Piano Study: Tempo shifts from Childhood to Adulthood

Turning back the clock to my early years as a piano student, I regarded ANDANTE as the slowest tempo marking in the musical universe. So did all my friends who foot dragged their pedal and stumbled through the doldrums of any piece that had the “A” for power down the pace and lower volume while you’re at it. No one was listening–except for the $3 per hour, neighborhood piano teacher who was under the same delusion about Andante.

How times have changed. Andante now moves along at walking pace, (ANDARE=to walk in Italian), but depending on what country or US city you live in, walking has a varied tempo.

In Chopin’s body of Nocturnes, some are marked Andante, which for me, is no longer a funereal indication. Perhaps ADAGIO or LARGO would slow me down to snail’s pace.

But whatever the subjective marking attached, the Night Pieces, are by and large not asking to be slogged along like you’re living on “borrowed time” until you decide to buckle down and practice.

Borrowed or flexible time, (rubato) however, are part of the Romantic genre, so when rendering a piece such as the F Minor Nocturne, the tempo chosen has to intermittently bend with the breeze, but tastefully.

In so many words, moderation and musical playing are a good combination in this nocturnal cosmos.

Chopin’s F minor masterpiece, Op. 55, No. 1, my current heart throb, just happens to be marked Andante.

And veritably, as an adult, my new awareness of tempo permeates this performance.

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