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#376527 - 03/20/08 11:10 PM How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
If Allegro means 'fast' and Moderato means 'medium speed,' what does "Allegro Moderato" mean? I was thinking its roughly about m.m. 120. Is that about right?

[Somehow the two words don't seem like they go together (i.e. which one is it, fast or medium?). Are my definitions correct?]

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#376528 - 03/20/08 11:45 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
LisztAddict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 2895
Loc: Florida
Yes, about 116-126.

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#376529 - 03/21/08 12:31 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17670
Loc: Victoria, BC
I would guard against assigning a specific metronome marking to allegro moderato (moderately fast) - or any tempo designation - without knowing the time signature and what the unit of measure is. It really depends on the context.

What is the piece in question?

For example : the first movement of Mozart's Sonata in C, KV330, in 2/4 time, is marked allegro moderato, but I would defy anyone to play it at MM=116 to the beat; it would make no musical sense. In this case, Uchida, who doesn't play her Mozart slowly, plays this at MM=66 to the beat (quarter note) which seems to me an almost ideal tempo.

Example 2 : Schubert's A major Sonata, D664 (Op. 120), first movement, C (4/4) time, is also allegro moderato : The following pianists play it :
Richter : MM=92
Lupu, Fiorentino, Jando: MM=96
Uchida : MM=100
Kraus, Bilson, Kempff, Pires: MM=104
Solomon: 112
and Solomon's tempo is certainly much too fast for my taste.

Example 3 : the Schubert Sonata in Eb, D568 (Op. 122), first movement, 3/4 time is marked allegro moderato and Schiff's tempo is MM=126, an ideal tempo, in my opinion.

As you see from these three examples, allegro moderato goes all the way from MM=66 to MM=126, depending on the time signature and the unit of measurement. Again,I say you can't assign a metronome speed to a tempo designation without knowing the context and even given the context the range can be considerable.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190 in satin ebony
Writing from Paris until 15 May, 2014

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#376530 - 03/21/08 01:04 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Thanks guys.

It's the Theme from the Unfinished Symphony (Franz Schubert), Time Signature = 3/4.

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#376531 - 03/21/08 02:43 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7425
I bow deeply to the intelligence and patience of BruceD in giving such a good and well-documented demonstration of the uselessness of tying a specific metronome number to a tempo indication. I think a lot of damage has been done by those metronomes that have tempos printed on them together with the beat numbers - it is really an extremely wrong-headed idea.

I'd just add that the words used in tempo indications are rarely very objective or literal, and instead usually depend for interpretation on the musical judgement, taste, and cultivation of the performer, not to mention experience and ability. If you are not particularly well-stocked in those qualities... well, it's high time to get started.

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#376532 - 03/21/08 02:59 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Secondo Offline
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Registered: 10/15/07
Posts: 312
Loc: Seattle, Washington
 Quote:
Example 2 : Schubert's A major Sonata, D664 (Op. 120), first movement
Hi Bruce,

Vladimir Feltsman plays this also, I think on the slow (or slowest) side. You might check out his recording.
_________________________
Baldwin SF-10 320152, Marshall & Wendell, Steinway B

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#376533 - 03/21/08 10:40 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17670
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
[...] I think a lot of damage has been done by those metronomes that have tempos printed on them together with the beat numbers - it is really an extremely wrong-headed idea.
[/b]
If users of metronomes could (mentally) separate numbers on their metronomes from the tempo indications printed on them and appreciate that the tempo indications are relative to each other rather than to any number on the dial, then tempo indications on metronomes do serve a purpose. Adagio is not as slow as Largo, and Allegro is not as fast as Presto. That these words are printed adjacent to numbers on a dial misleads many people into thinking that, for example, Allegro must fall between 120 and 168 bpm, which really makes little sense.
 Quote:

I'd just add that the words used in tempo indications are rarely very objective or literal, and instead usually depend for interpretation on the musical judgement, taste, and cultivation of the performer, not to mention experience and ability. If you are not particularly well-stocked in those qualities... well, it's high time to get started. [/b]
Very well said!

