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'a tempo' marking (Read 1844 times)

Offline frank_48

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'a tempo' marking
« on: August 15, 2009, 02:25:13 AM »
i know the sense of the meaning of the word, go back to the original tempo, however when you see the word over a specific passage for example chopins nocturne no.1 are you supposed to speed up instantly or ease into it and be at the original tempo by the time the theme repeats?

theres the poco rall bit at the start which im assuming means slow down then when the a tempo bit comes at the start of the b flat octave is it immidiatley sped up or poco a poco ?
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Offline ramseytheii

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Re: 'a tempo' marking
«Reply #1 on: August 15, 2009, 03:41:56 AM »
Interpret, interpret, interpret!

Walter Ramsey



Offline frank_48

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Re: 'a tempo' marking
«Reply #2 on: August 16, 2009, 02:31:51 PM »
im not sure what that means, are you saying to each his own and they should play how they want?
Playing Piano is the easiest thing in the world, All you have to do is have the right finger on the right key at the right moment.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: 'a tempo' marking
«Reply #3 on: August 16, 2009, 04:55:04 PM »
Can you prove that there is an objective way to read these marks? 

Walter Ramsey



Offline frank_48

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Re: 'a tempo' marking
«Reply #4 on: August 16, 2009, 05:10:10 PM »
well, my teacher thinks i have to ease into it, whilst i (only been playing for 2 years) was under the impression it was to be literally applied.
Playing Piano is the easiest thing in the world, All you have to do is have the right finger on the right key at the right moment.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: 'a tempo' marking
«Reply #5 on: August 17, 2009, 12:29:17 PM »
Remember that in any performance, you are dramatizing the music, not just presenting it.  What way can you execute this, so that you get the most effect you desire?  Should it be a sudden, abrupt return to tempo?  Should it be a slow return as if out of a dream?  Should it be subtle and mysterious, or resolved and clear?

Everything in the score has to be performed artistically.  You should never sacrifice what feels right, for what you think is a literal understanding.  If it feels wrong, for instance, to be abrupt with the tempo change, something is wrong - either in your understanding, or your execution.

All the dynamic markings have to be performed with a rationale as to their dramatic character.  Otherwise, all you are doing is presenting something mechanically, and inconsequentially.

Walter Ramsey



Offline iroveashe

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Re: 'a tempo' marking
«Reply #6 on: August 17, 2009, 03:11:30 PM »
If this wasn't intended to be a sudden tempo change, shouldn't it say poco  -  a  -  poco   -  accelerando or something like that? Or is it one of those things that are implied and it'd have to say subito for it not to be interpreted gradually?
"By concentrating on precision, one arrives at technique, but by concentrating on technique one does not arrive at precision."
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Offline ramseytheii

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Re: 'a tempo' marking
«Reply #7 on: August 18, 2009, 06:18:55 PM »
If this wasn't intended to be a sudden tempo change, shouldn't it say poco  -  a  -  poco   -  accelerando or something like that? Or is it one of those things that are implied and it'd have to say subito for it not to be interpreted gradually?

I haven't looked closely at the example you gave, but in general I would say no, it doesn't have to say poco a poco or anything else.  See, we are spoiled and in some cases molested by contemporary composers, or by composers from around the early 20th century, who tended to write exactly what they meant at all times.

Take Bartok for instance.  He had exact definitions for staccato, portato, and legato.  By exact, I mean he had mathematical definitions for them.  They were objectively outlined in his aesthetic.  Does that mean we should play articulations in Chopin the same way?  Obviously not.

Also, Bartok, when writing out accelerandi or ritardandi, actually wrote out metronome marks along the way to show how it went - exactly and mathematically.

Lots of composers after him did the same.  We're rarely taught now, that composers before that, often didn't notate things to such an exact degree, and markings required the input of whomever was playing the piece.  Simply put, you can't approach every composer in the same way.  Just because Bartok specifies to the exactly number of ticks per minute how fast or slow each bar is, it doesn't mean Chopin thought the same way.

That's why I said, interpret, interpret, interpret.  What is the drama you are getting at?  You have to use the marks to achieve that feeling.  You can't just assume Chopin or anyone else was writing along the mindset we have today, which is, "Does he mean to do A or B?"  In fact, Chopin allowed lots of different variations in markings to be published in his works.  He saw them, didn't correct them, and didn't really care.

Do not apply an objective, modernist style, to subjective, romantic music.

Walter Ramsey