Saturday, August 23, 2014

All About Allegro

This is the subject of this week's musical conversations involving audience, myself, and whatever scores or pieces are proposed by any combination of the above.

Then this morning my attention was turned to the Allegretto middle movement of the "Moonlight" Sonata.  Last week I thought it was improperly labeled, since, to my view, that marking denotes an eighth-note-based meter and the predominating note value here is definitely quarters.

After last night's Symphonie Fantastique I realized that Beethoven might here be implying a hidden meter: eighths or even eighth-note triplets within each quarter.

This caused me to re-examine the tempo markings of the first and third movements, both of which rely on an alternative reading of quarter notes.  In the first movement, the pulse is half-notes (cut time); hardly a quarter note to be seen.  In the last movement Presto indicates a pulse of sixteenths, again with hardly a quarter note in sight.  Why shouldn't the middle movement require a subtle reading of pulse?

Conclusion: there is no "all" about Allegro.  It must be interpreted in context.