Tchaik concerto 3rd movement

November 20, 2020, 6:04 AM · I just heard Patricia Kopatchinskaja play The Tchaik 3rd mov on the radio. It seemed insanely fast (up to 185 bpm), but then, what does "allegro vivacissimo" mean?
This and the emoting - she must burn up a lot of energy!

Replies (15)

November 20, 2020, 11:15 AM · Vivacissimo means, as you can probably guess, "extremely lively".
November 20, 2020, 2:17 PM · Come to think of it: Allegro vivacissimo probably means "insanely fast".
November 20, 2020, 2:31 PM · 'issimo' means 'a whole lot of'.
November 20, 2020, 8:06 PM · That's what happens when you're playing staccato and not pausing enough on the breaks.

While I like the fact that they try to inject new life into warhorses, I thought that in this case, the interpretation didn't really work, which also seems to be my finding with another recording made by Currentz - the Beet 5.

November 20, 2020, 8:55 PM · She does whatever she wants.... because she can.
Edited: November 21, 2020, 2:13 AM · I wasn't too worried about the specifics, but on other forums I've warned beginners that "tempo" markings are more mood markings than speed markings, and indeed we can question both allegro and vivace.

-issimo means "as much as possible" - it's a Latin superlative (bellissimo - most beautiful).

But allegro means cheerful and vivace(vivacious) means full of life.
So they are both really about mood more than velocity (Tchaik doesn't say velocissime).

November 21, 2020, 6:09 AM · From my memories of learning theory mid last century, allegro was “ lively and fast “
November 21, 2020, 8:53 AM · Allegro does not mean cheerful. Allegro means "running", i.e., fast, it is a tempo marking not a mood marking.
November 21, 2020, 9:30 AM · What the words mean in colloquial Italian is distinct from how they are used as tempo markings.
Edited: November 21, 2020, 10:33 AM · The etymology of allegro (from alacer in Latin, and then going back farther) is bound up with both cheerfulness and quickness, but across romance languages, it most commonly plainly means joy or happiness (I only speak Spanish, so other languages may have particular nuances that I'm not aware of surrounding the word).

Of course, in music there is a convention that to express this mood or character, there is a certain range of tempi, but I would say that the metronomic convention is a crude one, and that like all musical interpretation, you ultimately have what's on the page primarily, and then all kinds of options beyond that.

It might vary from composer to composer how much they wanted the marking to express the mood, and how much they leave it up to achieving it with sound, articulation and other methods, or how much it simply means somewhere in a particular metronomic range and nothing else.

Schumann went for tempo markings in German, probably because as the arch-romantic, he was very concerned with expressing very particular moods, characters and states of mind.

So Tchaikovsky, as a Russian speaker fluent in French, writing the concerto in Switzerland, not particularly fluent in Italian, but quite a Romantic composer, surely meant ? when he made the marking. And how accurate was HIS metronome?

November 21, 2020, 2:13 PM · OK I stand corrected, but, allegro *is* a quintessential tempo marking, isn't it? I mean, music history is full of fast pieces that are definitely not meant to be interpreted joyfully, yet they are marked allegro. For example, Mendelssohn opus 80, Mozart 40th symphony, but there are tons of examples.
Edited: November 21, 2020, 4:59 PM · I wasn't trying to disagree too strongly Jean ;-)

What I mostly was getting at is that while the convention of considering them tempo markings akin to what's on one's metronome is quite reasonable and is a great starting place for any piece, ultimately the interpretation can very convincingly fall out of the commonly accepted range, and I would argue that it is ultimately because there is much variance about what the markings may have meant in different eras, and even between different composers in a given era.

"Allegro" may mean "happy", but that doesn't mean that there aren't pieces that are marked "allegro" and really aren't conveying a happy mood at all, so I think it ultimately becomes a matter of feel, flexibility and subjectivity. And then once more going back to the etymology, you can make an argument that the word is rooted in "briskness" too, but getting into interpretative rabbit holes seems a little academic and ultimately beside the point (This is one of my major contentions with the HIP movement (if I thought it sounded good it wouldn't matter how they reached their conclusions (but I digress))).

So, yes, allegro is a quintessential tempo marking, and I think that grounding one's approach in following the conventional tempo marking associated with allegro (or any other marking found on a metronome) will convey a credible reading of the majority of works.

That interpretive decision is part of why I see classical musicians as artists rather than simple artisans, despite not playing music they wrote themselves.

Edited: November 21, 2020, 11:14 PM · As already mentioned, Allegro Vivacissimo, for a native Italian or Spanish speaker would mean " happy, the most lively" Non-Italian composers will use the meanings in their music dictionaries. Even with accompaning metronome markings, be wary of following someone's opinion, even the composer's (!). I am thinking especially of the deaf and eccentric Beethoven, who was cut off from the practical side of music making in the second half of his life.
A better rule of thumb would be; how fast do you think the audience wants to hear it, not how fast you want, or can, play it.
Some halls will have a long reverb time, which makes some things sound muddy. And there is a real speed limit, about 16 notes/second, beyond which runs sound like a smear instead of discernible notes.
Edited: November 22, 2020, 4:33 AM · What Joel said. Everyone's Italian/music dictionary says something different.

And this all raises the question of when a true bpm metronome marking was first applied to music, and what people were taught before that happened: until then it was all interpretation. I gather Beethoven worked with Maelzel, but was that because Beethoven was fed up with badly taught interpretative licence or failure to understand his new music? I also read that Beethoven's bpm's are insanely fast, but that may be because his metronome didn't work, or Maelzel ripped him off? Lol, I am so not going to get into conspiracy theories of that type!

November 22, 2020, 11:08 AM · “But allegro means cheerful and vivace(vivacious) means full of life.
So they are both really about mood more than velocity (Tchaik doesn't say velocissime).”

Besides the fact that Kopatchinskaja generally seems to love playing in eccentric interpretations, “cheerful”, and “full of life” may directly translate to high velocity, in her approach.


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