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190 in satin ebony
Writing from Paris until 15 May, 2014

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#376534 - 03/21/08 11:10 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
hopinmad Offline
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Registered: 06/07/07
Posts: 1001
Loc: Eryri/Manchester
Doesn't it depend on the beat? A minim 90 on a piece might have the piece titled moderato but a crotchet 180 would be a molto allegro or something?

^^^^This is a question.^^^^
_________________________
Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin

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#376535 - 03/21/08 11:31 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Gabe Racz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/03/07
Posts: 119
Loc: Denver, Colorado, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Akira:
Thanks, Bruce.

It's the Theme from the Unfinished Symphony (Franz Schubert), Time Signature = 3/4. [/b]
Well, there are plenty of excellent recordings to listen to, one approach would be to pick the one you like and use that tempo.

Tempo markings at the time of Schubert and Beethoven are interesting. The metronome was invented late in their lives, before that the tempo markings were matters of local custom. There is an excellent book that discusses tempo in Beethoven, which would also be relevant to Schubert -- Charles Rosen, Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion. In the opening chapter he discusses the "tempi ordinarii" and various tempo choices (focusing on the very difficult question of "Allegretto").
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#376536 - 03/21/08 12:36 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
There are some excellent thoughts on this subject here especially from Bruce who summarized a lot of what I was going to say.

I have noticed that our perception of the tempi has been molded by the music editors from the 19th century. During the early part of that century, the pianoforte became a standard fixture in many houses in Europe, and it was no longer just an instrument for professional musicians and the very well to do.

With the education of the masses, and the increased use of the pianoforte in the household, the music editors and publishers needed a better way to communicate what the different tempo indications meant. The metronome helped with this as they could put a number on something that was very esoteric and is open to interpretation. Allegro, for example can mean happy, and not necessarily fast. So to catagorize Allegro as 126-xxx on the metronome became standard practice so everyone would play an Allegro quickly and consistently.

I have found this to be true with a lot of music from various composers including Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven and others. What was indicated by the metronome markings as being really fast made the Scarlatti sonatas difficult to follow musically. The overall speed blurred out much of the dialog between the voices that is so common in Scarlatti's works. The harpsichord, we have to remember, can't be played as quickly as the pianoforte because of the nature of the action. There is little escapement (if you could call it that) with the action, and the playing technique requires very precise lifting of the fingers to allow the jacks to drop back into place. When the music is played too fast on the harpsichord, the sound is more like a noise box than music.

Much of the beauty in Mozart's music is lost as well as performers focus on the tempo rather than the music its self. He does a lot of "talking" between the voices and uses the timbre of the instruments to make his melodies sing. The same with Beethoven and others.

There are other things too that can affect tempo in a piece. As modern pianists, we have to contend with heavier actions (Here he goes again I can hear you saying.), and much louder instruments than our forefathers played. The lighter instruments could be played a lot faster as the action was lighter with a much shallower key depth. The overall volume can greatly affect the speed of a piece. If the instrument is too loud then playing fast can make the music noisy as the notes blur together in one jumbled confusing mess.

I was told by a longtime piano teacher that the tempos between the movements are in relation to each other, and as performers we need to keep that relationship together as a whole. So the Allegro maybe a quick movement, the middle movement maybe slow a slow Largo, and finally the finale could be a faster Allegro movement again. She went on to say to choose a tempo that you can handle accurately and musically rather than trying to match what others have done, or to what has been indicated on the metronome.


John
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#376537 - 03/21/08 01:01 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
phonehome Offline
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Registered: 04/28/06
Posts: 921
Allegro Moderato is about as fast as a hummingbird in distress...but it has a 1 ounce weight on its back.

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#376538 - 03/21/08 05:33 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3539
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Akira:
If Allegro means 'fast' and Moderato means 'medium speed,' what does "Allegro Moderato" mean? I was thinking its roughly about m.m. 120. Is that about right?

