Correct grammar for "assai" and "molto"

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Correct grammar for "assai" and "molto"

Post by gogreen » 01 Nov 2018, 23:11

Three questions, please:

1. I have many scores in which the tempo suddenly slows--moreso than a ritenuto or ritardando. So I use "assai ritenuto," for instance, in these scores. Should this be "ritenuto assai" instead?

2. And is "molto ritenuto" incorrect Italian to mean the same thing (a more pronounced slowing than plain "ritenuto")?

3. And in the score and parts, all of these indications are lower case, not initial cap, correct?

I'm not finding anything definitive on these questions online or in Gardner Read.



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John Ruggero
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Re: Correct grammar for "assai" and "molto"

Post by John Ruggero » 02 Nov 2018, 02:01

1. A little online "research" yields the fact that adjective-noun order in Italian does sometimes change the meaning; in other cases, it just sounds better one way or the other. I would assume that adverb-adjective order would be similar. One is accustomed to seeing "Allegro assai" more than "Assai allegro" in music scores; so "ritenuto assai" might be more idiomatic, although there might also be a subtle shift of meaning the other way around. I can imagine "assai ritenuto" meaning something more intense like "really slow down a lot". Perhaps an Italian speaker will tell us. Since most composers are not Italian-speaking, these markings do tend to get mangled. I have heard that Beethoven made up suspicious Italian. Musicians will get the point in most cases, so I wouldn't worry unduly about it.

2. In any case, I don't think that I have ever seen "ritenuto assai" or "assai ritenuto", but only "molto ritenuto" or "ritenuto molto". But again, your version may be perfectly grammatical and meaningful.

3. Correct. Only main tempo markings have the first word capitalized.
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Salvo Marcuccio
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Re: Correct grammar for "assai" and "molto"

Post by Salvo Marcuccio » 02 Nov 2018, 17:26

In current Italian, "Assai ritenuto" and "molto ritenuto" are equivalent and perfectly fine. "Ritenuto assai" is correct, but with a rather pretentious flavour. As an Italian speaker, I would avoid "Ritenuto molto" in anything other than a musical score. However, as John pointed out, the history of music abounds with funny Italian indications by non-native Italian composers, and nobody really cares much.

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