6 times the music you're reading makes you go :-O

21 August 2015, 17:34

Those alarming times that a 1024th note, a thrice-sharpened F or a 'prestissimamente' tempo marking creep up in the score

A mid-bar change from Johann Sebastian Bach

In number 26 of the Goldberg Variations, JSB thinks it's just fine to change time signature in the middle of a measure. The simple triple (3/4) moves to a compound triple meter (18/16) at an alarming speed, and makes our head hurt a little bit.  


The triple F#

Yep, it's a rare thing, but it does exist. You'll find a thrice-sharpened F near the end of the last movement of Reger's Clarinet Sonata, Op. 49/2. F### - that's more hashtags than a One Direction fan account that's just been followed by Harry Styles.


The 1024th note

Anthony Philip Heinrich's Toccata Grande Cromatica is an absolute joy to sight-read – slightly hungover – on a Sunday morning. The piece contains the shortest note value ever used in a published work – a 1024th note. It's actually notated incorrectly as a 2048th note – but after that many tails on a note, who's really counting?

Any prestissimo

Beethoven was eager in those sonatas. As fast as possible? Steady on, old chap.

In fact, anything in Beethoven's fair hand

He was a messy one. 

Alkan's Le Chemin de Fer ('The Railway') in D minor

Right-hand sixteenth notes with a half note equalling 112 on the metronome (224 quarter notes per minute). You do the maths.


Take a listen (with mind-bending score) 


Alkan's Comme le Vent

It's two honourable mentions for the virtuoso composer/pianist. Here's the first from his set of Etudes in all the minor keys Op.39. It's marked prestissimamente (eighth note = 160), is in 2/16, lasts over 4 mintues and contains perpetual triplet demisemiquavers. Yeah, have fun with that.


This graphical score.

Ok, now we're getting silly. Antosca's stave-less One Becomes Two has that feeling of stepping into an elevator shaft, when there's no elevator. 


But sometimes there are nice surprises.

Cheers, composer (for once)


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