Maelzel Metronome

Maelzel Metronome

After the metronome was invented in Amsterdam, it was perfected by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel (1772-1838).  This image depicts a Maelzel metronome which was once owned by Michael Jackson.

When Beethoven first heard about the device, he was pleased.  It would help him to instruct musicians on the proper tempo for his compositions.  Howard Ferguson tells us more in his book, Keyboard Interpretation from the 14th to the 19th Century (split into paragraphs here for easier reading):

...Beethoven was at first greatly interested in the device.  He had welcomed its immediate forerunner in 1812 with a short Canon ('Ta, ta, ta . . .' WoO 162 in Kinsky's catalogue), afterwards used as the opening theme of the Allegretto movement of the Eighth Symphony; and in 1817 and 1819 he issued two small booklets containing metronome markings for the eleven string quartets and eight symphonies that he had already published. 

He also included metronome marks in several subsequent works as they appeared, notably the 'Hammerklavier' Sonata, Op. 106, and the Ninth Symphony, Op. 125. 

Significantly enough, however, there are none in the last six string quartets and the last three piano sonatas - a fact which suggests that Beethoven, like Wagner a quarter of a century later, eventually lost faith in the usefulness of the metronome.

It isn't just famous composers, like Beethoven and Wagner, who grew to dislike (or lose faith-in) the metronome. Check-in with 21st-century music students to see what they think! You may not be surprised to learn ... many prefer to play their instruments without it.

Click on the image for a better view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5186stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: May 23, 2019

Media Credits

Image of metronome online, courtesy Hinson's Auctions.

Quoted passage from Keyboard Interpretation from the 14th to the 19th Century:  An Introduction, by Howard Ferguson, pages 49 and 50.  Online, courtesy Google Books.


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"Maelzel Metronome" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. May 23, 2019.
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