From the score of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, movement 4, we read the following instruction:
“Selon le caractÃ¨re d’un Recitativ mais, in tempo”
My interest in this simple phrase is a perfect example of why I don’t exactly “fit in” to the classical music world. Â That is to say, I just don’t think the people around me quite appreciate the linguistic deliciousness of the writing. Â Look at it! Â It’s basically in French, but with a Germanized (and capitalized, no less) Italian word, ending in an Italian phrase. Â And what’s that comma doing there? Â Shouldn’t it read “…Recitativ, mais in tempo?” Â Is that some kind of a linguistic marker? Â What’s going on here??
I suppose the fact that nobody blinks an eye when they see this marking is maybe just as interesting. Â Musicians, and I want to say especially conductors, end up talking in this weird sort of lingua franca made up of terms from all the big musical languages. Â I guess this just proves that the tendency has been around for close to 200 years.
Is this sort of thing not interesting? Â Leonard Slatkin brought up this term in my conducting class the other day, but all he wanted to talk about was how to interpret these words musically! Â I really wanted to get into this whole linguistic commentary, but somehow it seemed so totally inappropriate; thus was my enthusiasm stifled.
On a wholly unrelated note, it came out today that I am an unapologetic disliker of Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2Â and you would think I had insulted somebody’s baby. Â Just because half of my lunch mates were Italian, I don’t see what there is to get so excited about. Â It’s not like I dissed Sergio Leone or something. Â In fact, I’d gladly take a Spaghetti Western over that cerebral FF crap any day. Â And I take offense to the immediate supposition that I somehow “don’t understand what it’s about”. Â I understand perfectly well. Â In fact, I would say I gave that movie every chance — I researched it, read about it, stayed awake during (most) of it. Â What more do you want people? Â It just doesn’t resonate with me.
Give me Pedro any day.