Sunday, November 25, 2012


Performing Schubert's A minor Sonata (Op. 42) last evening I let my newly-charged definition of moderato guide my reading.  It revealed the extent to which barlines can be ruinous, unrelenting quarter-note beats a disaster.

In the first movement, marked Moderato, the four bar phrases are made up sometimes as follows: 4/4 followed by 5/4 + 3/4, then again 4/4.  Especially because Schubert does not do this consistently one's attention is galvanized by constant shifting between balance and imbalance, symmetry and asymmetry.

I would now say with conviction that, in this movement, Moderato means not a strict 4/4.

Dramatically this set up the variations movement designated Andante con moto, as a highly lyrical inwardly-directed 3/8 meter at times divided into 3/16 + 3/16 then, later, when it is in triplets, the triplets may be 3 + 2 + 2+ 2 but are rarely a straightforward multiple of 3's.  Con moto indicates movement outside of the arithmetical meter.

The Scherzo recalls us to the physical pull of the dance beat though, because based on the minuet rather than the waltz, it contains many hemiolas.

The Finale moves dramatically, like a storm wind.  After all the subtle shiftings of the three preceding movements it wants to fly.