My name is Yoon Jae Lee. I am a conductor and I would like some input
regarding metronome markings especially that of the 5th Symphony. I would
like to confirm that the metronome markings are authentic. Which begs me
to ask why no one takes the 2nd theme of the first movement nowhere close
If you could kindly provide some insight regarding this matter I would
appreciate it. Thank you!
Yoon Jae Lee
Yes, the metronome markings are authentic, but are very seldom
followed. Mravinsky's performances were generally closest to Tchaikovsky's
intentions in this symphony, although there are inconsistencies between
his several recorded versions.
The many subtle but precise markings in the second movement are
all-too-often overlooked as well, with conductors slowing where they
should be accelerating, and vice-versa. I hope you'll have the opportunity
to conduct your orchestra at the speeds indicated, and see what a real
difference this can make compared with the types of performance we've
become accustomed to hearing.
Hello, Mr Yoon
"Valse" is one of the most important form for Tchaikovsky. And he was
precise in his metronome markings.
He setted slow 3/4-valse in the 3rd movement of symphony 5. Also in the
1st movement he put 6/8-valse like as No. 5 Scene-valse of "The
Nutcracker". By the way, I think it not the 2nd subject because it is
never developped. Actually those two valses are composed as the
same-tempo-valse by Tchaikovsky. Quarter note of 138 In 3/4 eaquals eighth
note of 92 in 6/8.
Thus, in the performance 92 should be taken.
However, no conductors has performed as Tchaikovsky intended. Perhaps
Guido Cantelli has performed mostly close to 92, but it was not
valse-rhythm so I was not mooved.
It may be helpful to clarify what Kamomeno Iwao's calculations mean.
The implication of the given calculation, (92/2=138/3), is that one bar
of mvmt. III should pass at the same rate as one bar of mvmt. I (for this
section of the movement). For, 92 beats per minute / 2 beats per bar = 138
beats per minute / 3 beats per bar = 46 bars per minute.
To look at the equivalence from a different direction (i.e. by units of
subdivision rather than by bar):
A tempo of quarter equals 138 (mvmt. III) gives the eighth note pulse
at 276 eighths per minute (138 beats per minute * 2 eighths per beat). The
tempo of dotted-quarter equals 92 (mvmt. I) gives the exact same pulse of
276 eighths per minute (92 beats per minute * 3 eighths per beat).
These equivalences suggest a much quicker tempo than is traditionally
taken for this 'waltz' subject of the first movement, setting the primary
waltz-beat division for this section not to the eighth note (as is
traditional here), but to the quarter note (!!! yes, not even the
dotted-quarter, but the quarter note!!!). This entirely changes the music
of this section, in accent, in breath, and in psychological impact,
emphasizing even more the conflict between 6/8 and 3/4 which is written
into the score. More so, it allows this segment to be rendered in an
entirely different way.
Most often we find that for this section the pace of the music
drastically slows and the second beat of each measure suddenly finds
strong accent, replacing the typical first beat stress in every bar, due
to the strings syncopated attack off the first and change of note on the
second. The strings could play this differently, not emphasizing the
second beat but giving a series of leaping and falling syncopation coming
from the impulse of the bar's downbeat, especially if not distracted by a
conductor who leans into the second beat of each bar. (The conductor might
rather, for example, follow a pattern more akin to as in one.)
This faster pace can return the stress of each bar to the downbeat and
transform the melody from one somewhat reassured of its footing to a
near-breathless waltz striving to find a bit of rest.
Sorry for my english. The problem is not the fast pace for the second
theme of the first movement (bars 170-193 and 427-450) at 92 beats /
minute (6/8). Indeed this section is marked Molto piu tranquillo, because
the previus section pace is 104 beat/minute. The extrange is the fast pace
for all the movement.
I want make a exercise, as if I was a robot conductor following
scrupously the metronome markings:
The first movement has 542 bars:
bars 1-37 Andante (4/4) 80 beats/minute -> 1 minute 51 seconds bars
38-169 Allegro con anima (6/8) 104 beats/minute -> 2 minute 32 seconds
bars 170-193 Molto piu tranquillo (6/8) 92 beats/minute -> 31 seconds bars
194-426 Tempo I (6/8) 104 beats/minute -> 4 minutes 29 seconds bars
427-450 Molto piu tranquillo come sopra (6/8) 92 beats/minute -> 31 s bars
451-542 Tempo I (6/8) 104 beats/minute -> 1 minute 46 seconds
The total time is 7 minutes 220 seconds = 10 minutes 40 seconds
The whole first movement should last 10 minutes 40 seconds !!!!!!
The recordings i know are in the range 14-15 minutes.
I just heard this movement by Markevitch and London Symphony Orchestra
(the album include the six symphonies) and Markevitch plays this passage
at the correct speed (i have measured 90 beats/minute with a timer). The
speed for the first theme (allegro con anima) in Markevitch version is
aproximately 96 beats/minute (a bit slower than 104 beats/minute indicated
The total time for the complete movement is 12m 30s.
I never had heard this second theme so fast and the effect is very
extrange (it is like missing a half one beat, the syncopas play so fast
seems to dislocate the beat).
The recording is from 1966.