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I cannot understand what the score is trying to say here. It simply says 'tempo'. I can understand the 'a tempo' that is used later on, but what do I have to do at the part where it simply says 'tempo' ?

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(This excerpt is from Simandl's 30 etudes for String Bass, Etude #17)

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    I was about to say it just means a tempo, but then I saw there is an explicit a tempo later on! – AakashM Jul 14 '16 at 11:12
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    @AakashM But that a tempo also comes after a rit.! I wonder if this tempo is related to the tenuto markings right before it. Sometimes three tenuto markings in a row like that function like a rit.; tenuto is from the Italian for "to hold." – Richard Jul 14 '16 at 11:19
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    Maybe it means "there is a timing here" :-) (or, less absurdly, the typesetter forgot the "a" – Carl Witthoft Jul 14 '16 at 11:24
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    @Richard looking at the full score (including piano accompaniment) on IMSLP, the tempo in question is actually on the lowest staff shown here (where the p is), so I guess it resets the accel. two bars earlier? – AakashM Jul 14 '16 at 11:24
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    I would just take it as a typo for "a tempo". Hand-engraved music editions often have misprints, and this is fairly innocuous compared with some infamous ones that have survived through several editions, like "pp" being misprinted as "ff" in a well-known Beethoven sonata! I have a Russian edition of some piano music which even has misprints for some of the clefs, let alone "trivia" like a tempo marks. – user19146 Jul 15 '16 at 1:19
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'Tempo' in this piece means to return to the original speed. Before, there was a ritardando, meaning to slow down, so now you should return to the original tempo.

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as you can see, the original tempo of the piece (I believe it is Tempo di Pollaca, 88 bpm) is slowed down (ritardando) right before a Cantabile section comes in, with dolce (sweet) and slower. So this section is to be played calmly and smooth. In the 12th measure of Cantabile comes the "tempo" marking, but look at the three notes before in the 11th measure, which are detaché, making them heavier. The tempo marking here means play the 12th, 13th and 14th measure in a tempo of the general piece (before Cantabile) and in mid 14th measure slow down to Cantabile dolce again (which what "a tempo" means in this context). Play 15th, 16th and 17th in this way then mid 18th go faster and louder accelerando and crescendo and in 24th slow down and continue in mf and Cantabile.

  • While the tenuto marks can mean play those 3 notes heavier, and possibly slightly longer, there's no need for the 'tempo' mark, as the subsequent notes are back in proper time anyway. A courtesy mark, probably. – Tim Jul 16 '16 at 11:52
  • The "tempo" and "a tempo" refer to two different tempos- Tempo di pollaca and Cantabile. – boris42 Jul 16 '16 at 11:59

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