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Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900$
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Clive Brown

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198161653

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198161653.001.0001

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(p.282) 8 Tempo
Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900

Clive Brown

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines changing approaches to tempo and the ways composers specified it in their music. Factors influencing the performer's choice of tempo are considered, together with evidence for a variety of approaches during the period. Attitudes towards the metronome and questions about the reliability of metronome marks are investigated. Late 18th- and early 19th-century conventions for specifying tempo, based on tempo giusto, through a combination of metre, tempo terms (usually Italian), and the note values employed in a piece are described with reference to documentary evidence. Comparison of Beethoven's use of these conventions with his metronome marks suggests remarkable consistency. The adoption of the metronome may have contributed to the weakening of these conventions, and among later 19th-century composers they can be no longer relied on, making it more difficult to determine their intentions where no metronome marks exist.

Keywords:   tempo, metronome, tempo terms, metre, tempo giusto

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