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Schubert Mass No.4 in C Major: Tempo

How fast should conductors take "andante con moto" in Schubert's Mass No. 4 in C Major, Kyrie movment? I know that "andante" is in range between 76-107, but is that how it is in Romantic era as well? Andante, a speed of walking distnace is vague to me. Also does "andante" refers to quarter note pulse, or eighth? Since all it says on the score is "andante con moto" and no other indication, I am confused. I have listened to seveal recordings with all different tempos. Thoughts or answers?
Replies (3): Threaded | Chronological
on January 24, 2014 12:35pm
Step 1: throw away any reference which says some tempo word corresponds to such-and-such a metronome marking. Those aren't even very useful for laymen, and should be anathema to serious musicians.
 
Your ear is the right guide to tempo, not research (let alone a survey on ChoralNet). I could tell you what tempo I'm doing it at, but I think that would be doing you a disservice. Your tempo has to take into account the skills and size of your ensemble, the size and resonance of the room you'll be performing in, and your own taste in expression. Choose a tempo which will allow you (and your singers) to perform the musical phrases expressively and create an atmosphere suitable for expression of the text. Treat the tempo marking as a guide to the "feel" of the music, not some number on the metronome; in this case it's a suggestion to make sure the music isn't slow and plodding but rather flows forward.
 
Don't want your job replaced by a robot? Make sure you exercise human judgment.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 25, 2014 4:32pm
Amen, Allen! Make that 4 or 5 times "Amen" - one for each sentence. You have expressed what I so often wish to.
Jana, it is admirable that you have worked so hard to "get it right" ... but maybe that's like trying find the right husband/partner entirely through a computer questionnaire.   As Dan Fogelberg said, "It's breeding, it's training and something unknown."  Something has to be trusted inside you.
I would add that as we take into the "account the skills" of our ensembles, the breath support is a crucial one. Even though less-trained singers can "stagger" breathe, those phrases are likely to have less solidarity at slower tempos. I will often move my speed forward if I hear tension/vowel changes creeping into the tones toward the end of the phrase.   If a singer has begun a phrase without his/her best relaxation and support, it is very tricky to revive it mid-phrase.
In an audience, I'm much more excited about buoyant phrases - especially long ones - than I am about "correct" tempos.  I imagine that if you polled listeners who were music-lovers, but had no training, they would respond better to energized phrases, regardless of the tempo.
If you have concern about your group's phrase-length ability, please consider spending some rehearsal time on it - perhaps get a specialist in.
I echo Allen's encouragement to trust your own artistry, which is obviously there.  It will be beautiful because what you evoke will rise from what you feel Schubert, the text, and the singers are all combining to give and express.
I look forward to hearing it!
-Lucy
on January 26, 2014 2:08pm
Is "andante con moto" in the autograph materials?  Both score and parts?  If not, you have a decision to make.  If so, you have a slightly different decision to make.  All that is mentioned by Allen and Lucy should be part of your decision as well.  But just as "forte" meant something different to Bach, Schubert, and Wagner than it does to us today, so does "andante con moto."  Research into what it might have meant in Schubert's world might yield valuable insights.  
 
This issue is important for conductors, especially since the beat pattern may very well be in eight -- or in four -- depending on one's definition of how the music flows, and whether "andante con moto" is from an editor, or from the autograph materials.  It's possible in a typical Schubert Mass to make "con moto" in an eight pattern, I think.
 
Often the "Tempo Bezeichnung" in Schubert's autograph scores were added later by Ferdinand (his well-meaning but lesser gifted brother), and are not included in the autograph parts.  What was Ferdinand's purpose, if that is the case here (I'm fairly certain it is NOT original, a critical report from an Urtext edition, eg Carus, will often give the background you need for this)?  And who is meant by "andante" and especially "con moto"?  The 1st violins, who play a lyrical melody, or the 2nd violins, who play accompanimental 16ths, or the bass line, with it's harmonic/rhythmic function?  And if the tempo notation is not in the autograph parts... why would one even consider it?
 
This, along with Allen's reasoning on using one's ear, ensemble leadership experience and stylistic sensitivity to determine the tempo (and perhaps what pattern to conduct it in), makes for a pretty well rounded and thorough approach, in my opinion.  And also, I agree with Allen and Lucy, it is, in general with Schubert, a bad idea to equate a Tempo notation (like andante con moto) with a particular metronomic speed.  How many different ways are there to "walk with motion" anyway?
 
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