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Analysing Performances of Sibelius's Fifth Symphony: The "One Movement or Two" Debate and the Plurality of the Music Object

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bethany Lowe


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The ambiguity over the number and structure of movements in Sibelius's Fifth Symphony provoked vigorous and far-reaching discussion in British analytical writings from the 1930s onwards. But do even simple analytical decisions such as these have any impact upon those performing or listening to the work? The use of empirical methods to measure tempo choices in 43 different recordings of this piece reveals that performers do indeed participate in structural debates, affirming a model which places their contributions on an equal level with those from analytical writings and which shows the reciprocity between these modes of activity. Various performing traditions emerge from the data, including a one-movement, a two-movement and a ‘recapitulatory’ approach, as well as a Russian national style, some teacher-pupil influences and some likely correlations with published writings and broader aesthetic movements, suggesting that both structural and cultural questions can productively be addressed by siting performances within the web of discourse. Finally, the pluralistic perspective arising from juxtaposing and accepting so many strongly contrasting interpretations calls into question the notion of a unitary music object, raising issues which may have implications for music analysis and beyond.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lowe BL

Publication type: Article

Journal: Music Analysis

Year: 2011

Volume: 30

Issue: 2-3

Pages: 218-271

Print publication date: 04/04/2012

ISSN (print): 0262-5245

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2249

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2249.2011.00308.x


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