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 Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-03-02 14:11

If you listen to the classic recordings of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto I grew up with: Leister, Brymer, Prinz, Marcellus-you will notice that the tempi these musicians took were, by and large, far more leisurely than what one hears these days on recordings and in the concerthalls. It might be argued that this is because clarinetists have more technique now, but the oldies I have mentioned had more than enough technique to take faster tempi. Is there any historical justification for this speeding up of tempo? Also, people use a greater variety of articulation than in the past. This is perhaps a sign of being more "historically informed", but faster tempi?

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: JKL 
Date:   2019-03-02 16:24

This is not only the case with Mozart, but a general phenomenon.

I grew up with this recording of Weber II:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhY6M4Kp3OI

- which in my opinion hits the nail on the head, wonderfully played by the orchestra

and compare it to performances of today, for example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUAvFm983zQ

It is certainly a complex problem. It sounds a bit cynical, but I think many soloists of today don´t care so much about studying sources and find out what the piece is all about - it´s a competition, you have to show your skills and to attract attention if you want to survive.



Post Edited (2019-03-02 16:24)

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Chris_C 2017
Date:   2019-03-02 16:52

My understanding (probably wrong!) is that there was a general speeding-up when recording was invented, because it was necessary for each part of a piece to fit on one side of a 78. Of course, that doesn't explain tempo changes since that time, so it's probably complete rubbish....

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Tobin 
Date:   2019-03-02 17:33

I love referring students to this performance by Thorsten Johans/WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln. Beautiful performance without breakneck tempi.

https://youtu.be/0-6g1QjjW_M

James

Gnothi Seauton

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-03-02 20:15

People at that level frequently feel a need to differentiate themselves, which makes sense from a marketing perspective. The slower tempi are already recorded. Personally, I don't like it fast either, but nobody pays to hear me play it so I can do what I want. I think the outer movements sound best at the same kind of tempi really good pianists play the late concerti at; they differentiate themselves on musical nuance and stylistic appropriateness rather than speed. When they do blindingly fast, they play someone else.



Post Edited (2019-03-02 20:16)

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-03-02 21:34

In reference to the third movement: one teacher I had, told me that rondos should never be very, very fast. I don't know if he meant that this is an unwitten rule or whether he had it on good authority: treatises by Leopold Mozart and the like.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: brycon 
Date:   2019-03-02 21:36

Richard Taruskin writes about the changes to tempi (though not specifically about the Mozart concerto) in his collection of essays Text and Act. In short, he attributes speeding up to the influence of the historical performance movement and Toscanini's conducting. (But he interestingly shows that Furtwangler, at his fastest, can exceed the tempi of historically-minded conductors.)

I enjoy quicker and slower performances--Furtwangler and Norrington draw out different things from the music. For people complaining about faster Mozart concertos, how much of your opinion is formed by what you grew up listening to? Also...
Quote:

It sounds a bit cynical, but I think many soloists of today don't care so much about studying sources and find out what the piece is all about - it´s a competition, you have to show your skills and to attract attention if you want to survive.
...this sentiment, while true perhaps for a few performers, is largely hokum. Beethoven's tempo markings, for instance, are incredibly fast. I assume no one would argue that Beethoven didn't care so much about what his own music was about and just wanted to draw attention to himself.

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2019-03-02 21:41

Mozart's music can often be effective at different tempos, though probably not extreme ones. It depends on how one chooses to characterize the piece. Generally with Mozart that doesn't entail showing off playing technique.

Besides musicians tending to play faster tempi, I think that audiences today also tend to prefer them. It seems (to me) to be somewhat a generalized taste.

Regarding the Weber 2nd, the first movement says Allegro con Brio; whatever tempo is chosen, the performance should reflect that.

The articulation part of the original question is something I wonder about as well. How should one choose articulations, in Mozart and other composers?

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-03-02 21:51

I was rather explicit in mentioning the fact that it's true that we are conditioned by interpretations we grew up with. I was also not "complaining" about faster tempi, but with an inquisitive mind, asking if there was an interpretative justification for it. With Beethoven, there is: his metronome markings. Playing Mozart with a greater variety of articulation, rather than very legato, is a way of getting away from an overly romantic interpretation which is late-19th century influenced, and I'm all in favour of this.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2019-03-02 23:24

There's been extensive and ongoing investigation and discussion about Beethoven's metronome markings. They are questionable. Some musicians feel they are unreasonable and injurious to the music they're marked upon, and some well-founded authorities deem them mistakes, either on the part of the composer or in the understanding of music historians since that time. Others feel or believe the indications are valid and authoritative, and they prescribe playing - or trying to play - the music at the indicated speeds. Results vary. Generally speaking, Beethoven's music, more than almost any other composer's, responds well to widely differing interpretations, but regarding some of his most infamously fast tempo indications, for example, in the Hammerklavier Sonata, it's safe to say that most convincing performances set tempi significantly slower than what the composer marked.

