Dodson, Alan. “Solutions to the ‘Great Nineteenth-Century Rhythm Problem’ in Horowitz’s Recording of the Theme from Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Op. 16, No. 2.” Music Theory Online 18, no. 1 (April 2012).


This case study on the interpretation of microtiming is framed by the hypothesis that the avoidance of monotony in the case of highly regular phrase/hypermetric structures was not only one of the great compositional problems of the nineteenth century, as William Rothstein has proposed, but also was and remains a problem for performers. This analytical strategy helps to organize and synthesize diverse observations about a complex set of subtle microtiming practices in the titular recording. It is shown that Horowitz introduces subtle variations when materials are repeated, and that he tends to bring out the most salient aspects of Schumann’s own solutions to the “rhythm problem” (metric tensions, contrasts in rhythmic shape), except in cases of phrase linkage. This study suggests that principles of phrase rhythm could make a valuable contribution to the analytical toolbox for performance studies.

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