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8. Thus Do They All

Concerning large-scale form, there are tempo decisions in all three of the movements that we analyzed on which a surprising number of pianists come to a consensus. We would like to evoke this using the averaged tempo curves of all of the recordings, even if these sometimes do not show what all pianists do, but rather simply the result of what happens when all the differences are averaged out. In order to know what each individual pianist has done, one has to—and this we have done—observe every tempo curve and its tempo values individually and compare these. We are solely using the averaged tempo curves to present the results of our analysis.

Figure 19: Average Tempo Curve of all 50 Recordings of the Appassionata



The Appassionata is the sonata about which there is the most consensus (see Figure 19). There is a tempo plan that is characteristic of all of the recordings: A fast transition followed by a slowed down second subject within the exposition and one or two accelerando passages in the development section (at measure 79 and at measure 113) and coda (at measure 210), before the Più Allegro again gets faster as Beethoven’s score stipulates. All of the pianists without exception follow this tempo plan. In addition, the majority of the pianists play the concluding group faster than the second subject and take the beginning of the recapitulation faster than the beginning of the exposition. As far as the relationship between first and second theme groups is concerned, most pianists play the second as fast or faster than the first. ( 78)

Other than the tempo relationships between the first and second theme groups and the beginnings of the exposition and recapitulation, all of the details of this plan follow the recommendations of the performance editions (Bülow, d’Albert, Lamond and Schnabel). The performance editions on the other hand recommend the same tempo for the beginning of the recapitulation as that of the beginning of the exposition and they recommend a slower tempo for the second theme group than that of the first. See   Chapter 10 for a discussion of the discrepancy between actual performance and the recommendations of the performance editions concerning choice of tempo for the first and second theme groups and the beginnings of the exposition and recapitulation.


Figure 20: Average Tempo Curve of all 45 Recordings of the Sonata op. 2/3



There is also a tempo plan followed by all pianists that can be reconstructed for op. 2/3 (see Figure 20). In the exposition it is a regularly repeated change of tempo between the thematically bound, or cantabile sections and the thematically unconnected, or virtuoso sections. Without exception—or sometimes with minimal differences—all of the pianists play the main themes of the first theme group, the transition, second theme group and concluding group slower than the passage groups that follow them (at measure 13, at measure 61, at measure 85), also the ‘animated, energetic’ episode at measure 39. And without exception all of the pianists’ development sections are marked by two larger sections of increased tempo (at measures 97 and 113), the coda by two larger sections of increased tempo with a pronounced ritardando between these (at measures 237 and 252). For most of the pianists, the beginning of the concluding group within the exposition is the slowest section and following passage group the fastest. Most of the pianists play the second theme group as fast or faster than the first theme group. ( 79)

A comparison with the indications given in performance editions is less informative in the case of op. 2/3 than that of the Appassionata because the indications are far more sparse. This has to do with the then common assumption that early Beethoven should be played much more strictly in time. In the Cotta edition, of which Bülow edited the sonatas starting with op. 53, Sigmund Lebert does not give a single tempo indication for op. 2/3 other than the tempo recommendation at the beginning of the movement. In Lamond’s, Schnabel’s and d’Albert’s editions, we find only the occasional note on general tempo indications; and nothing on tempo in the development or coda. It would seem that the performance editions assume an alternation of tempo between thematically bound passages and virtuoso passages (and also the episode at measure 39). D’Albert marks the episode “animato,” the passage group after the second theme group (at measure 61) “brillante.” Lamond recommends a tempo of 132 for the first and second theme groups, 152 for the passage groups that follow (at measures 13 and 61). Schnabel recommends a general tempo of 152, but 160 for the episode at measure 39. (For more on the specific differences between Lamond and Schnabel see   Chapter 10.) Concerning the tempo relationships between first and second theme groups, for all of the differences in the details, they share one thing in common: The second theme group should not be played slower than the first. Lamond suggests the same tempo for both. D’Albert writes in a footnote to the second theme group: “Keep up the tempo.” ( 80) Schnabel even retains the faster tempo of the episode at measure 39 for the second theme group.


