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The gavotte (also gavot or gavote) originated as a French folk dance, taking its name from the Gavot people of the Pays de Gap region of Dauphiné, where the dance originated. It is notated in 4/4 or 2/2 time and is of moderate tempo. The distinctive rhythmic feature of the original gavotte is that phrases begin in the middle of the bar; that is, in either 4/4 or 2/2 time, the phrases begin on the third quarter note of the bar, creating a half-measure upbeat, as illustrated below:
J.-M. Guilcher’s study of the gavotte in Brittany (1963) revealed great variety in modern practice, especially in the type of steps used, floor patterns and formations and musical accompaniment. Gavottes in some areas are accompanied by singing, with a soloist alternating either with a group or with another soloist; in other areas gavottes are accompanied by instruments..... such as the violin, drum, bagpipe or a kind of shawm.
Unlike the branle, in which sideways motion was achieved by the dancer’s continually bringing the feet together, the gavotte required crossing of the feet twice in each step pattern, and each step was followed by a hop. Various pantomimic motions, such as the choice of a leader for the next dance, usually formed part of a gavotte performance.
The gavotte in Baroque music
The gavotte became popular in the court of Louis XIV where Jean-Baptiste Lully was the leading court composer. Consequently several other composers of the Baroque period incorporated the dance as one of many optional additions to the standard instrumental suite of the era. The examples in suites and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach are best known. When present in the Baroque suite, the gavotte is often played after the sarabande and before the gigue, along with other optional dances such as minuet, bourrée, rigaudon, and passepied.
The gavotte could be played at a variety of tempi; in his Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732), Johann Gottfried Walther wrote that the gavotte is "often quick, but occasionally slow"; and Johann Joachim Quantz wrote in Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (Berlin, 1752) that "A gavotte is almost like the rigaudon, but somewhat more moderate in tempo."
Later composers, particularly in the nineteenth century, began to write gavottes to begin on the downbeat rather than on the half-measure upbeat. The famous Gavotte in D by Gossec is such an example, as is the Gavotte in Massenet's Manon. A gavotte also occurs in the second act of The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan and the Finale of the First Act of Ruddigore also by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Late in the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, composers especially of piano music began to write self-contained gavottes in Scherzo and Trio form, in which the section that would normally be labelled "Trio" is instead labelled "Musette". Sometimes these works are called simply "Gavotte", and sometimes "Gavotte and Musette".
In each work of this type, the first section is a complete gavotte, usually in the traditional binary form, and the second section marked "Musette" is simply another gavotte, usually also in binary form, and usually in either a different key or the same key but of opposite mode (major instead of minor, or vice-versa).
The Musette section's distinguishing feature is that the left-hand part features prolonged pedal points for much or even all of its duration, which attempt to mimic the drones of bagpipes. (The musette was a variety of bagpipe, and also a dance form.) These pedal points consist of either prolonged or repeated bass notes, usually on the tonic note of the Musette section.
At the end of the Musette, the Gavotte is usually written out again instead of indicated by the instruction "D.C." (Da capo), because of changes the composer wishes to introduce in the reappearance of the Gavotte section.
These works are usually in a late romantic 19th-century style which may occasionally introduce elements of early 20th-century-style harmony, but, in keeping with the origins of the gavotte, it usually also evokes elements of the Baroque style, often with some liberty.
Sergei Prokofiev employs a gavotte instead of a minuet in his "Classical" Symphony.
In the musical My Fair Lady (1956), the number titled "Ascot Gavotte" does away completely with the traditional rhythmic pattern by having a quarter-note upbeat in the phrases while retaining the mildly march-like stateliness of the dance to characterize the stilted, high-society world of the attendants at the horserace. In contrast, "The Venice Gavotte" from the American operetta Candide (from the same year) presents the original half-bar-upbeat rhythm of this particular dance type. The gavotte from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is somewhat of a blend, having some phrases beginning on the upbeat and some beginning on the downbeat.
References in popular culture
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Gavotte". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
Symphony No. 8 in B minor "Unfinished"
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Symphony No. 8 in F major
New York Philharmonic Orchestra