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Published March 30, 2022 | Version v1
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Beethoven's Indications of Tempo and Expression

  • 1. Staatliche Institut für Musikforschung – Preußischer Kulturbesitz


Database: Beethoven’s Indications of Tempo and Expression

This data set was created during 2012-2016 as a tool for my doctorate research on Beethoven’s tempo indications at the University of Manchester. It provides an unprecedented overview of Beethoven’s entire published oeuvre, both with opus numbers and without, by documenting the time signature, tempo indication, indicators of expression, and metronome marks for each individual section of each piece. This data set has been used for my doctoral project and its spin-off publications to achieve the following objectives:

The first objective was to create an understanding of how Beethoven thought about tempo through the consideration of the surviving documentary evidence. This was achieved by combining the theoretical principles of tempo that Beethoven was familiar with and subscribed to earlier in his life and observing how these principles played out in the context of his entire oeuvre. Here, Beethoven’s own metronome marks served as benchmarks of the indicative speeds, with the later editorial speeds by Czerny, Moscheles, and Holz also being considered relevant in the absence of authoritative indications. (Admittedly, subsequent research has somewhat complicated the connection between these later editorial indications and Beethoven's practices.) The result is not only a detailed overview of how Beethoven used different combinations of note values, metres, and tempo indications to indicate the desired speed — or, in a small number of cases, how he used this system inconsistently or erroneously — but also exposed a number of longstanding errors in the literature. A relevant example of the latter is the metronome mark for the Schreckensfanfare that opens the last movement of the Ninth Symphony. The sources for this metronome mark show a discrepancy that in all literature had hitherto been resolved in favour of dotted minim = 66, but using the database I have been able to show that a reading of dotted minim = 96 is actually more plausible in the context of Beethoven's use.

            The second objective was to provide some overview of how Beethoven used expressive indications, and what they may have intended to convey. This was achieved by studying the definitions of the different expressive indications that Beethoven used (dolce, espressivo, cantabile, etc.), as well as the specific contexts in which these expressions occur within Beethoven’s oeuvre. This was originally planned to be the secondary focus of my doctoral project, but it was ultimately excised from my thesis for reasons of space, and has since been the focus of an independent study. 


About the database

The database consists of four different layers, which in the file represented as individual worksheets. Opus numbers contains all of the opus numbers and WoO numbers of the compositions included in the database. In order to not overcomplicate the data, the same variable Opus has been used for Opus numbers and WoO numbers, with the former using 1-138 and the latter 1001-1158. Not included are arrangements made of Beethoven’s works without his involvement or works that are clearly spurious, such as the arrangements opp. 63-4 and the canon WoO 162, respectively. In cases of opus number being used multiple times, such opus 81 or 121, rather than use letters to indicate the different versions as is most common, this dataset represents these as a decimal number (i.e. 72,1; 81,2, etc.). Also included are the place and publisher of the first edition used to obtain the indications in the rest of the dataset, as well as any relevant comments on the publication.

            The worksheet Movements breaks the opus numbers down into individual pieces, and adds the variables Number, Work title, and Movement, as well as another layer of commentary. The most useful worksheet is Sections, which includes the Time Signature, Tempo Markings, Metronome Mark, and localised Indicators of Tempo and Expression. (Should the note values in the metronome marks not display correctly on your computer, please install the Bach Font.) Using Microsoft Excel’s Filter and Sort feature, it is possible to get a complete overview of Beethoven’s uses of these elements for all works included in the database. There is also a Sorting number which can be used to bring the records back into the original order.



This database has been used as a research tool in the preparation of the following publications:


Noorduin, Marten, Beethoven’s Tempo Indications, PhD thesis, University of Manchester, 2016.


——————— ,  ‘Re-examining Czerny’s and Moscheles’s Metronome Marks for Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, 15/2 (August 2018), 209–235.


——————— , ‘The Metronome Marks for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Context’, Early Music, 49/1 (February 2021), 129–145.


——————— , ‘Beethoven’s Indicators of Expression in his Piano Works’, in Beethoven and the Piano (Musikforschung der Hochschule der Künste Bern), ed. Leonardi Miucci (Edition Argus, 2022), in production.


——————— ,  ‘Transcending Slowness in Beethoven’s Late Works’, in Manchester Beethoven Studies, ed. Barry Cooper and Matthew Pilcher (Manchester University Press, 2022), in production.


The above list is continuously updated. Users of this database are kindly invited to notify me at with comments, questions, or to add their publications to the above list.



Marten Noorduin, Berlin, March 2022.


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Additional details


  • Marten Noorduin, Beethoven's Tempo Indications, PhD thesis, University of Manchester, 2016.
  • Marten Noorduin, 'Re-examining Czerny's and Moscheles's Metronome Marks for Beethoven's Piano Sonatas', Nineteenth-Century Music Review, 15/2 (August 2018), 209–235.
  • Marten Noorduin, 'The Metronome Marks for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Context', Early Music, 49/1 (February 2021), 129–145.