Schubert A Tempo: Piano Sonata in C minor

For the first time within the A Tempo project I play and talk about the music of Franz Schubert. Unlike Beethoven or Chopin, Schubert is not a composer who is often discussed in terms of tempo. There are hardly any metronome markings for his works. In addition, there is not much precise information about the way he played his own works. Nevertheless, his music is predestined to be looked at with a special focus on tempo.

The Piano Sonata in C minor D958 is one of Schubert’s last piano works. The piece is like a symphony: dramatic, grand and profound. For my interpretation, I chose an unconventional approach: I explored the question of what tempo the piece would have – if it were a song. I talk about the background and the surprising result in my introductions.

The recording venue is the Cuvilliés Theater in the Munich Residence: a magnificent Rococo theatre that matches perfectly with Schubert’s imaginative Piano Sonata.

An innovative organ for St. Laurenzen

An innovative new organ is being built in the St. Laurenzen city church in St. Gallen (Switzerland). In addition to the existing organ from 1978, three new pipe divisions are being built on the three galleries of the church. The new divisions represent the three main families of pipes that each organ has: diapasons (west gallery), flutes (south gallery) and strings (north gallery). These will be combined with the existing organ to form an instrument that will fill the entire church space with sound.

Many names for the instrument have been found in the media: Surround organ, 3D organ, quadraphonic organ…. However, the most appropriate name would be “prism organ”. The organ will do acoustically what a prism does optically with the light of the sun: it disperses the overall sound into the individual “spectral sounds”.

I createt that concept seven years ago. Together with the organ builder we developed and consolidated the concept. The collaboration with Orgelbau Goll from Lucerne was and is immensely inspiring and fruitful. Thanks to the help of many people, the necessary funds could be raised. Now the instrument is actually being installed, and preparations for the inauguration in September 2023 are in full swing.

The website provides information and insight into this unique project (in German).

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Almost like a Prayer: Chopin’s Nocturne in G minor

Chopin wrote his Nocturne Op. 37 No. 1 in 1839. In the same year the Érard concert grand piano on which I play it, was built. Instrument and music come together in a unique symbiosis. The piece was one of the first works by Chopin that I learned as a young pianist. To this day, I love the chorale-like middle section with its incomparable atmosphere.

Recorded as an Encore to Beethoven A Tempo III at the La Prairie Cultural Center near Biel (Switzerland).

Becoming Liszt’s student: three Piano Sonatas by Beethoven

Volume VII of the A Tempo Project approaches the subject of tempo from a new angle. Following in the footsteps of the great Beethoven interpreter Franz Liszt, I present three Piano Sonatas by Beethoven. My renditions are inspired by instructions that Liszt gave in his masterclasses in Weimar in the 1880s. These masterclasses are well documented. It feels like joining the circle of Liszt’s students, as it were, through their very own eyes and ears! The interpretation thus follows neither a metronome number nor a documented duration, but takes purely musical aspects into account.

The center piece of Beethoven A Tempo III is the famous Moonlight Sonata in C-sharp minor. Liszt’s rendition of the piece was legendary in the 19th century. His pupil August Stradal hands down an astonishingly accurate account of what Liszt did in the spherical first movement, and also provides valuable information on the interpretation of the two following movements.

The equally famous Grande Sonate Pathétique in C minor is a wonderful example of how general musical aspects gleaned from the lore of Liszt’s Beethoven playing, can be applied to an actual interpretation.

Finally, in the Sonata Opus 90, it is a single and seemingly small cue that puts the tempo in a new light. This cue is the trigger for my entire interpretation of the lovely second movement.  Learn more on this in my introduction to the recording!

The three sonatas plus the German and English introduction are now published on my YouTube channel.

Playlist on YouTube


Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata Opus 106 in Liszt’s Duration

This is already the sixth part of the A Tempo Project, and it is all about one of the most famous works within the field of tempo research: Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Grosse Sonate für das Hammerklavier” in B flat major Opus 106. It is the only piano work by Beethoven for which Beethoven indicated metronome markings. These metronome markings were already in doubt in the 19th century. It is all the more significant that one of the most distinguished interpreters of the 19th century, Franz Liszt, gave an indication of the duration of the work in his own hand: “presqu’une heure” – almost an hour. That is more than twenty minutes (!) more than the duration resulting from Beethoven’s own metronome markings.

