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1/28/98: I have a general question in regards to tempo in a live performance. I recently attended an open rehearsal of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto number 5. During the second movement, the conductor had established the tempo. Midway through, there is a small piano solo section and the soloist, playing alone, noticeably picked up the pace so that when the orchestra re-joined, it was forced into the faster tempo. In a concerto, who is in charge of controlling the tempo? Is this still the conductor’s role or does the soloist have the option to change the tempo as desired?

These things should be discussed and rehearsed in advance, and there should be no “surprises” in a concert. In the final analysis, the conductor is not there to give a soloist a hard time and should accommodate as best he can. But note that there is a place in that part of that score where what you describe could easily happen. I can only add that we don’t know what rehearsal and discussion came before or after—or what the final concert sounded like.

©1998 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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