[/b]
Akira - I think, as you say, you're about right -approximately anyway - but maybe the mm number should be just a little higher for Allegro Moderato - perhaps around 130 or so.

Allegro Moderato means moderately fast, if Allegro means fast, which it is generally taken to mean (it basically means "cheerful" in Italian).

Here's how I arrive at a mm setting of approximately 130 for Allegro Moderato.

Assume the entire range of possible tempos (tempi) for the vast majority of musical compositions (all genres) is roughly 30-230 (this is debatable, but plausible).

30 bpm is 1 every 2 seconds which is very slow indeed (a funeral dirge) and 230 bpm is fast enough to knock yourself out.

If, as is commonly designated and used, Slow Tempos are in roughly the range of from 30 to 80 bpm, Medium Tempos are approximately in the range of 80 to 120 bpm and Fast tempos are generally in the range from 120 to 230 bpm, then you can break this down even more finely by actual tempo indication within each of these three catagories as follows:

Slow Tempos (30-80 bpm)
-----------------------
Grave (30-38)
Largo (39-47)
Larghetto (48-56)
Lento (57-65)
Adagio (66-73)
Adagietto (73-80)

Medium Tempos (80-120 bpm)
--------------------------
Andante (81-90)
Andantino (91-100)
Moderato (101-110)
Allegretto (111-120)

Fast Tempos (120-230 bpm)
-------------------------
Allegro (120-139)
Vivace (140-159)
Presto (160-179)
Prestissimo (180 & up)

So, from the above "table" you can see that Allegro Moderato (moderately fast) would be about halfway in the Allegro range, which is about 130. That's how I arrived at this approximate metronome setting for that general tempo indicator.

Granted - the range of tempos within the 3 major groupings and within each indicator under those groupings are somewhat arbitrary. But as a rough, approximate, general guide - especially for beginning & maybe some intermediate students - it could be a useful guide. This is particularly true because you have a RANGE of tempos to work with for each indication, which allows for a certain degree of "artistic interpretation".

AS as advanced player or a professional you'll, of course, be able to define each of these indicators pretty much any way you want to (within reason) as Bruce has very nicely outlined above - assuming you adhere to wr's rather undiplomatic urgings to "get to it" - but until then, as a student, you need some sort of general guide to tempos (no matter how approximate) since they're such an essential element of your experience as a pianist and musician.

Good luck, enjoy yourself & have fun, and above all - keep up the "pace" (so to speak)!

JF
_________________________
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

As good at piano as I am at golf - very high handicap!

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#376539 - 03/21/08 08:24 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Many thanks for all the excellent insights shared. Pretty interesting stuff.

I was honestly only expecting an answer like "m.m. 120."

I did listen to a few recordings (duh, why didn't I think of that) and think I'm now playing at about the right speed.

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#376540 - 03/21/08 08:30 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by Akira:
Many thanks for all the excellent insights shared. Pretty interesting stuff.

I was honestly only expecting an answer like "m.m. 120."

I did listen to a few recordings (duh, why didn't I think of that) and think I'm now playing at about the right speed. [/b]
LOL you expected to get off that easy around here. \:D

One more thing to mention. The fastest speed you can handle is relative to the smallest value of a note. So having said that, if there are a lot of 32nd notes, you don't want to take the piece too fast because you may not be able to physically handle the piece at that tempo. It's almost like biting off more than you can chew at once. ;\)

John
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#376541 - 03/21/08 09:05 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17670
Loc: Victoria, BC
JohnFrank :

I can't agree with such arbitrary designations for the speed of given tempo indications, because your chart fails to take into account the unit of measurement.

While we may not get total agreement on the finer shades of tempos suggested by Schnabel, I do find that his edition of the Beethoven Sonatas illustrative of the point I tried to make above. While some of his metronome suggestions fall right in line with your chart, there are many that illustrate clearly that making such a chart is arbitrary and often makes no musical sense.

