the string parts have been to a great extent
rewritten.  Amateurs of the older versions have been disturbed by the fact
that the last chord has been changed.  I was never content with this chord,
however; it was a noise before and is now an aggregation of distinct
pitches.  But I would go on revising my music forever, were I not too busy
composing more of it, and I am still not content with everything in _Le
Sacre_.  (The first violin part in the _Cortege du Sage_, for example, is
badly over-balanced.)

"I was guided by no system whatever in _Le Sacre du Printemps_.  When I
think of the music of the other composers of that time who interest
me--Berg's music, which is synthetic (in the best sense), and Webern's,
which is analytic--how much more _theoretical_ it seems than _Le
Sacre_.  And these composers belonged to and were supported by a great
tradition.  Very little immediate tradition lies behind _Le Sacre du
Printemps_, however, and no theory.  I had only my ear to help me; I heard
and I wrote what I heard.  I am the vessel through which _Le Sacre_ passed."

-----

Do Stravinsky's methods say anything about what Bach might have been thinking?

-----

Anyway, back to harpsichord performance issues, and possible changes from
the composer's notation:

- How do you (anyone) decide when/if to "triplet-ize" gigues that are
written in duple notation?  Boehm, Froberger, Bach (partita 6).  What
criteria matter in the decision?

- And what about rearranging the order of suite movements?  Rampe in
crediting the formerly attributed Boehm E-flat suite to Froberger (nasty
boat ride across the Rhine) moves the gigue to second place.  Karyl
Louwenaar in the SEHKS journal #1 (1982-3) wrote about the Bach partitas
that the aria and air in partitas 4 and 6 belong after the sarabande, and
the placement in the print before the sarabandes was for page turns and/or
convenience of layout.

The broader question is: what criteria are convincing enough for a
performer to depart from the way the existing sources convey a
piece?  Whether it's changing rhythms, shuffling the movements, or
transposing, what tips the balance?

Karen, you mentioned in 1995 (10/2/95 on this list) you would be seeking
permission to photocopy Louwenaar's article...did that ever work out?  If
so, I'd appreciate receiving a copy of it.

Listening to the new Pinnock recording of the partitas (Haenssler) this
morning, I was disappointed that he triplet-izes the #6 gigue and he plays
the airs before the sarabandes....  That is, he changes the thing I would
keep, and keeps the thing I would change.


Bradley Lehman, Dayton VA
home: http://i.am/bpl or  http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl
clavichord CD's: http://listen.to/bpl or http://www.mp3.com/bpl
trumpet and organ: http://www.mp3.com/hlduo

"Music must cause fire to flare up from the spirit - and not only sparks
from the clavier...." - Alfred Cortot

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