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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000846.txt from 2000/07

Subj: [kl] Rushing (was: [kl] Mozart's wife and Carl Maria Weber)
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 10:34:29 -0400

Daniel Leeson wrote,
>There is no information known to me that would allow anyone to make an
>authoritative statement about what Mozart's tempo intentions were for
>any movement of K. 622. But I don't consider the absence of that data
>as fatal. One simply has to determine what the tempo is from the
>character of the work and the internal energy given by the performers.

It's a fascinating job of research to try to determine what tempo the
composer wanted, but the "internal energy" of a performance is so tricky.
Maybe it's worth defining a couple of terms here, while we're at it: "too
fast" and "rushed". I think "too fast" and "rushed" are two different
things. "Too fast" is a matter of taste, tradition and respect for the
composer's intent. I use "rushed" to refer to deficient technique.

When something sounds rushed to me, I think it's not because the musicians
play too fast *for the music* but because they play too fast *for their
ability*. They start over-anticipating, often by taking the tempo
marginally faster at the end of each measure than at the beginning.
Typically they'll clip off the ends of notes instead of counting them to full
value, as if straining to get to the next measure -- "If we whack that one
short, maybe we'll make it to the next bar on the beat instead of late."
When I hear notes cut short, I start feeling apprehensive, mentally getting
ready for people to fall behind and stumble over the next notes. My high
school orchestra trained me well, to dread the train wreck coming! I *know*
(if I pause to think about it) that a professional orchestra or soloist is
very unlikely to fall apart that way, yet the feeling of uneasiness mounts,
and makes me uncomfortable with that tempo. It feels rushed.

Ever heard the recordings from the late 1980s of Roger Norrington conducting
the London Classical Players in Beethoven's Symphonies? (The players use
original instruments and replicas. I don't have Norrington's recordings of
the 1st and 2nd Symphonies, but the 3rd is on EMI CDC 7 49101 2. The 4th and
5th are on EMI CDC 7 49656 2. The 9th is on EMI CDC 7 49221 2 with solo
singers Yvonne Kenny, Sarah Walker, Patrick Power and Petteri Salomaa and the
Schuetz Choir of London.) Norrington's innovation is to take Beethoven's
metronome markings seriously. Therefore some of Norrington's tempos differ
wildly from common performance practice. Most conspicuously, some sections
go lickety-split compared to anybody else's I've heard. Are Norrington's
tempos too fast? That's arguable, but the London Classical Players sound so
in control that these performances never set off my warning buzzers and
therefore don't sound rushed to me, despite their speed.


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