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.
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.