11. From Beat to Beat

We would like to conclude with a brief look at the measurements of individual beats. In the first and second theme groups of the Appassionata, we measured the tempo at the level of the four principal beats. There was a significant connection between tempo variations at the measure and beat levels. Those whose tempi greatly varied from beat to beat, as a rule also varied tempi from measure to measure and vice versa. Looking at the second theme group (see Figure 31): We find a high amount of tempo variation at both measure and beat levels on Frederic Lamond’s recording (1927), and a small amount of variation at both levels on Rudolf Serkin’s earliest recording (1936). The result reflects the comparison of the tempo variations at the various measure levels (measure to measure, two-measure group to two-measure group, etc.) of op. 2/3 (compare   Chapter 2, “On the Methodology of the Tempo Measurements”). Still there are counter examples. Serkin’s last Appassionata recording (1963) demonstrates comparatively small variations of tempo at the measure level and high at the beat level. Maria-João Pires’s (1975) recording demonstrates high tempo variations at the measure level and low at the beat level.

Figure 31: Average Tempo Variations from Measure to Measure
and from Beat to Beat in Percent Appassionata, Measures 36–41

Figure 32: Tempo Curves Artur Schnabel (1933) and Frederic Lamond (1927)
Appassionata, Measures 35–42, Values of the Four Principle Beats

Concerning the concrete shaping of the tempo of the second theme group, we made a further interesting discovery. There are pianists who rhetorically stretch the ‘dotted’ figure and players who notoriously push it. Frederic Lamond is among the first and Artur Schnabel (1933) the second. Figure 32 shows that Schnabel, in contrast to Lamond, plays the first three measures remarkably strictly in tempo. And it shows that he even slightly speeds up the dotted figure, which Lamond plays cantabile: minimally in measure 35/ beat 4 and measure 36/ beats 2 and 4, stronger in measure 38/ beats 2 and 4, and very strikingly in measure 39/ beat 4 and measure 40/ beat 2. Once, in measure 40/ beat 4 he actually stretches the figure as well, in the context of the crescendo before the piano. However, the agogic has a reciprocal relationship to the dynamic: Schnabel plays the theme remarkably quietly—much more so than Lamond. In total we could say, that on account of the agogic and dynamics, Schnabel’s second theme group flows extremely well and seems especially simple and in no way lofty. This is in accordance with his edition where he marks the left hand egualmente, tranq(uillo) and the right dolce, non espressivo. The plain, simple gesture provides an effective space for the grand dynamic and agogic events, which should not however befall the theme—measures 39 and 40 give a sudden first taste.

It would be desirable to conduct these kinds of studies over the length of entire movements. First it would allow an evaluation of the connection between tempo variations at the beat and measure levels overall, rather than just at the central, formal points of attraction, which may not be representative. It would also expand the possibilities of a differentiated tempo report overall. Given the extensive amounts of work that this would require, shorter movements would indeed be recommended for study.

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