Archives for posts with tag: mistaken identity

How does a repertoire get built?

If you are a musician, how did you come to learn the pieces in your repertoire?  You added some pieces because of personal interest: you heard a piece you liked, or you discovered a piece by a composer you liked. Maybe you came across something in a library or by researching something else.  Maybe you commissioned a piece to be composed for you, or perhaps you composed a piece yourself.  A teacher assigned you to learn a piece.  A collaborator has suggested one.  A loved one requests one. In most cases a repertoire develops organically over time.

In the case of the Suzuki Method, on the other hand, the repertoire appears to the student all at once fully formed, in the same way that Athena was born grown-up and armored out of Zeus’ achy forehead.  Students inherit a large body of work which is to sustain them, if they continue with the Method, for quite some time. But how did Suzuki (and when I say Suzuki, I do not mean simply Dr Shinichi Suzuki, but everyone who has worked and continues to develop the Suzuki Method) build its repertoire? How did they decide which pieces to include and which pieces not to include?

Stravinsky owned a large book of Russian folk tunes.  When he needed a folksy tune for a composition, he would turn to the book, and in fact many of the melodies for his work can be found in this very compendium, in the same position on every page (the bottom right hand corner). (Taruskin) Did Suzuki have such a book?

Yesterday I was searching my favorite internet music resource IMSLP for an ur-text type score of the Cello School volume 3 piece “Gavotte”.  According to the book it was written by Lully, also several sources have indicated that this attribution is spurious and that the piece was actually written by Lully’s student, gambist Marin Marais, whose relationship with another of his teachers, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe was featured in the excellent film “Tous Les Matins du Monde”.

I was unable to find the piece by searching manually through the Lully or Marais music.  But I noticed a tool for the first time that looked inviting: a search by melody .  So I clicked in the following melody:

The notes I clicked into IMSLP melody search to locate Lully Gavotte …and this, amazingly is what turned up.

The linking page shows that the link is for a “Piece de Viol” by Marin Marais, but the scanned music itself is attributed to Lully.  It is copyrighted 1909 and arranged by Jacques van Lier (cello) and Willy Burmester (piano). I’m still confused who wrote this piece.  However, I am confident that that this is the arrangement that was Suzuki’s inspiration for including it in the volumes.  The form fits the Suzuki version to a “T” and even the bowing is almost exactly the same.

Here is a Spotify link to recording of Mischa Maisky playing a like arrangement of this piece, with Pavel Gililov on piano.

Compare this version to a video version I found by searching for the piece on youtube.  The score, which scans along as the music is played, is titled “Gavotte en Rondeau, extrait d’un des ballets du Roy” and is attributed to “Lulli”.  Note that this version includes more music:

I was amused to see the last page of the PDF, which I guess is a back cover, advertising another volume of cello music, “Singen und Klingen!”, an anthology for cello and piano “newly edited by celebrated masters”.  Perhaps this anthology was one of Suzuki’s source materials that he used in building his repertoire.

I know that there are few threads going at the same time, so please bear with me.  At this point in my investigation I am still confused as to the exact origins of the piece, but my feeling is that romantic style piano arrangement of the YouTube version is definitely a later development, although the idea of music being added rather than subtracted makes me think that there is something to that version.

I go back to IMSLP and rather than simply click the link that has been generated by the the “search by melody” tool, I type in the name of the piece that the search generates: Marin Marais’ “Pièce de Viole”.  Marais wrote a large number of pieces under this umbrella which were published over time in 5 volumes.  I decided to flip through the music to see if I could find what I was looking for.  Right away I noticed something curious.  This first book of viol music, published in 1686, was dedicated to, you guessed it, Jean-Baptiste Lully, making an erroneous attribution plausible. (I would be grateful if someone whose French is better than mine would be kind enough to translate)

Low and behold, right there in the first book, listed at number 24 and titled “Rondeau”, there it was: the piece in question, Suzuki’s famous “Lully Gavotte”.

Marin Marais pieces de viole number 24 image

QED, right? Well, almost.

The Viol part of Marais’s first book of viol pieces was published in 1686.  In 1689 the accompanying basso continuo part was published.  I wanted to cross reference the B.C. part to see the rest of Marais’ original music.  So I flip the music right to #24, except that it didn’t correspond to the #24 rondeau from the solo part. #24 accompanied entirely different music.  This was no good.  I was discouraged.  Perhaps the solo part was some kind of apocrypha itself–another mistake.  Not sure what to do, I decided to sleep on it.

In the morning, it occurred to me that perhaps the problem was with the continuo part.  So I flipped through both parts, the solo viol and the b.c. part simultaneously tracking each movement through the page breaks, and sure enough, there it was.  The problem was with shoddy numbering of the movements in the accompaniment–the copyist had dropped a few numbers.  There it was- the continuo part counted after number 20, presumably #21:

There was only one problem left to solve–find a recording of the music as the composer had intended.  Surely the great viola da gamba player Jordi Savall has recorded this piece as part of his survey of Marais’ music?  But alas, if there is one, I was unable to find it.

This music, under the guise of a Lully composition,  has taken on a prominent life of its own after its transformation by  J. van Lier.  But what of the original music? Sadly, it has not been included in Savall’s collection of Marais’ Pieces, and I can find no other recording in print.  This is yet another case  of giving credit where it is due and a reminder of our obligation as custodians of our culture and history to remind one another that this piece is actually not Lully’s Gavotte, but in actuality, Marais’ Rondeau.

Pop quiz: who is Christian Petzold?

Here’s a hint:

Minuet in G

Still don’t know? Here’s another hint.

Did you know? I didn’t, but apparently researchers have known since 1970 that Christian Petzold (1677-1733), not Bach, was the composer of this gem.  Why then, in as late as the ©2007 edition of the Suzuki volumes, is this piece still attributed to JS Bach?

And why are the minuets called “Minuet 1”, “Minuet 2”, “Minuet 3”? Because that’s how they first appeared in the violin version of the books? But the cello books don’t use that order, and the numbers for the cello publication then become meaningless. AND why is the Cello book 1 piece called “Minuet in C” when it is a transposition of well-known piece usually found in the key of G?  This is all very confusing. At least there is any easy solution for naming the piece illustrated above: “Petzold Minuet”.

Doesn’t anyone else feel bad for poor old Christian Petzold? The most famous piece he ever wrote, and for hundreds of years no one knew it.  Please, can we give the guy some credit?!


I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, not just about poor old Christian Petzold, but also about poor old J.S. Bach.  This Minuet has at times been virtually synonymous with Bach.  Take for example a children’s film called Mr Bach Comes to Call in which Bach appears to children who are practicing the Minuet and shares with them his life story.  If this music had the power to raise the dead, it would be the ghost of Petzold past that came to haunt.  Bach wrote so much beautiful music. If we have to reduce him to just one piece, let us at least use a piece he wrote himself.

In honor of Petzold and of Bach, please correct this unfortunate case of mistaken identity when it arises.  When someone incorrectly attributes the piece to Bach, look confused and say “Oh, you must be talking about the Petzold Minuet!”