Here are some examples :

Sonata No 4, Op 7: The third movment, 2/4 is marked Poco Allegretto e Grazioso and Schnabel recommends MM=69 to the quarter note. Would you really want to try to play this at between 111-120?

Sonata No 6, Op 10, No 2: The second movement, 3/4, is marked Allegretto and Schnabel suggests MM=66 to the dotted half (or MM=198 to the quarter note). Goode plays it at MM=176 to the quarter note, but that doesn't make it Presto by any means. At your recommended 111-120, this movement would be absolutely static.

Sonata No 14, Op 27, No 2 (Moonlight): The second movement is marked Allegretto, and Schnabel recommends MM=63 to the dotted half (or 189 to the quarter) neither of which would be Allegretto if we adhered closely to your recommendations.

Sonata No 15, Op 28: The second movement, 2/4 is marked Andante and Schnabel suggests MM=42 to the quarter, a far cry from your Andante.

Chopin gave metronome markings for the first eight of his Nocturnes, through to Op 27 No 2.

Nocturne Op 9, No 1, in 6/4, is marked Larghetto and Chopin gives MM=116 to the quarter. This may be a little faster than it is played by most pianists today, but would you really suggest MM=56 to the quarter?

Nocturne Op 9, No 2, 12/8, is marked Andante and Chopin gives MM=132 to the eighth. I couldn't imagine it being played at between 81 and 90.

The point I'm trying to make in this exercise is to insist that one can't arbitrarily assign a bpm number to a tempo designation
1) without knowing what the unit of measurement is - given by the time signature,
2) without having some context for the music.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190 in satin ebony
Writing from Paris until 15 May, 2014

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#376542 - 03/21/08 09:19 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Bruce, what would you suggest to the person who is simply looking at the music, knows the time signature, but has no context for the music.

Let's pretend this is a time before youtube and the Internet were invented (believe it or not, there was such a time \:\) ), and the music one is attempting to play is unfamiliar (i.e. without context). How would you suggest determining the tempo using only the tempo marking (e.g. "Allegro Moderato"), without the using a metronome as a guide or point of reference?

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#376543 - 03/22/08 06:52 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3539
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Akira - interesting question and I'm not sure how Bruce will answer it (hopefully we'll see soon), but if you had never heard it before and didn't have access to a recording of it and didn't know anyone who had played it before (a fellow student or your teacher, for example), then, just as the most general of guides to what might be "standard practice" (or even just simply "sound good"), you might consult any number of the tempo indicator-to-metronome setting conversion tables that are out there - including mine ;\) !

My table is a composite of several I've seen and is - as I indicated in my post above and Bruce agreed in his post above - arbitrary to one extent or another.

Granted - it is tricky or risky business trying to come up with such a table and to do so you have to be more than a little presumptuous. For example, deciding on the overall likely playable range of tempos (I picked 30-230 bpm for reasons I stated in my 1st post) or on what indicators to include and what their tempo ranges should be (I broke this overall range down into 14 different catagories relating to specific tempo indicators). If you asked X number of people to independently come up with such a table you'd probably get X number of different tables!

-------------------------

Bruce - you make a very good case with all your examples for why tempo conversion tables are not a useful or helpful (or even logical) thing to undertake - most especially because as you indicate any given textual indicator (Allegro Moderato, for example) has been interpreted and played so very differently by so many different pianists over the course of several centuries (or longer). From one viewpoint - that of high variability of interpretation - your case is solid.

But from just the opposite angle of looking at this - isn't this rather large historical range of actual metronome equivalents for a given tempo indicator across time very confusing to many piano students and a good arguement for either (1) scraping the textual indicators all together as virtually useless or meaningless to the average student and (2) coming up with a good, general, approximate table of tempo conversions that could be more or less agreed upon by the music world at large, thus eliminating so much of the confusion of most of these textual indicators (which are far worse in being arbitrary, it seems, than any table).

I agree that my table didn't allow for all units of measurement, if by that you mean the basic "beat-unit" of a measure - quarter notes, eighth notes, etc. It's based on "quarter time" (2/4, 4/4, 6/4, etc). For "eight time" (3/8, 6/8, etc.) you would, of course, simply divide the values in the table by 2.

My main concern is the need for some general, approximate guide for beginning/intermediate level students, who need it alot more than advanced students & professionals - who will, as you indicated, pretty much do their own thing based on their years of experience and artistic judgement. But telling a beginning level student that there's no metronome equivalent setting (or better yet a RANGE of settings) for some vague Italian tempo indicator that has been historically interpreted as being anywhere from mm=k to mm=t, where k & t are fairly far apart is, to say the least, not at all very helpful (I don't mean you personally here).

Maybe this topic needs to be over in the Adult Beginner Forum just as much (or more) than being here.

Hoping to hear from you soon.

JF
_________________________
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

As good at piano as I am at golf - very high handicap!

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#376544 - 03/22/08 08:05 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Antonius Hamus Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
There is an interesting website about Mozart's tempo indications, here:

http://www.mozart-tempi.net/

I'm not sure why people, other than me, never mention it here, and rather make long posts of their own. If there is something wrong with the information at the website, I would be interested to know.

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#376545 - 03/22/08 10:32 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Tony.S Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/06
Posts: 211
Loc: Alberta
Tempo indications sure seem arbitrary don't they? Seems like a metronome number range written on the piece in question would be far more useful.
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Estonia 168 - slow down, relax, & listen

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#376546 - 03/22/08 11:51 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Gabe Racz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/03/07
Posts: 119
Loc: Denver, Colorado, USA
 Quote:
Bruce, what would you suggest to the person who is simply looking at the music, knows the time signature, but has no context for the music.
I'll jump in and suggest that, with the sheet music in front of that person, he or she has the context.

Or do you mean a performance practice context?

 Quote:
But from just the opposite angle of looking at this - isn't this rather large historical range of actual metronome equivalents for a given tempo indicator across time very confusing to many piano students and a good arguement for either (1) scraping the textual indicators all together as virtually useless or meaningless to the average student and (2) coming up with a good, general, approximate table of tempo conversions that could be more or less agreed upon by the music world at large, thus eliminating so much of the confusion of most of these textual indicators (which are far worse in being arbitrary, it seems, than any table).
I assume scrapping the textual indicators is a straw man. They're what the composers wrote, so we've got to try to figure out what they mean.

The danger of the tables is that they don't explain why the tempo should be approximately that speed. For a certain level of student, of course, I would expect their teacher will suggest a range of tempos. I suppose a table that students use by rote is one way to go. But wouldn't it be good to give students a tool for figuring out tempos on their own in the future by knowing where that table came from? I'm not convinced that an intermediate, or even beginner, student is best served by a table since they may think that's the Law, so to speak.

By the way, could you explain your process for arriving at that table? Does it apply to Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, and Bartok?

Antonius: Thanks for the link, I'll have to read those articles. Hopefully in time to comment in this thread. As I posted earlier, I suggest checking out Charles Rosen's work also. And yes, I am a recovering musicologist.
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#376547 - 03/22/08 01:52 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17670
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by Akira:
Bruce, what would you suggest to the person who is simply looking at the music, knows the time signature, but has no context for the music.

[/b]
If I were transported back to those days before iTunes, YouTube, CD's, LP's and 78's and phonographs, television, radio, motorcars... er, well, in short, to a time not unlike that of my younger years, I would do as I do now if I don't have a teacher to consult.

Knowing, very basically, that Adagio is slow, Andante is a moderate tempo, Allegro is quite rapid and Presto is probably faster than I should even try to play, I would combine that knowledge with what I sense is the style of the writing, and add whatever aid the title of the piece might convey and take it from there.

