Helmut Breidenstein

Mozart's Tempo-System, page 255 - 255

A Handbook for Practice and Theory

1. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4291-5, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7203-5,

Tectum, Baden-Baden


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Mozart's Tempo-System 255 RESUME Mozart's music cannot be made to fit into a simple scheme: the combined codes (or modules) for the execution - m etre+smallest note values + tempo word - demand an infinite multitude of fine gradations. Each of these modules has a special character of its own, following the logic of the actual performance: they have their own gesture, their own metric, manner of playing, dynamic, articulation, bowing techni que, their own tempo. They are an essential part of Mozart's musical syntax, and since it is not possible to fix them rigidly they are an ideal means of representation: at the same time flexible, complex, and precise. Once decoded they help us to free his music, captured on paper, into real vibrations in real time, our time. Questions of tempo, articulation and phrasing surpass, after all, pure craftsmanship; they ask for the music's meaning, they touch the basis of its embodiment. Every musician wrestles daily with these ques tions and the answers often change the works for the listener fundamentally. To the end of time they cannot be answered by Quantz, nor by reference of the tempo words to pulse, strides, swings of a pendulum, ticking of a pocket watch, or by metronome figures, durations, let alone by computer-based measurements of tempos of recordings; they can only be answered on the basis of the actual score and of the complete works of a composer against the background of the style of his epoch and in relation to the actual conditions o fthe performance. Musical time is human time, it cannot be expressed by unmusi cal time, the cold time of the stars. „The specifically musical time is the time which music has completely for itse lf alone, the time which the sound of the music itself brings into existence and that exists nowhere eise, a play where the durations of what is sounded give rise to a web of time settings that is far beyond everything measured and measurable. Music is being set free from time. [Musik ist Befreiung von de rze it,]"671 The very nature of classical tempos makes all attempts to refer them to parameters o fthe real world fail even that of the biological clock. Metronomizations go astray in principle in classical music; they deprive the music like a pinned butterfly of its innate ability to metamorphose. The classical composers create a world of spiritual-intellectual movement, and their indications for the „tempo" - or, more correctly, for the „execution" - are about this, the „ m o u v e m e n t " , not about the physical speed which preoccupies us so much. „One can play in time without arriving at the mouvement, since the tempo depends only on the notes; the mouvement, however, depends on genius and good taste."— Every modification o fthe mouvement - be it in metre, class of note values or verbal indication - is caused by a new musical idea, a new mood, a new dramatic Situation, a new part of the musical architecture. In contrast to the unity of „affect" in the Baroque, d/scontinu ity is the artistic means in the movements and sequences of movements by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven - right into changes in structure and virtual changes of metre; coherence and balance are established at a higher level. The allegation of a simple proportion between different tempi (where only the manner of notation changes after all) levels this out in an artistic self-blockade in favour of a fictitious paper logic.— The perfection of ensemble playing at transitions that it guarantees is an obsession of the modern conductor; in the 18th Century one had just as few problems with it as soloists and chamber musicians have today; it doesn't concern the meaning of the music in any way. Like all great art, classical music calls to mind that far from the rational 1 =1 the abundance of life is founded on 1^1 . 671 Compiled from : Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht, „Zeit", in: Die Musik und das Schöne, 1997, p. 1 72-180. — Jean Rousseau: „O n peut jouer de mesure sans entrer dans le mouvement, parce que la mesure depend seulement de la Musique; mais le mouvement depend du genie & du bon goüt." (Traite de la 'Viole, 1687, p. 66.) — „The exclusive search for unity (which is fundamentally a theological rather than a purely musical concern) may blind the analyst to the many .irrational' factors that seem to be fighting against unity." (Neal Zaslaw, Mozart's Symphonies, 1989, p. 532).

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A reference book for the musician’s practical work of interpretation, this volume, after a general presentation of 18th century principles for determining a tempo, offers a compendium of all Mozart’s autograph tempo markings in 420 lists of pieces of similar character. Thus, a comparison of slower and quicker movements is made possible by 434 music examples, and there follows a wide-ranging collection of relevant texts taken from historical sources.

The book does not claim to know “the single correct tempo” for the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It hopes to be of assistance in the unavoidable search by every interpreter for the “true mouvement” of each work—for the work itself, for the performer, the instrument or instruments, the room, the public, the nature of the event. It follows that there can be no absolutely “authentic” tempo for Mozart’s works. And yet his tempo markings, since he chose them so meticulously, should be taken equally seriously with the other parameters of his famously precise notation.

Alfred Brendel writes: “an astonishing opus … one of those rare and important books in which music and musicology form a vital association; a lifelong study that makes one very much aware of a field to which attention is rarely paid. It accomplishes this by bringing to bear an understanding that never loses sight of the musical foundation on which it is built, and by a discerning intelligence that does not shy away from raising debatable topics, although without ever claiming infallibility … One cannot be grateful enough to Helmut Breidenstein for his methodological accuracy which allows us Mozart interpreters to orientate ourselves with ease and pleasure … His book sharpens our perception, at the same time giving an overview and making us sensitive to each individual case. Admiration and gratitude.”