François Joseph Gossec
François Joseph Gossec, according to Mozart, according to Wikipedia, was “a very good friend and a very dry man”. Perhaps being “dry” contributed to his longevity. He lived (1734-1829) to the ripe old age of 95. That’s pretty impressive, considering that three lifespans of a Schubert or Mozart (contemporaries?) could fit into his. And equally impressive is the evolution of musical styles and periods that he lived through.
Gossec is not a composer that I would call popular or even particularly well-known today. The inclusion of a Gavotte piece in the Suzuki repertoire is another curiosity that begs the question: why?
Despite the relative obscurity of the composer, the Gavotte in question has certainly enjoyed a fair amount of play. Warner Brothers’ composer Carl Stalling included the piece in a number of the Looney Tunes cartoons, including several cues in this episode called “Porky’s Party” (look for the silk worm):
Stalling uses the music for humor, but what was the composer’s original intention? What is this music? What was its purpose? Instrumentation? Context?
Because the piece is sometimes referred to as “Gavotte (Rosine)”, I proceeded under the assumption that the piece likely was taken from an Opera written by the composer in 1786 called Rosine ou L’épouse Abandonnée, and accordingly I put in a request (login required) to IMSLP for an original score. IMSLP user Jean-Séb responded to my post, suggesting that the Gavotte may have been made famous by Willy Burmeister. Where have I heard that name before?
Of course! Willy Burmeister was the editor of the “Lully Gavotte” music I had uncovered in a prior post.
But Who is Willy Burmeister?
A google search quickly reveals that the editor in question was no Willy Burmeister, as is printed in the “Lully Gavotte” I found, but rather Willy Burmester. (At least the “Lully” publisher, misspelling the name of the even the editor, was egalitarian in its mistakes).
Burmester (1869-1933) was a charismatic violinist who was also known for an edition of pieces by “old masters”, Stücke alter Meister, the 5 volumes of which can be found here. That this is the second time I arrived at the Burmester Stücke while looking into origins strengthens my hypothesis that these editions, with their liberal treatment of the original music, served as a reference for the Suzuki literature. I am guessing that Dr Suzuki even owned a copy of the Burmeister Stücke, copying out the pieces in the editions note for note, but this is just a guess.
There are other similarities, too, between the Suzuki books and Burmester’s. To state the obvious, the books are divided into volumes. And the pieces in the collection are referenced by short, simple titles, “Menuett”, “Gavotte”, “Air,” nicknames really, without any of the kind of specific title information one would need to uniquely identify the piece.
For example, No. 9 from Volume 2 of the Selected Pieces is titled, simply, “Gavotte” and attributed to JS Bach. Here is the Burmester’s arrangment. Note that Burmester’s Gavotte is the “Gavotte en Rondeau” from JS Bach’s Violin Partita No.3 in E major, BWV 1006 –the same “Gavotte en Rondeau” whose performance by Arthur Grumiaux, pressed into the golden record sent into space to represent the culture of planet Earth, has traveled beyond the gravity of the sun toward the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
And here is recording of Burmester playing his arrangement of it:
Aside from the terse title, what else is notable about Burmeister’s arrangement of this piece for (hint) solo violin?
Burmeister has written an accompaniment for it.
I have often wondered about the accompaniment for some of the pieces in the volumes. My past thinking was that the accompaniments had been fleshed out for the purpose of supporting the soloist-student with more sound. But now I hypothesize that the accompaniments are filled out because Burmester did it first. Suzuki looked to Burmester’s Stücke as an example.
(Suzuki teachers: here’s a question. Aside from the “Gavotte by Lully” (by Marais) and the Gavotte by Gossec, are there any other Suzuki pieces, either current or from editions past, that you can find in Burmester’s Stücke alter Meister?)
So now we have a working theory of how Gossec’s Gavotte found its way into the Suzuki Volumes. But I still don’t know what relation Burmester’s, and thus Suzuki’s, version of Gossec’s Gavotte has (if any) with Gossec’s original. The search goes on for the original score…