dimanche 20 décembre 2009

Ghosts of the tempi past ...

How would composers react if they could hear their music performed today ? In music and in arts as a whole, progress exist and style evolve.

Examples are countless. Historical recordings at the beginning of the 20th century reveal that violonists abused of glissando, as much as singers of portamenti. Even more unusual for our 2010 ears, tempi fluctuate madly.

There exists some piano rolls made by Mahler of his music. They the first movement of the 5th Symphony with some natural tempi changes but the most surprising piece tempi-wise is the very fast 4th movement of the 4th Symphony. Comparison with the famous Mengelberg recording done in 1939 show the Dutch conductor radically slower than the composer. Maybe Sir Simon Rattle unusual treatment of the first bars (very slow then  huge sudden acceleration in the middle of the bar) would be considered as normal by the composer. Maybe he would find Pierre Boulez's objective treatment too clinical.

Two recent posts from prominent Classical Music writers seem to be inspired by mathematical considerations.On the blogophere, pianist Jeremy Denk, whom I heard in Paris as a superb partner to Joshua Bell's violin has a witty and sharp blog, "Thinking Denk" which included some not very serious maths on the evolving tempi of Brahms's second Piano Concerto.

The second comes curtousy of Alex Ross, authour of "the rest is noise" who referred in a recent entry on his blog to the work done by Eric Grunin on his site on the Eroica. I would recommend to spend some time on Eric's site which includes some fascinating comparison of tempi extremes in this work. May I remind that Beethoven's tempi are usually on the very fast side and are therefore rarely followed although there exists some famous die-hards litteralists.

As we speak, I am listening to the live performance of the Eroica with the Vienna Philharmonic under Thielemann. The performance is definitely a fascinating one which does justice to the scope and ambition of the work. Phrasing and orchestral colors are splendid but be warned: tempi fluctuation are here aplenty. While Beethoven may have approved them, they sound very self-conscious to my ears of today.

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire