KUSC’s Alan Chapman has a lot to say about music, but can he say it in 60 seconds? That’s the Chapman Challenge. We ask a question and Alan has a minute to answer it.
Today’s question is from Sarah in Los Angeles who writes “I hear you identify pieces as adagios. What exactly is an adagio?”
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First of all, the word “adagio” is an indication of tempo, how fast the music should be played. And it’s one of a whole collection of Italian words that signify tempo. Among the faster ones are allegro, vivace, and presto; on the slower side are adagio, lento, and largo; somewhere in the middle is andante. I say somewhere because none of these terms has an absolutely precise meaning measured in beats per minute.
Sometimes these terms are used to identify a specific movement of a multi-movement work, for example, the andante from a Mozart piano concerto. But there are also plenty of independent pieces whose titles incorporate their tempos, for example, Saint-Saëns Allegro appassionato or Sibelius’s Andante festivo. Among the most famous adagios is Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. This piece is Barber’s own orchestral arrangement of a movement from his string quartet, the adagio movement.
That’s today’s Chapman Challenge. Is there a question you’d like to have answered in 60 seconds? Send it to us at [email protected]