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-03-03 00:17

Philip: the metronome was a recent invention when Beethoven availed himself of it and there is speculation about how skilled he was at using one (plus the fact that he was profoundly deaf). I have worked with two composers-very rigorous ones at that-that used metronome markings that when taken, they found wrong. They must have taken a slipshod attitude to their metronome markings; used them as a kind of afterthought. I hasten to add that neither was Beethoven!

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: John Peacock 
Date:   2019-03-03 01:24

It's maybe not as straightforward as speeds all increasing. It seems people explored a wide range of interpretations in the past, whereas now the range is narrower. So the fast performances haven't got much faster, but the slow ones are rarer. For example: Brymer's 1958 Mozart with Beecham is undeniably highly relaxed, and I have to admit I find it not so engaging. He takes 13:39 for the first movement. And yet in 1964 under Colin Davies Brymer zips along at 11:46 - a speed that would do credit to many modern historically informed performances. This is probably my favourite version of the piece (whether because of that speed, I don't know) - but strangely it seems to get less exposure than Brymer's other versions (1958 with Beecham, and 1972 with Marriner).

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: JKL 
Date:   2019-03-03 02:00

@Philip Caron:

you wrote:
"Regarding the Weber 2nd, the first movement says Allegro con Brio; whatever tempo is chosen, the performance should reflect that."

Allegro con brio? which edition? My edition, Breitkopf "edited after the autograph" has "Allegro, crotchet = 108". In IMSLP I only found "Allegro", not "Allegro con brio". In my opinion, "Allegro con brio" would be completely against the character of the piece, but I am willing to learn....

(Please, brycoon: if you transfer arguments concerning today performers to COMPOSERS like Beethoven, you will get of course complete nonsense).



Post Edited (2019-03-03 02:14)

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2019-03-03 02:22

Hi JKL,

About the Weber 2nd I may have misspoken. My own edition doesn't say "con brio" either. When I visited the first link given above,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhY6M4Kp3OI

I read that description in the graphic there, and assumed it was valid. My apologies for that.

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: brycon 
Date:   2019-03-03 03:30

Quote:

They are questionable. Some musicians feel they are unreasonable and injurious to the music they're marked upon, and some well-founded authorities deem them mistakes, either on the part of the composer or in the understanding of music historians since that time. Others feel or believe the indications are valid and authoritative, and they prescribe playing - or trying to play - the music at the indicated speeds. Results vary.


Norrington generally takes the marked tempos. Eliot Gardiner, too, sticks pretty close to Beethoven's markings. For me, their symphony recordings are pretty persuasive (and, it should be pointed out, not all of the composer's markings are blazingly fast--the military march in the 9th, for instance, is pretty slow).

But yes, it's possible that with certain instruments and/or certain approaches to playing, these tempi don't work. The things that the Viennese action of Beethoven's piano did easily maybe aren't so easy with a Steinway D. Similarly, less vibrato in the strings combined with lighter-sounding and less-sostenuto wind playing all in a more modestly-sized performance hall would allow for quicker tempi.

As a performer, though, turning your metronome up, playing Beethoven the way you've always played it, and then tossing up your hands and saying "meh, just doesn't work" is intellectually lazy. In other words, there's an element of confirmation bias in a lot of these posts on tempo. As with everything Beethoven wrote, we should take seriously his tempo markings and think about what they might mean in terms of expression, character, and so forth. If you're still committed to the slower, though, you can transfer the things you learned when considering the faster tempo (e.g. more contrapuntal clarity and less sostenuto playing) to your preferred speed.

Quote:

(Please, brycoon: if you transfer arguments concerning today performers to COMPOSERS like Beethoven, you will get of course complete nonsense).


The point was simply to say that the quicker tempi you hear today perhaps aren't an aberration: at least one important performer left us with evidence that he too preferred faster tempi.

What evidence do you have that slower tempi have been the historic norm?

Moreover, what about slower tempi in Weber "hits the nail on the head"? Again, seems you just prefer the interpretations with which you grew up (which is perfectly fine but don't pretend you have some musical justification for the decision).



Post Edited (2019-03-03 04:06)

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: kj2008 
Date:   2019-03-03 08:18

A lot of opinions on tempi but I see no specific range of speed mentioned. I am currently learning K622 2nd movement and practicing it with eighth note = 80 on metronome. What are typical (numeric) range of tempi on this piece? Is 80 too slow?

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Jarmo Hyvakko 
Date:   2019-03-03 10:04

Perhaps we should consider the fact that mechanical metronomes tended to be a bit slow. When you put on a modern quartz metronome beating 120, you can be sure it beats 120 times in a minute, but a mechanical metronome may beat some 108.

