Performing Simultaneous Triplets and Dotted Rhythms in Schubert's Piano Music

Rowland, David (2024). Performing Simultaneous Triplets and Dotted Rhythms in Schubert's Piano Music. In: Gardiner, Matthew and Martin, Christine eds. Schubert's Piano. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (In Press), pp. 116–135.


Schubert’s piano music and songs contain several examples where triplets are notated alongside dotted rhythms. Editors, writers and performers disagree about the performance of these rhythms, which exist in keyboard music from at least the late Baroque to the early twentieth century.
This chapter surveys evidence from the long nineteenth century, drawing on previous literature and introducing new lines of enquiry. It situates the problem as it applies to Schubert within a broader view of the meaning of notation through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, suggesting that many aspects of rhythmic notation remained un-fixed during the period.
A broader range of evidence than previously considered is documented, including contradictory passages from performance tutors and other literature, anomalous notation in the music of several composers, different versions of Schubert’s works, and rhythmic alignment in a range of sources. A study of engraving practice offers insight into the rhythmic presentation of published sources. Finally, early recordings demonstrate that rhythmic performance continued to be controversial into the twentieth century.
Because of the scant and sometimes contradictory nature of the evidence it is not possible to arrive at definitive solutions to the performance problems. Nevertheless, this chapter draws some distinctive conclusions from the sources.

Plain Language Summary

The chapter investigates the performance of triplets and dotted rhythms in Schubert's piano music using evidence from didactic literature, scores of the period and the known practices of music engravers.

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