I wanted to explore this mystery, and I wanted to work out an interpretation that would reach Liszt’s duration. As a result, I studied the Sonata – in many ways one of the most complex works of the entire 19th century – for many years. 

I am grateful to be able to present the recording now. We recorded the sonata at the Tonhalle St. Gallen, and I was able to use a very special grand piano for it: A Bechstein concert grand from 1921, which was once built especially for the pianist Wilhelm Backhaus. The instrument is completely original and still represents the sound that Franz Liszt already knew and loved in his time. Thus, the recording is a tribute to Franz Liszt in sound and interpretation.

As always, the recording is accompanied by a German and English introduction. All my videos are available on my YouTube channel.

Link to the main film 
Link to the German introduction
Link to the English introduction

Liszt A Tempo II – Années de Pèlerinage. Deuxième Année: Italie

The second book of Franz Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage is entitled “Italie”. The seven piano pieces are among the most beautiful works by Liszt. The famous Dante Sonata is among them, as well as the three Petrarch Sonnets and the mystical “Il Penseroso.” All pieces have their inspiration in the art and poetry of the Italian Renaissance.

Within my A Tempo project, this recording occupies a special place. There are neither metronome markings nor documented durations: This is my “freestyle” in which I relied entirely on my musical intuition as an interpreter. The aspect of deceleration, which plays a great role in Liszt’s work, is omnipresent in these pieces. Thus “Il Penseroso” becomes a meditative experience of great power, and the Dante Sonata integrates details into its musical grandeur that would otherwise be lost.

The recording location comes close to the magic of the music: the baroque summer palace Belvedere in Weimar. The introductory videos were filmed at the Liszt House in Weimar, Liszt’s last place of residence.

All videos are now available on YouTube. There is also an attractive “Behind The Scenes” video that provides insight into the organization and the spectacular transport of the grand piano.

YouTube Playlist 
Introduction videos in German
Introduction videos in English
Tom R. Schulz in conversation with Bernhard Ruchti
Behind The Scenes

Book release

A great moment: my new book is now available in stores!

„…das Gewaltigste, was ich je auf der Orgel gehört habe“

Franz Liszts Ad Nos als Tor zur Wiederentdeckung einer verborgenen Aufführungspraxis des 19. Jahrhunderts

“…the most powerful thing I have ever heard on the organ”. Franz Liszt’s Ad Nos as a gateway to the rediscovery of a hidden 19th century performance practice.

This book tells the eventful story surrounding Franz Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on “Ad Nos, ad salutarem undam” for organ. The exceptional work and its famous performance at Merseburg Cathedral in 1855 are not only a dazzling piece of music history, but also open up a unique view into Liszt’s interpretation and performance practice – and into his understanding of tempo. The key point is the surviving duration of the work under Liszt’s direction: 45 minutes. This duration differs from today’s habits by more than 15 minutes…

With numerous previously unpublished sources.

With a guide to listening score study.

Editor: Königshausen & Neumann

ISBN 978-3-8260-7242-0


Diane Kolin (for
Musik und Liturgie
Franz Lüthi (for the Bulletin of OFSG)
Dieter David Scholz
Ars Organi
Musik und Gottesdienst
Het Orgel
Tijdschrft van de Franz Liszt Kring
Die Tonkunst

Order in Switzerland
Order in Germany & International

Bernhard Ruchti, Franz Liszts Ad Nos als Tor zur Wiederentdeckung einer verborgenen Aufführungspraxis des 19. Jahrhunderts

Similarly as Bernhard Ruchti who already anticipates a “Summarized is this result…” in the preface of his book, I do the same in my review with the statement that today no historically affine performers of Franz Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” should pass by Ruchti’s research work. And I will underline this explicitly with a supplementary “Sic!”.
Martin Hobi, Musik und Liturgie