I would use my own musical judgement, musical common sense, and construct my own interpretation - including tempo - on those bases, using whatever clues the score gives me to make what I would feel is a rationale for my interpretation. That doesn't mean that, as the piece grows and develops, I would not change my initial idea of the tempo - or other interpretive aspects - of the piece. Indeed, on occasion I have done that, where I've played something I've not played or heard before, where I don't have - or choose not to listen to - a recording of the work while I'm working on it. I would not want, however, to be bound by an arbitrary system of bpm's for each tempo designation, a system that might work a good percentage of the time, but could, on occasion, fight strongly against my musical judgment.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190 in satin ebony
Writing from Paris until 15 May, 2014

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#376548 - 03/22/08 05:16 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7425
 Quote:
Originally posted by Tony.S:
Tempo indications sure seem arbitrary don't they? Seems like a metronome number range written on the piece in question would be far more useful. [/b]
I don't think tempo indications are (usually) arbitrary at all. They point to something about the sense of the music the composer had in mind. Providing a range of possible metronome speeds is something composers have sometimes done in the time since the device was invented, but many have not (come to think of it, I think the majority of the major ones have not, which is telling). I think it is because they want the performer to determine the tempo, using the performer's own sense of how the music should go. In a way, it's almost funny, in this day of people piously mouthing the words "composer's intent" when discussing how to interpret, to consider that in much of the music we play, the composer gave far more weight to what you might call "performer's intent" than people today seem capable of understanding, and to that extent, they are actually going against the composer's intent.

And it is also important to remember something I don't think has been brought up yet in this thread, and that is that many performers will make changes in speed (sometimes fairly large ones) during the course of a work, and many composers expect that to happen. I think Beethoven, who was in favor of providing metronome marks during the later part of his career, pointed out that tempos fluctuate depending on the emotional temperature of the performance, which makes metronome marks useful only as a rough guide. But then, that puts the performer back in more or less the same position as they were with using just the tempo words, which is having no more than a rough guide.

Another thing affecting tempo are the actual conditions of the performance. Is the space reverberant? Is the temperature warm or cool? Are the instruments in good shape? Etc. etc. etc. Even the season can make a difference. For example, an "allegro vivace" movement outdoors on a balmy and humid summer evening is not going to feel the same as that same movement indoors on a snowy and cold winter night. It just doesn't, and the absolute speed as measured by a metronome won't and can't account for those types of variables.

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#376549 - 03/24/08 05:59 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
cjsm Offline
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Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 134
Loc: Washington, MO
I've got a question that's related to this topic. Are Baroque pieces with titles like Presto and Prestissimo titles given by the composers, or are the titles given by some compiler, editor or publisher?

I'm thinking specifically of the Presto in C minor by Pescetti, from the Sonata in C minor, and the Prestissimo which is the third movement of the Sonata Op. 17, No. 2, by Johann Christian Bach.

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#376550 - 03/24/08 09:49 AM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
John Citron Offline
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Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by cjsm:
I've got a question that's related to this topic. Are Baroque pieces with titles like Presto and Prestissimo titles given by the composers, or are the titles given by some compiler, editor or publisher?

I'm thinking specifically of the Presto in C minor by Pescetti, from the Sonata in C minor, and the Prestissimo which is the third movement of the Sonata Op. 17, No. 2, by Johann Christian Bach. [/b]
This is a very good question.

The answer is both. This depends upon the piece, and the edition that the music is published in.
The movment titles are probably just the directcion by the composer to evoke the feeling and tempo he felt the piece should move at, and the edition you use has decided to make that the title of the piece. I have an old Kalmus edition that does that with some very overly-edited Italian keyboard sonatas.

These editions also go through great lengths to "correct" notation and ornaments to reflect the taste of rhe Romantic and early 20th century tastes.

