Well, it has been a spell since we checked in with Scott Cantrell of the Dallas Morning News. In a thoughtful article utilizing actual timings, he puts forth a sort of analysis of speeds of performances of the various movements of Mahler's Fifth Symphony. The following is only an excerpt, the rest is here.

For the most part, Mr. van Zweden's pacing is above reproach.

Well hedged. Let's go ahead and assume we're going to reproach it, then.

But I'm not entirely convinced by tempos in the first and forth movements.

Tempos? Tempi? Tempe? Stadiums? Stadia? Latin? English? Oh, who cares.

But two of the four movements, I guess, counts as "the most part". (Obviously the tempi change inter-movement in Mahler, and I am just...well, you know.)

The first is marked "Funeral March: With measured step. Strict. Like a cortege." Mr. van Zweeden, like Leonard Bernstein in his 1963 New York Philharmonic recording, interprets the opening section at between 58 and 60 beats per minute-- around the speed of a clock's second hand.

You...are telling me...that 60 bpm... is "around" the speed of a clock's second hand?



I...you...you don't have to be a conductor, or a musician, or a fifth grader, to know that...there are 60 seconds in a minute.

In other breaking news from Dallas: Rain falls from the sky!

Oh, sorry, one last thing.

But, interestingly, there's a 1905 piano-roll [sic?] recording of Mahler himself [redundant--Ed.] playing the movement--yes, on the piano--and he starts at a considerably brisker 72 beats per minute.

A piano-roll [sic?]...played on...the piano? No freaking way! Hey, did you know that a minute has 60 seconds?


Empiricus said...

Though grammatically correct, "brisker" is also a kitchen appliance that is used to keep products crispier. The more you know...

The Brisker

Gustav said...

Okay, just to join in the nitpicking fun...

I believe the phrase "between 58 and 60 beats per minute" should (if we are to take the author at their specific word choice) be understood to mean BETWEEN 58 and 60 bpm, which is to say, greater than but not equal to 58 and lesser than but not equal to 60. Therefore, even if the tempo in question were 59.99 beats per minute, that would not be equal to the 60 bpm of the the second hand of a clock. I think that saying that a number, which is close to, but not another number is "around" it is at least in the ballpark of words that could be accurately applied. Other words that could have been used: about, nearly, not quite, ever so close but not, approximately, circa, almost, roughly, not by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin, close (but close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades) to...

...Okay, sorry, SA. I don't mean to...you know, but with all due respect, you may have been just a wincy-teeny-weeny bit too nitpicky. Don't worry, I'm still president, CEO, and Secretary of the Defense of the Sator Arepo Society.

[If those were two competing clocks in the example above, they wouldn't show the same time until...1200 hours later (or 50 days).]

Sator Arepo said...


Yes, yes, obviously.

It was the pure condescension of the clock remark that irked me. I got it. I just hate being condescended to.

Also, ending sentences with prepositions is exactly the kind of nonsense up with which I refuse to put. (Churchill)

Murderface said...

You've pointed out some bad writing, some bad criticism, and some combinations of the two in many flavors on this site, but Scott Cantrell handily "wins" the title of Laziest Writer in the Field of Music Criticsm.

We're waiting on word from the replay booth to see if he also takes the Laziest Thinker category, but he's definitely in contention there, too.