Tempo (music)

Article

October 17, 2021

Tempo (Italian tempo from Latin tempus time, German Zeitmaß) is a measure of time in music, in simplified terms - “the speed of music performance”.

Brief description

In relation to the classical-romantic period of history (the middle of the 18th century - the beginning of the 20th century), tempo is always interpreted in conjunction with the meter, for example, as “the speed of movement in music, determined by the number of metric fractions per unit of time”. At the same time, the problem of tempo exists even in that music (the Gregorian sequence “Dies irae”, Perotin's organums, Dufay's masses, Madrigals of Monteverdi and hundreds of other examples in modal notation and in mensural notation), in relation to which it is not accepted to speak of “metric”. Starting from the 17th century (the first indications of tempo by the Spanish vihuelists Luis de Milan and Luis de Narvaez date back to the 16th century), composers increasingly consistently supply their music with clichéd “tempo” instructions (“fun”, “lingering”, “moderate” and etc.), which are more an indication of the ethos (character) of the music than unambiguous prescriptions of "speed". Despite the composer's refinements of the tempos that have been increasing since the end of the 18th century (a textbook example is the metronomic designations in the late autographs of L. van Beethoven, in the 20th century - numerous clarifications of the tempo in the manuscripts of I.F. a piece of music (or part of it) to this day remains a favorite subject of discussion for performers, listeners and critics. It acquires particular acuteness when the composer's tempo instructions are absent (as is often the case in baroque music, for example, in J.S.Bach), or they are, but are deliberately inaccurate and referencing not the “number of beats”, but the ethos ... For example, the bass aria “Mache dich, mein Herze, rein” from “St. Matthew Passion” by Bach in the audio recording of O. Klemperer (1961) sounds 10'18 ", and in the interpretation of J.E. Gardiner (1988) almost twice as fast (5'57 "). The finale of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (author's remark Allegro) performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with G. von Karajan (1965) sounds 5'52 ", and the Cologne Baroque Orchestra Musica antiqua under the direction of R. Göbel (1986) has the same finale lasts 3'58 ". Although an accurate measurement of the speed of music (the number of beats per unit of time) is quite possible with

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