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 Mozart, Bach and time signatures
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-08-30 21:51

It is pretty commonplace in masterclasses for the instructors to suggest feeling 4/4 in 2 to the bar as an example. Given that there is a widespread concern for trying understand the musical intent of the composer, why would we dismiss the metric indication of the composer. I’m pretty sure that Mozart and Bach knew the difference between 4/4, 2/4, 2/2 etc.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Mozart, Bach and time signatures
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-08-30 22:08

Well, how you write music for clarity's sake and how you phrase it can often be different. Oddly I was just watching a twenty four minute YOUTUBE presentation on conducting by Gerard Schwartz. He was performing the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It's written in 2/4 but everyone hears it and conducts it in ONE.

.............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Mozart, Bach and time signatures
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-08-30 22:18

Arnoldstang wrote:

> I’m pretty sure that Mozart and
> Bach knew the difference between 4/4, 2/4, 2/2 etc.

But were they the same differences that we assign? In particular, did the bottom number of the signature have the same implicit meaning in the early 18th century as it does now?

In even more recent times, why are waltzes played one beat to a measure even though the time signature says 3/4. Why not 1/ dotted half? Why 6/8 instead of 2/dotted quarter? There are many other signatures in modern use for which the main pulse doesn't correspond to the bottom number of the signature. In many cases the top number, rather than saying how many beats there in a measure, suggests the way the actual pulse should be subdivided (6/8 and 3/4 are different ways of organizing the same number of 8th notes).


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 Re: Mozart, Bach and time signatures
Author: brycon 
Date:   2019-08-31 00:59


It is pretty commonplace in masterclasses for the instructors to suggest feeling 4/4 in 2 to the bar as an example.

I frequently make this suggestion, primarily because in a measure of 4/4, beats 1 and 3 are strong. If a student feels all the beats equally and plays them this way, the music isn't going to sound like Mozart (it probably isn't going to sound like much of anything). But I've also asked for a student to feel the music in 2/2 when he or she is dragging, playing mini-phrases on each note, and for a variety of other reasons.

Back to 1 and 3 being strong... Theoretically speaking, the invention of metered music and the bar line created a hierarchy, with beat one being the strongest (though our sense of strong and weak can be negated in interesting and expressive ways by a slur). Moreover, this hierarchy extends to the level of the bars themselves, with measure one being strong, measure two weak, and so forth--what theorists call hypermeter. You could therefore feel a 4/4 Mozart piece in 2/2, 1/1, or even one beat every two bars. And all these hierarchies are present regardless of what we think: it's just the way metered music--tonal music, in particular--unfolds.

A sort of metrical dissonance, then, arises when Mozart or any composer breaks this pattern; it famously happens, for example, in the first movement of Mozart's g minor symphony--that is, there are either two weak bars or two strong bars in a row. Theorists from at least as far back as Schoenberg have written about unusual hypermetric groupings in Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and so on (the first movement of Brahms's second sonata has some absolutely beautiful use of metric dissonance--or what one of my teachers called "expressive rhythm").

So although the comment "feel the music in 2" extends into the realm of performance practice (Tony Pay, for instance, has posted here about it), it's more of a comment on how we as performers and listeners experience tonal music itself.

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 Re: Mozart, Bach and time signatures
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-08-31 04:45

Great post with many things I hadn’t considered. However in
regards to the second line of your response I would describe 4/4 time as strong, weak, medium, weak . Strong,weak, strong, weak would describe 2/4 time. The meter is just a starting point of course.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Mozart, Bach and time signatures
Author: Matt74 
Date:   2019-09-03 06:28

My impression is that metre and tempo markings are more conventional than literal. It depends more on what it is intended (or what common practice is/was), than on objective definitions. You can usually tell how it’s supposed to be felt, or played, by attending more to how the the music makes sense than how it’s written.

- Matthew Simington

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 Re: Mozart, Bach and time signatures
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2019-09-05 12:00

Playing a piece of classical music effectively involves understanding that what is written by the composer obeys the norms of the style MORE OR LESS.

So, the bar hierarchy can be strongly or weakly obeyed at the extremes, with gradations in between, to be decided by the performer.

The same is true of the structure of a phrase, which in the classical style BEGINS MORE OR LESS, and shades away more or less.

So one of the variants of a 4/4 bar hierarchy can be achieved by thinking of it as a 2/2 bar. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be ‘more in 4’ at a later point, because composers very often play with the variety of ‘more in 2’, ‘more in 4’ to expressive effect. A good example of that is the clarinet entry in the Mozart quintet, where the first bar is more in 2, the second bar more in 4.

But, it’s still worthwhile to bear in mind the natural 4/4 hierarchy in the second bar, so that the groups of four semiquavers don’t all have equal weight. This gives an attractive lightness to the gesture, which can otherwise seem rather prosaic.


Post Edited (2019-09-05 15:41)

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 Re: Mozart, Bach and time signatures
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-09-05 23:10

So many great answers here, so I'm just gonna add one thing. Often when I buy or listen to an orchestra I'll try to pick a recording based on a conductor I believe in. For example I've always admired conductors such as Geor Solti often with the Chicago Symphony and George Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra. As for bands I've liked Arnold Gabriel with the Air Force Band and Frederic Fennall with the Eastman School of Music. There are of course many, many, others. Too many to list.

So my point is I feel these conductors seem to have a keen ability to zero in on the composer's time signatures and much more so it's a pleasure to hear performances by some of these masters. By the way, music halls also matter. I often choose recordings based on the halls, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orch and some of the European halls. I will pick these halls over the Kennedy Center for example.

So when you are trying to find your answers to a piece sometimes you can go to a recording or recordings and figure out how you want to play a section the piece.

Lastly, I have a pretty nice speaker system called NHT's, but don't run out and buy these, the old ones are great and the company was sadly bought out. I found out about them when doing a recording and the studio was using these speakers. You can still find them used called VT-3, or the 3.0. Costing a fortune back in the day, $10,000 for 2. But I really like quality headsets and my favorites are Grada, a small company located in New York I think. Some cost up to $3000 and up, but you don't need to spend this kind of money. Mine run around $300 and they will beat out anything around the $1000 mark, such as Sony, Beats, any of them. So my point is hearing great music can surely help musicians become even better! Or non musicians still enjoy hearing wonderful performances with inexpensive headsets. When I was in music school we were REQUIRED to attend fellow performances of classmates and I disliked being ordered to attend these recitals and concerts. I felt this got in the way of my practice time, but now I feel sometimes your practice time should include hearing some great performances so we all have a better understanding of the composers. Hope I didn't bore too many. I thought this may help.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

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