This is meant only as humour- so read on only if you are in the mood for
The whole thing about "largo and lento" started when I realized on the
3rd of Ferbruary after I had finished my weekly radio program that I had
just concluded was the program for the last Sunday before the beginning
of the Lent. By all rights, I should have played one of the Bach cantatas
composed for that Sunday.
It was then, when I started thinking about how I couldmake up for that
sin, that I started my fanciful speculations on "lento" and the Lent.
And of course, once I started on that wild goose chase, it took me awhile
before I actually decided to consult some "data", so to speak, but not
before I had already reached "lentil". By the time I started looking
up my etymological dictionaries, I was convinced that the logic behind
the series was that "we say farewell to meat on the Carnival, start
fasting and so eating lentil with Lent and hence move slowly (lento)".
Unfotunately, none of the roots check up... Still, it was fun while it
But let me share a few tidbits I have discovered in the process... A
quick search in eMusic, yielded 4725 tracks labeled "largo", as opposed
to just 2808 tracks labeled "lento". (A check of my own archive yielded
a somewhat similar, albeit even more dramatic ratio- just 60 lentos as
opposed to 170 largos).
So it would, seem that while largo is the "unmarked" (as linguists would
say) term for "very slow", lento indicates very slow in a (in some sort
of special) "marked" way. Now, as to what that sort of special way may
be or whether any general answer can be given to question- I don't know...
Again just a few tidbits... Bach, uses lento marking three times in his
solo pieces for cello (the sarbands), but never in solo violin pieces
the violin (largo is pereferred there). The ratio of lentos to largos
seem to be higher among Chopin's nocturnes as compared to the "general
population". All three movements of Gorecki's 3rd symphony are marked
lento; and my favorite Dvorak chamber piece, the Dumky trio, opens and
closes with a lento maestoso... Enough! Sorry to have taken up your
time with this silliness but I am grateful to all those who have supplied
me with relevant information.
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