I'm checking out the tracklistings of a Scarlatti box set and seeing some differences between what's on the back covers and what's on the publisher's website. I'm interested to know which punctuations are correct. Here are some of them:

example # variant A variant B
1 grave-allegro-grave-allegro Grave, allegro, grave, allegro
2 grave-andante moderato-allegro-minuet Grave, andante moderato, allegro, minuet
3 grave-allegro-without tempo indication-allegro Grave, allegro, without tempo indication, allegro
4 (without tempo indication) without tempo indication
5 Andante/Allegrissimo Andante - allegrissimo
  • 1
    There's no standardized way, but individual entities (record labels, academic journals, symphonies, etc.) might have their own defined style rules. A different (and more problematic) question is, which tempo indications "count"? The overture to Handel's Messiah (and most such overtures) has a significant "Grave" section and an "Allegro moderato" section, so it makes sense to refer to it by both, but "And the glory of the lord" is Allegro the whole way through except for the last three bars marked Adagio. Should it be "Allegro - Adagio"? If not, where do we draw the line? Dec 10, 2021 at 14:24
  • @AndyBonner - There is probably some room for discretion regarding where to draw the line: for example, the Wikipedia article on the Kreutzer sonata claims that the first movement's opening Adagio material reappears near the end, but it calls that movement only an "Adagio sostenuto – Presto" anyway.
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 10, 2021 at 15:32
  • @Dekkadeci Yeah, the initial section is 18 bars and the return is 8 (unless it's talking about some recycling of the motive within the Presto that I'm missing at a quick glance). But I really should put myself in the corner for bringing an entirely separate question into this one. Dec 10, 2021 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


Assuming, that you ask for the different punctuation characters in (a) and (b) variants respectively:

There is no standard way, the original score just has these tempo indications appearing and it is quite arbitrary what is used to combine them.

In later epochs the convention is, to use dash for tempo changes within a movement, and comma to separate different movements. (Scarlatti wrote mostly single-movement sonatas, and combined two into a couple to perform, so this is not mapped easily.)


  • No tempo indication is just the marker, that no tempo was given. Parentheses underline the fact, that is is a meta-information instead
  • Minuet is not just a tempo but a dance in a three-beat meter with emphasis on the first. Trio may also frequently be found, which signals an A-B-A structure.
  • Regarding your point about the convention in later epochs, is slash interchangeable with dash or with comma? Since this music label doesn't have a standard way in different volumes of the same box set, I can't count on example #5.
    – Nima Abna
    Dec 11, 2021 at 3:57
  • 1
    @NimaAbna: it would be easier, if you gave the Kirckpatrick-, or Longo-number of that specific sonata. As I wrote, Scarlattis keyboard sonatas were practically all single-movement, so replacement by dash should be fine.
    – guidot
    Dec 11, 2021 at 15:11

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