A good example is Beethoven's 4th symphony. A tempo 80 in first and last movement feels, at least for me, ridiculous, something like an old lp at wrong speed. But take 10% away from the tempo to compensate the slowness of an antique metronome to 72, you end up to a much more natural tempo. A good advice is always try at least 10% slower tempo every time you see a metronome marking from pre-quartz-era.

About the general fastness. 1) competitions and auditions and our very competitive society. It's the easiest way to define who plays "better". Plus it's much easier to play long legato lines faster! 2) we live very superficial times. How interested are are we in exploring the inner depths of the music nowadays? Or is showing off more important? When playing the Mozart's concerto, perhaps we should ask ourselves, why do we perform it. Do we want to play a groundbreaking interpretation of the piece, or are we just happy and delighted to play a marvellous and beautiful piece of music that we deeply love?

About the metronomes. When i studied to be a professional musician in the early 1980's i bought myself the first generation Boss dr. Beat, that top model with all those adjustable rhythms. I was fascinated how my articulation started to develop faster and faster! Until i found out, that the machine got slower and slower when the battery ran out...

Principal Clarinet, Tampere Philharmonic, Finland

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: fernie121 
Date:   2019-03-03 10:23

I don’t know if this is true everywhere, but here in SoCal a lot of the radio channels (stations?) speed up songs slightly. Especially late at night. The idea is that the faster tempo is just more appealing to listeners. Maybe I shouldn’t compare modern music too much to Mozart, but maybe it really comes down to clarinetists playing pieces the way they think it sounds best.

Bb Clarinet: Ridenour G1, Mouthpiece: Bernardo’s 1940 Cicero Reeds: Legere Europeans Cut 4, Behn Aria 4, Ligature: Rovner MK iii

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2019-03-03 13:04

What tempo is this pianist playing at? Please feel free to click along with your metronomes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-Js5CignAw

But I do know of at least one composer whose metronome marks should be taken seriously:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAYGJmYKrI4

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2019-03-03 17:50

Could it possibly be, dare i say it, "showing off"?

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2019-03-03 18:54

Ha, that Ligeti piece - thanks Liquorice.

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: JKL 
Date:   2019-03-03 18:56

brycoon wrote:

"What evidence do you have that slower tempi have been the historic norm?

Moreover, what about slower tempi in Weber "hits the nail on the head"? Again, seems you just prefer the interpretations with which you grew up (which is perfectly fine but don't pretend you have some musical justification for the decision)."

The metronome markings in my edition of Weber II (Breitkopf, "edited after the autograph") are for the first movenent Allegro crotchet 108, for the Polacca 100. For the Weber I for example if we follow the Henle edition, the Baermann idea for the first movement was 108 as well. You may find the sources questionable, but all sources we have for these works propose much slower tempi than performers today usually use. So it would - in this particular case! - not up to me to justify slower tempi, but up to you to justify why faster tempi seem to be better. Well, it´s all about personal taste, if you feel it differently why not. But the more serious sources we have, the more you are requested to justify why not follow these sources.

Jan



Post Edited (2019-03-03 19:00)

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-03-03 20:37

Dear John: I suspect that the Brymer/Beecham version reflects Beecham's tempos. The Brymer/Colin Davis version probably is in keeping with Brymer's wishes. The Leister/Karajan version is-if my memory serves me right-painfully slow.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-03-03 20:40

Dear Liquorice: Do you suggest using period instruments for the Ligeti? -period metronomes?

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: brycon 
Date:   2019-03-03 21:08

Quote:

The metronome markings in my edition of Weber II (Breitkopf, "edited after the autograph") are for the first movenent Allegro crotchet 108, for the Polacca 100. For the Weber I for example if we follow the Henle edition, the Baermann idea for the first movement was 108 as well.


And these tempo markings are from whom? Weber? Heinrich Baermann? Carl Baermann, remembering what tempi his father used to play? Some modern editor?

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: John Peacock 
Date:   2019-03-03 22:17

Ruben:

> I suspect that the Brymer/Beecham version reflects Beecham's tempos.
> The Brymer/Colin Davis version probably is in keeping with Brymer's wishes.

Well, who knows? You'd like to think artists at that level would discuss things and settle on an approach they both wanted to try. My point was that it seems people were maybe willing in the past to try a bigger variety of approaches. For what it's worth, Brymer's only CD of the Mozart quintet is pretty slow too. And yet I first got to know the piece from a taped radio broadcast of Brymer doing it with a different quartet, which was much faster.

These days, we are perhaps reluctant to have relaxed tempi for fear of sounding like we're stuck in a 19th-Century timewarp (as you yourself said). But perhaps this can and should change: if we're interested in historically informed performance, there is surely some point in trying to re-imagine how Mozart would have sounded to Victorian ears? As long as it's done as a conscious experiment, rather than in ignorance of 18th-Century style, I think it would be valid. After all, we now mostly accept that period bands play Mozart for 21st Century ears, and have abandoned the old "authentic" terminology. Who knows what criticisms future generations will have for present-day recordings? Uniformity of tempo may be one thing they pick on.

