I’ve wondered how we know that 415 was a Baroque A. And now I’ve read this:

Haydn’s tuning fork does indeed exist. So does Handel’s.

Ah. Well there you go! Haydn’s fork is 422.5.

You can read more than you ever needed to know about tuning. Or maybe it is exactly what you needed to know.

I’ve been told that San Francisco Symphony tunes to A-441. I tune Opera San José to 440. Anyone else care to share what they tune to? (Notice I say we tune to a certain pitch. I’m not going to claim it stays there, although I do my best.)

Now I want to know if Beethoven’s metronome was really accurate. I did see this 1987 article but it doesn’t question the accuracy of the metronome so I guess that’s not an issue.

5 Comments

  1. ah, brings back lovely memories of the local high school orchestra i was in, where our oboe would tune the orchestra. but as we sat and listened, the pitch kept on wavering. :) i had no idea what A he tuned to.

  2. I sometimes call that the “A of tolerance” … whatever’s right for you!

    Then there’s the “elevator A”.

    ;-)

  3. I was working on a paper about Beethoven’s piano sonatas a few years back and I remember coming across something about how metronomes were going through an “epiphany” in terms of functionality – but that any attempt to force a historical reference to Beethoven’s pieces would be guess work at best… Although I think Czerny is considered the best source for determining tempo, at least in terms of Beethoven’s piano works.

  4. Interesting, Chip. So Czerny’s metronome markings are considered better than Beethoven’s …? Is that what is suggested?

    I do think that we tend to take the slow movements of his symphonies too slowly, and I wish we’d opt for something closer to Mr. B’s tempo markings … but what do I know?!

  5. Most orchestras in my part of the world tune A=442, some german ones even higher.
    Swedish radio symphony used to have A=441, but I really don’t know if they still do….

    But as you say – you never really know where it actually ends!

    I’m off to bed – just finished a long day with a Rosenkavalier rehearsal, and a double-bill performance of l’heure Espagnole& the Nightingale. Tomorrow is “just” a Rosenkavalier dress herearsal…
    I have to switch from 2nd oboe to 3d/EH tomorrow because of a sick colleague, so I have to be early at work to have a look at the part.