During the Baroque period, music directions, if they were spelled out were used to evoke the feeling of the piece and not just the tempo as they are today. In many cases, as in the case of a suite or particular dances, the performer already knew the tempo that piece was to be played at. The different dances are explained very nicely by Thoas Morley in his "Plaine and Easy Introduction to Practicall Musicke"

See: http://home.sprintmail.com/~cwhent/MorleyIntroduction.html

John
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#376551 - 03/24/08 03:36 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
Robert Kenessy Offline
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What about Chopin's 1st Scherzo which most play around 120 per three quarters= 360 per quarter.
nothing is the 168-200 presto range there. I could go on for hours.
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#376552 - 03/26/08 08:45 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
cjsm Offline
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Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 134
Loc: Washington, MO
 Quote:
Originally posted by John Citron:

The answer is both. This depends upon the piece, and the edition that the music is published in.
The movment titles are probably just the directcion by the composer to evoke the feeling and tempo he felt the piece should move at, and the edition you use has decided to make that the title of the piece. I have an old Kalmus edition that does that with some very overly-edited Italian keyboard sonatas.


John
Thanks. I see what you mean. The J.C. Bach Sonata is given the title Prestissimo in a compilation of various pieces I have, but in a book of his Sonatas. the Prestissimo is in small print like a normal tempo direction.

 Quote:
These editions also go through great lengths to "correct" notation and ornaments to reflect the taste of rhe Romantic and early 20th century tastes.
I've read that most Baroque composers didn't have any kind of tempo markings, e.g. J.S. Bach, which makes me wonder if these are editorial editions.

 Quote:

In many cases, as in the case of a suite or particular dances, the performer already knew the tempo that piece was to be played at. The different dances are explained very nicely by Thoas Morley in his "Plaine and Easy Introduction to Practicall Musicke"
That explains those classical dance pieces whose tempo seems to indicate they're to be danced at a frenzy rock 'n roll pace.

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#376553 - 03/26/08 11:17 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato?
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7425
 Quote:
Originally posted by cjsm:
I've read that most Baroque composers didn't have any kind of tempo markings, e.g. J.S. Bach, which makes me wonder if these are editorial editions.
I think Bach did give tempo markings sometimes, e.g., the Presto for the last movement of the Italian Concerto is his marking, as far as I know. Also, the second part of the the C# major prelude in my edition of WTC II has an indication of Allegro, which I think is Bach's.

Didn't Scarlatti gave most of his sonatas tempo markings, too? I think they are his. But I think it's generally a mistake to think those words would have meant the same thing to Scarlatti that they mean in, say, Prokofiev.

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#1513966 - 09/12/10 08:04 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato? [Re: Antonius Hamus]
Andy Platt Online   content
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Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2334
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Antonius Hamus
There is an interesting website about Mozart's tempo indications, here:

http://www.mozart-tempi.net/

I'm not sure why people, other than me, never mention it here, and rather make long posts of their own. If there is something wrong with the information at the website, I would be interested to know.


I looked at it and my eyes glazed over. It's rather a dry academic read and, these posts - long though they might be - don't tend to be too dry. I suspect that's why not too many people would refer to it.
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#1513987 - 09/12/10 09:09 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato? [Re: John Citron]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6645
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: John Citron

The harpsichord, we have to remember, can't be played as quickly as the pianoforte because of the nature of the action. There is little escapement (if you could call it that) with the action, and the playing technique requires very precise lifting of the fingers to allow the jacks to drop back into place. When the music is played too fast on the harpsichord, the sound is more like a noise box than music.


A well voiced harpsichord can be played appreciably faster than a modern piano. The problem is that "modern" pianists often have no idea about old instruments and old performance surroundings and play harpsichord music much faster than it actually would have been played at the time.
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#1514005 - 09/12/10 09:41 PM Re: How Fast is Allegro Moderato? [Re: Akira]
carey Offline
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Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6040
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Stores makes an excellent point here - but I just thought I'd note that this thread is 2.5 years old (March 2008). Some of the participants are still active on Piano World - and others are not.
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