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Thread: Ways to make the recapitulation different yet still sound like recapitulation

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Default Ways to make the recapitulation different yet still sound like recapitulation

    I asked for examples about the first subject group changing mode in recapitulation since I thought that would be a good way to vary the recapitulation while still creating a feel of "return" and a sense of the music organized in sections. So it occurred to me you could have more general topic on the subject of "variating" the recapitulation.
    I guess you could for example radically change the instrumentation for example but otherwise keep it the same. Important feature of recapitulation is that a sense of stability and order is reclaimed so the structure should probably be left more or less intact, in contrast with the comparatively chaotic development section.
    Any good musical examples?
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    The recapitulation in the first movement of Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony is probably about as extreme an example as one can get:

    - The two theme groups are presented in the opposite order
    - The instrumentation and character of the themes has been reversed
    - It acts as if it were a continuation of the development in many ways

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Perhaps the most radical standard way to drastically vary the recapitulation in first movement sonata forms is the Russian or Eastern European variant (my terms I believe). In this approach the first theme is not recapitulated and the recap begins with the second theme. Tchaikovsky's 4th and 6th symphonies, Rachmaninoff's 2nd, Chopin's 2nd and 3rd piano sonatas, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, Prokofiev's 7th piano sonata, and numerous others, fit the pattern. This pattern probably originated as an exaggeration of tendencies in Beethoven's most dramatic first movements. The String Quartet op. 95, for example, truncates the first theme to a few short measures.

    Beethoven had other ways of varying his recapitulations. In the Sonata op. 57 ("Appassionata") he recapitulates the whole first theme over a dominant pedal, saving any tonal resolution for the second theme. In the Eroica he eliminates the unstable portion of the principal theme.

    I have a vague memory that a Haydn symphony (no. 89?) recapitulates the themes in reverse order. Haydn is famous for altered recapitulations of various sorts.

    In general, just about anything goes. Even the assumption that recapitulations are supposed to reestablish stability is hit or miss from Beethoven on. In fact, in cyclically unified works, they are often explicitly designed to leave tensions unresolved, else there is no motivation for the requisite thematic returns.

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    Senior Member Bevo's Avatar
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    Well you know, even though Beethoven was known for developing themes, one of his tactics is having what appears to be the climax of his development sections at the end, so that it sounds as though it's still maybe part of the development when it's actually the start of the recap. An easy to piece to hear this in is in the first movement of his Ninth Symphony. Listen to the development section and you'll hear a build-up to what might sound like the climax of the development, when the orchestra is actually playing the first theme of the recap with that dramatic rolling timpani, etc... That only helps with the first theme, but still a tactic to be used. Different voicing, chord inversions, extending and diminishing themes, and using exchangeable chords with the same feature (ii in place IV, vii dim in place of V) are all also other tactics. You can also invert some themes. It really depends on what type of themes you have (more melodic, harmonic, or whatever). There's a lot of stuff. Anyways, hope that helps you get a little started. Best of luck!

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    Senior Member Funny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    I have a vague memory that a Haydn symphony (no. 89?) recapitulates the themes in reverse order. Haydn is famous for altered recapitulations of various sorts.
    I think you may be thinking of Symphony 87. And yes, any question of varying recapitulation - or to go wider, playing with the listener's expectation of the recapitulation - calls for a thorough immersion in the music of Haydn, who developed dozens of ways to do so.

    And Bevo, you might like the second movement of Haydn's 49th, where the main theme is long widely separated notes and the development works on a theme with a series of choppy repeated notes. The latter gets sequenced until one of them turns out to be somehow the beginning of the main theme and you realize the recap has already begun. It's a great moment.
    "If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." - Jack Handey

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Perhaps the most radical standard way to drastically vary the recapitulation in first movement sonata forms is the Russian or Eastern European variant (my terms I believe). In this approach the first theme is not recapitulated and the recap begins with the second theme. Tchaikovsky's 4th and 6th symphonies, Rachmaninoff's 2nd...
    If the exposition repeat is played, the first movement of Rachmaninoff's 2nd symphony is in fact in a standard pop song form!

    Intro - verse (1st theme) - chorus (2nd theme) - verse (1st theme) - chorus (2nd theme) - middle 8 (development) - chorus (2nd theme) - outro (coda)

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