The conclusion of Bernhard Ruchti’s publication is based on a concept of “artistic virtuosity” coined by Hans von Bülow and leads to the term of a “moderate tempo and tempo modifications following a periodic performance” (Ruchti). An extensive appendix with further sources and an interesting side view on the interpretation of Julius Reubke’s organ sonata rounds off the book, which is well worth reading. It is highly recommended to all who deal with Liszt’s organ music.
Felix Friedrich, Ars Organi

Chopin A Tempo – 12 Études Op. 10

The fourth part of my “A Tempo Project” is published: Frédéric Chopin’s 12 Etudes Opus 10. The masterpiece is part of the repertoire of many pianists. Likewise, the question of tempi for the 12 enchanting pieces has been the subject of long debates: the metronome markings given by Chopin himself are sometimes so fast that they were already questioned in the second half of the 19th century. Words like “music box effects” were coined to characterize the furious speed. And: pianists like Theodor Kullak and Hans von Bülow recommended to moderate the tempo. 

My approach of halving Chopin’s metronome numbers may seem radical. But the option to do so shows in the historical context, and above all, it brings to light an interpretation that “works” and that, behind the bravura, suddenly reveals an unheard-of intimacy, depth, and an immense power. 

The recording venue is the Herkulessaal at the Munich Residenz – coincidentally, the same hall where Maurizio Pollini made his famous recording of the Etudes in 1972. 

In addition to the music, “Chopin A Tempo” includes German and English introductions and a three-part series on historical metronome numbers and tempo. The album is published on YouTube as well as CD/DVD.

Youtube Playlist
Historische Metronomzahlen und Tempo – eine Einführung
Historical Metronome Markings – A Short Introduction

Throughout all the virtuoso cascades, a slower approach suddenly brings to light many nuanced colors and spaces. Instead of scurrying, there is suddenly fine dabbing. Accompaniment figures and arcs of suspension become clearer, and no detail is simply swept over. Bernhard Ruchti’s never academic sounding philosophy places these etudes rather in the realm of poetic character pieces. Thinking instead of racing with the gain of an enormous richness of articulation. An exciting, thrilling, new Chopin listening experience.

Martin Preisser (St. Galler Tagblatt)

Schumann A Tempo

My recording of Robert Schumann’s visionary Fantasy in C major Opus 17 is now available! It’s the third part of my “A Tempo Project”. The recording is the famous KKL concert hall in Luzern – in other words: perfect acoustics as well as extraordinary video quality. In my rendition, Schumann’s masterpiece lasts just under 50 minutes. This long duration brings about a grandeur and intimacy that sheds a whole new light on the entire work. A previously unheard Schumann and a magnificent masterpiece of music history.

As a bonus, the famous Reverie is also part of this recording – “a tempo”, of course – as well as a short piece from my own composition.

As always, the recording is accompanied by German and English introductory videos. All videos are published on Youtube. In addition, the recording is available as CD/DVD.

Youtube Playlist 
The A Tempo Project

The American-born Swiss pianist, Bernhard Ruchti, offers us a rather unusual and breathtaking rendition of Robert Schumann’s masterpiece, the Fantasie in C major, Op. 17. […] The liveliness of Ruchti’s version is mixed with a sense of artistic merit and musical splendor, for which it could be easily called a first-class performance. During the transitional pauses, greatly magnified by the pianist, one can feel a sense of suspense, anticipation, and unearthliness that is hard to come by these days.

Bohdan Syroyid Syroyid for musicweb-international

Liszt A Tempo I

Possibly the most authoritative part of the A Tempo project has now been released: the recording of the monumental Fantasy and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” for organ by Franz Liszt. The work has a unique tradition in terms of interpretation, reception, and tempo. It forms the basis for an enthralling quest into the field of interpretation and an exploration of Liszt’s aesthetics that is particularly new in its directness. We discover an original musical dramaturgy of gigantic dimensions. I recorded the Fantasy on the same organ on which Liszt rehearsed the work with one of his master students in 1855: the famous Ladegast organ at Merseburg Cathedral. Moreover the recording is combined with an appealing film footage from the over 1000-year-old church interior in Merseburg.

“Ad Nos”-Film on Youtube
English Introduction 
Interview in Organists’ Review, September 2020 (PDF)

A fascinating and enlightening project.

Donald MacKenzie for Organists’ Review