Repetition, unacceptable in fiction, is vital to much music. But it doesn’t always work. It does in the Hallelujah chorus but not in Ravel’s Bolero. (Or perhaps it works rather too well, which adds up to the same thing.) For me repetition turns Hey Jude into sheer monotony and it doesn’t help the first movement of Schubert’s eighth symphony (Unfinished).
I’m in dangerous waters here. Mrs LdP disagrees about the Unfinished and millions support her. Even if you’ve never heard the symphony, ten-to-one you’ll love the waltz-time theme Schubert employs. And employs. And employs. Dah dah, di-dah di-dah… Until I for one start biting my nails. Beautifully orchestrated you understand.
Repetition in the Unfinished is integral and untouchable. Keyboard music is another matter. Bach’s Goldberg lasts about an hour; some pianists play all the repetitions, some are more selective though possible fatigue is rarely cited.
Songs – often four lines to a verse – are a form of repetition but only tend to be burdensome if the words are second-rate. Best to sing them in german when in England, and english when in Germany.
It’s no coincidence we limit ourselves to the first verse of the national anthem.