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-03-03 22:39

"Again, seems you just prefer the interpretations with which you grew up (which is perfectly fine but don't pretend you have some musical justification for the decision)."

This seems a little harsh. Unless one knows how someone grew up, it is at least as likely that their interpretation came from considering the music and doing some looking into the style rather than simply going along with whatever they heard at some point.

"And these tempo markings are from whom? Weber? Heinrich Baermann? Carl Baermann, remembering what tempi his father used to play? Some modern editor?"

The Henle parts have metronome settings in the Bärmann version and not in the urtext version. In skimming through the comments I didn't see anything that addressed them, but it's reasonable to assume on that basis that they first showed up in the Bärmann edition. Since Bärmann's father performed the pieces with Weber conducting, his opinions are important, but so are the sensibilities of the person performing the works.



Post Edited (2019-03-03 22:41)

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: brycon 
Date:   2019-03-03 23:22

Quote:

This seems a little harsh. Unless one knows how someone grew up, it is at least as likely that their interpretation came from considering the music and doing some looking into the style rather than simply going along with whatever they heard at some point.


The poster literally wrote "I grew up with this recording and like this tempo"...

Quote:

The Henle parts have metronome settings in the Bärmann version and not in the urtext version. In skimming through the comments I didn't see anything that addressed them, but it's reasonable to assume on that basis that they first showed up in the Bärmann edition. Since Bärmann's father performed the pieces with Weber conducting, his opinions are important, but so are the sensibilities of the person performing the works.


True, and Carl's markings are a reflection of his sensibilities--those of the mid-to-late-19th-century performing musician. We have tempo markings from Beethoven, Hummel, and Czerny--contemporaries of Weber--indicating quicker approaches. Moreover, we have scholarly works, such as Clive Brown's performance practice book, which offer further support. Still moreover, we have scholarly performers, like Bob Levin, Roger Norrington, etc., providing convincing performances at these tempi. On the other hand, we have some clarinet players taking slow tempi because they like particular recordings or because "my edition says so." Make of all this what you will.



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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: Reformed 
Date:   2019-03-04 11:57

Ruben wrote:

>
Quote:

The Brymer/Colin Davis version probably is in keeping with Brymer's wishes..


But remember that Davis was a clarinet player himself so there could have been significant influence/cooperation.

I remember Davis playing a movement of the Mozart Quintet with the Amadeus Quartet on a BBC documentary. It was after he had turned to conducting but a more than respectable performance on a 1010.

Of course my memory of over 50 years ago may be less than perfect.

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-03-04 18:55

"We have tempo markings from Beethoven, Hummel, and Czerny--contemporaries of Weber--indicating quicker approaches."

Well, yes, quicker approaches to Beethoven, Hummel and Czerny. Personally, I think the quick tempo for the finale of the Eighth Symphony is just fine, except for the unfortunate circumstance that I can't play it that fast. They doubtless played Vivaldi really fast too. Nor is it likely that the mid to late 19th century was slower than the late 18th and early 19th. Liszt didn't make his reputation by playing everything at ultra-lounge tempi. Whether the third movement of Mozart works better at breakneck speed than, say, what Geza Anda would have played the third movement of the 27th concerto at is "just" a matter of opinion and taste, but that's the kind of judgment art hinges on. Furtwängler talked about there being "true" and "false" interpretations of great works, and I think lots of us would agree with that, but not about which specific performances were one or the other. I think it's a fair observation, though, that some recordings of Mozart and Weber now are faster than what was recorded in the '60s and '70s, but also that a much wider spectrum of players can get themselves recorded now than then. I also don't think it's really as simple for any of us that we "grew up" with something and therefore like it better. We grow up with lots of things, but at some level we choose what we adopt and what we forget about. Whether we clearly understand and can articulate that process is something else.

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-03-04 19:24

Other examples of our "speeding-up" day and age: the last movements (or sections) of Bartok's Contrasts, Debussy's 1ere Rhapsodie and the Poulenc Clarinet Sonata, all of which are usually taken at a much quicker tempo than their respective composer's metronome markings. If you take the last movement of the Bartok too fast, the effect of the quickening of tempo Bartok indicates later in the movement loses its effect.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why have tempi for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto gotten so much faster?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-03-04 20:01

One piece I think could stand some speeding up is the first movement of Saint-Saens. I've heard a YouTube recording of a French player playing it at about where I like it, but most recordings strike me as too slow, and therefore too heavy. It's Allegretto. Well, the first movement of Poulenc is, too, but it's marked at 136, and you sometimes hear Saint Saens at around 84 or 88.

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