Mozart Requiem Tempo issues: Why so Slow?!?
Date: September 26, 2010
I have a discussion question which we won't be able to solve but I wanted to hear from more experienced and knowledgable parties. I am troubled lately by a performance practice question in late 18th-century music. When composers use the C-slash (i.e. cut time) time signature and give a tempo indication, does that indication apply to the half-note pulse? Otherwise, why use cut-time?
Let's take the Tuba mirum of the Mozart Requiem for example: (there are other appropriate examples in the music of Mozart and Haydn)
The Tuba Mirum is in cut time with an Andante tempo.
I sang the Levin and Sussmeyer versions of this piece and have listened to dozens of recordings of this movement and none of them come close to achieving anything above half-note=46. So, did Mozart intend Andante to apply to the quarter-note pulse rather than the half-note, or has a tradition of milking that dramatic trombone and bass opening caused us all to ignore the tempo and time signature markings in favor of what's pleasing to our ears? Granted, the trombone arpeggios will be the limiting factor on the high side of our tempo range.
I don't want to get sidetracked into discussions of exactly what tempo Mozart's Andante is on a modern metronome because that is somewhat fruitless. Let's just accept 'appropriate tempo' is largely subjective and contains a range of tempos. That being said, I think that most modern conductors approach the Tuba Mirum from a 'quarter-note centric' viewpoint. I'm wondering if this is one of those times where convention dictates modern practice?
I'd love to hear of other examples of this issue.
I welcome your thoughts and hopefully someone can point me to a recording where it's a little more peppy,
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