12. Conclusion and Outlook

For the current study, we measured the tempi of recordings of three of Beethoven’s piano sonatas from the 1920s through the 2000s, and this using computer assisted methods of listening as well as by hand (see   Chapter 2). It is unlikely that the means of measurement will change in the near future—that a computer alone would be capable of making such measurements. ( 89)

It is currently also an unlikely prospect, that other parameters than the shaping of time could be examined. With dynamics for example, it is virtually impossible to separate the contributions of the interpreter from those of the engineer, producer or from every level that Hans-Joachim Maempel has referred to as “secondary interpretation” in any kind of reliable way. ( 90)

One can however attempt to approach the shaping of time at other levels than that of the measure: at the individual beats or the various levels above the individual measure (two-measure groups, four-measure groups, etc.); we have already begun to do this in a few instances (see   Chapter 2 and   Chapter 11).

In any case, an expansion of the repertoire of pieces to examine seems indispensible; both to works by other composers as well as genres beyond the solo sonata (chamber music and symphonies). Did the tempo also slow down there between the 1950s and 1980s? And do Russian/Soviet interpreters also play slower and freer in tempo there than Austro-German interpreters? Or are there here perhaps completely different historical tendencies and/or national or culturally specific differences?

With a sufficient number of pieces examined, it may be possible to answer more comprehensive style questions, such as whether or not Mozart is actually performed with fewer tempo variations than Brahms, early Beethoven with fewer than late Beethoven. And genre-oriented questions could be answered, such as whether the tempo shaping is fundamentally dependant on factors such as whether one musician, who also makes the artistic decisions, is playing, or two, three or four musicians—ideally with equal say in artistic decisions—, or a whole orchestra is playing, in front of which a conductor is standing and dictating how the tempi should be taken. According to the early 19th Century idea, which was strongly influenced by a musical practice that in spite of constant new repertoire expected a situation in which there was little rehearsal, a flexible approach to tempo was only conceivable for solo music and small chamber groups. How does this compare then with the repertoire and rehearsal situations of the 20th and 21st Centuries?

It is also of course imaginable that with an increased number of works, it could become clear that all historical, national and genre-specific differences disappear and that tempo overall summa summarum remained and remains the same. Still however, there is no doubt that there will again and again be individual characteristic tempo histories—as with the Appassionata and Hammerklavier for example, and also Franz Schubert’s B Major Sonata ( 91)—which have something significant to say about the reception of the works and thereby about the works themselves.



89. Alexander Lerch,    Software-based Extraction of Objective Parameters from Music Performances, Munich 2009; Meinard Müller and Verena Konz,    ‘Automatisierte Methoden zur Unterstützung der Interpretationsforschung’, in: Gemessene Interpretation, ed. von Loesch and Weinzierl (  as fn. 1), pp. 193–204.

90. Hans-Joachim Maempel,    ‘Musikaufnahmen als Datenquellen der Interpretationsanalyse’, in: Gemessene Interpretation, ed. von Loesch and Weinzierl (  as fn. 1), pp. 157–172.

91.   See fn. 65.

  Back to contents