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Some parts of The Four Seasons are marked as having a tempo of "Allegro non molto" (Fast not very?), however, I do not see this tempo as being one of the standard ones. There is normally Allegro (Fast) and Molto Allegro (Very Fast). What is Allegro non molto?

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    It would be helpful if you could be more specific than "some parts", as well as indicating which edition you're using.
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 5:37
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    Be aware that tempo descriptions historically do not refer to specific BPM. They changed over time and reflect the composer’s best effort to express something that is not scientific, it’s artistic. Only in modern scores for film and TV are metronome values sacred. Outside of that, and a few other situations, tempo is part of the interpretation. Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 6:14
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    "Allegro (ma) non troppo" is an alternative and also a better Italian.
    – user66367
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 4:40
  • Like in all music you are allowed a certain artistic license. No two renditions of a piece is going to sound exactly the same.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 8:39
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    Guess I got Ninja'd, or perhaps Icarus'd, by @Wyck Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 18:40

4 Answers 4

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On one of my metronomes, allegro is marked as 120-168 bpm. On another, it's 150-178 bpm. No great help!

Back in the days when bpm wasn't the datum point, composers would use (vague) tempo names to give a sort of ball-park speed for their compositions. Partly because that's all there was, partly to afford performers some leeway. After all, most 'classical' (serious) pieces would (and do) fluctuate a fair bit even during the same sections.

So - allegro is 'quick'. But Vivaldi didn't want it too 'quick', as often quick pieces have the tendency to accelerate to 'even quicker' as they progress.

Thus - allegro (quick) non (not) molto (much, very) is what Vivaldi hoped would be moving along, without appearing to be in too much of a hurry. Still giving, actually, plenty of leeway, according to my metronomes...

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It means what you wrote, "Fast, not very" meaning, "fast, but don't overdo it". Vivaldi is making clear that a fast tempo should be taken, but not, say, vivace.

A more common instruction would be "allegro non troppo" (fast, but not too fast).

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  • Allegro ma non troppo is more accurate.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 17:56
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Allegro is quick or fast. Non means not and molto means much. Fast but not too much.

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  • In most cases, "molto" is more idiomatically translated as "very."
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 19:59
  • Molto bene meaning very good.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 8:36
  • And molto allegro meaning "very fast."
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 17:19
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Allegro literally means "cheerful" so you are supposed to play it as such, but in a moderate way ("non molto = not too much").

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    This provides the argument I was missing from other answers. The fact, that Allegro appears on metronomes neither implies, that speed is its main characteristic, nor that it was so at Vivaldi‘s time.
    – guidot
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 9:42

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