Classical music is speeding up, study finds

Classical music - string quartet

A study by Universal Music Group examining recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach’s work has found that some pieces are now performed almost 30 percent quicker than half a century ago.

Researchers from Universal Music Group labels Deutsche Grammophon and Decca investigated three recordings of Bach’s famous Double Violin Concerto.

They found that while the earliest recording by David Oistrakh and Igor Oistrakh in 1961 lasts 17 minutes, the most recent recording from 2016 lasts around 12 minutes – nearly five minutes quicker overall, marking a reduction of one minute per decade.

Commenting on the change in speed, music scholar Sir Nicholas Kenyon said: ‘We seem to prefer transparent, light, bright sound and it works with the work of many composers including Bach, Handel and Mozart.

‘It’s a basic change in taste from the rather weighty concert style of previous years towards something that is more light, airy and flexible.’

The study was held to promote Bach 333, a 222-CD box set celebrating 333 years since the birth of J.S. Bach.