Figure 21: Average Tempo Curve of all 45 Recordings of the Hammerklavier Sonata



Starting with the recordings, it is considerably more difficult to reconstruct a common tempo plan for the Hammerklavier Sonata than for the other two sonatas (see Figure 21). The only thing that almost all pianists seem to agree on is a slower tempo for the concluding group than for the second theme group. Regarding all other decisions, we find otherwise solely ‘majority decisions.’ For example, a tendency to play the second theme group faster than the transition and first theme group, or to play the second section of the second theme group (at measure 75) slower than the first (at measure 47). A majority of interpreters, as in the Appassionata, play the beginning of the recapitulation faster than the beginning of the exposition. Finally, a slight majority regarding the question of taking the same tempo for the transition as for the first theme group—given that Beethoven himself indicates “a tempo,” a majority that would appear rather slight indeed. ( 81) There is definite dissent regarding the question of the tempo of the conclusion. If we compare the tempo of the conclusion (measures 386–397) with that of the fugato in the development section (138–146), as a reliable tempo axis for the movement, just as many pianists play these at the same tempo as those who take it faster.

A comparison between tempo decisions in practice and the tempo recommendations of the performance editions is again not a particularly fruitful endeavor, since the editions either ignore too many questions or contradict each other (which is of course also a statement). What is remarkable is that there is a consensus among editors (d’Albert and Schnabel; Bülow and Lamond don’t comment on the passages of interest to us) about the only thing that there is also a consensus about among performers: that the concluding group should be played slower than the second theme group. Where there are ‘majority conclusions’ among performers, d’Albert and Schnabel disagree or even draw completely different conclusions. D’Albert thinks the second section of the second theme group (at measure 75) should be played at the same tempo as the first (at measure 47), Schnabel would prefer it played slower. Schnabel calls for a tempo of half note = 138 at the beginning of recapitulation, d’Albert, in contrast, suggests a slower tempo: he designates “Maestoso” at the beginning of the recapitulation and the indication “Tempo I” first appears four measures later. D’Albert calls for a somewhat faster tempo then for the conclusion (at measure 386), he writes “animando.” Schnabel on the other hand would have the passage at tempo and in his edition we find “non pressare.”

The consensus among pianists and editors concerning large-scale, formal tempo decisions in the Appassionata and op. 2/3 may initially seem puzzling. After closer examination however, it demonstrates the clarity of the tendencies of the musical material and its forms of movement. Given the number of highly original interpreters and number of interpreters aiming at originality, one could hardly attribute this solely to traditions and lack of imagination. It is rather the other way around: However individually and uniquely one would like to play, the music demands certain decisions about tempo.

The situation regarding the Hammerklavier Sonata is obviously a different one. Here the thematic figures and forms of musical motion are far less clearly demanding of specific tempo decisions. It is likely that as with the choice of the basic tempo, those decisions about tempo disposition concerning individual, musical questions and technical questions are connected (see   Chapter 10).



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Footnotes

78. Which measures should be decisive for the tempi of the first theme group, transition, second theme group and concluding group is of course a difficult question. Equally difficult is the question of which measures the metronome markings in the editions refer to. After much discussion, we decided on the following measures for the average tempi of the four main sections of the exposition: First theme group mm. 1–2 (the widespread reduction of tempo in mm. 3–4 seemed to us already out of tempo), for the transition mm. 24–27, for the second theme group mm. 36–39 and for the concluding group mm. 51–54.

79. We consider the following measures decisive for our tempo calculations: First theme group mm. 1–8, first passage group mm. 13–16, transition mm. 27–30, ‘lively’ episode mm. 39–42, second theme group mm. 47–50, second passage group mm. 61–64, concluding group mm. 78–81, concluding passage mm. 85–88.

80. Leipzig: Otto Forberg.

81. We consider the following measures decisive for our tempo calculations: First theme group mm. 1–3, transition mm. 35–37, second theme group mm. 47–50 (first section) and 75–80 (second section), concluding group mm. 100–105.