Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rubato Adds To The Beauty In Romantic Music

When most of us think of classical music we lump all the different periods together.  We begin with the Baroque period and the composer who started it all, J S Bach. Without Bach we might not have had a Mozart or Beethoven.  After the Baroque period of music came the classical period with the quintessential classical composer WA Mozart. Then around 1825 was the beginning of the Romantic period in music. Chopin and Tchaikovsky are examples of this period of music  Each period of music had certain characteristics that define the music. In  Baroque  pieces you will see smaller orchestras and the concept of polyphony [many voices] and point-counter point. You have a bigger orchestra in the classical era with dynamics [soft, loud] introduced and a structure of sonata form [exposition, development, and recapitulation]. In the Romantic period you will have even bigger orchestras with a big sound and a focus more on emotion  rather than the strict structure introduced.  A big part played in Romantic music comes from the technique of rubato [which means to rob time]. While of course there is a certain tempo that is followed by the soloist or orchestra, there are certain phrases that lend themselves to rubato, where you might have a note delayed [sometimes subtly and sometimes obviously]. This adds so much to the feeling and beauty of the music. Rubato is not noted by the composer, it is up to the player of the music to add. When the note is delayed it adds to the listeners anticipation, and when it is finally played it emphasizes that note in a beautiful way.   In this piece you can feel the pianist pouring his feeling into this piece [characteristic of the Romantic era].
Lets see if you can determine when rubato is used in this beautiful piece:
Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No.2 (pianist: Arthur Rubinstein)

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