Saturday, July 11, 2020

Rubato: The Delay That is Welcome in Romantic Music

To procrastinate is not a very good trait to portray.  That is, unless you are talking about the delaying technique in Romantic Music called rubato.  I did an early post on rubato and would like to review it.  Rubato is the technique, applied a lot in the Romantic era of music, of purposely delaying the time a note is played from that which is written on the sheet of music.  This technique would be frowned upon in the Baroque Era.  In the Romantic era, however, this technique is not only welcomed but it is encouraged.  This delay of a note [a lot of times at the end of a phrase] adds to the feeling and mood of the piece.  By delaying the playing of a note, it just emphasizes more that note to the listener when it is finally played.  Rubato means "to rob" [time].  I remember my daughter's piano teacher saying when you rob you must also give back [to catch up with the time of the piece].  

Rubato is not indicated by the composer on the score of a piece of music.  The soloist in a concerto or the conductor leading the orchestra [tutti] uses that technique as the feeling moves them.  That is why you can see the same piece of music played by a different performer and it may seem it is not played exactly the same.  While we are talking about only a fraction of a second, that delay, sometimes subtle and sometimes pronounced, really adds to the beauty of the music.  It is especially present in a slower Romantic movement of a Romantic era concerto.

Frederic Chopin [1810-


There is no better choice to display the rubato technique than when played in a piece by the quintessential Romantic composer, Frederic Chopin. This Polish composer's music [almost all piano] cries out romanticism. If you aren't moved by a romantic piece of music by Chopin, than you better check your pulse.

Chopin composed two piano concertos, both with beautiful Romantic second movements.  Listen and see if you can detect the rubato [delay of a note played] in these two movements.  

Sometimes the delay is so subtle that at first hearing you might not be able to pick it up, but you will still be able to pick up the feeling generated from the pianist [aided by the rubato].  

Enjoy two beautiful pieces of piano music [aided by the rubato technique] from Mr. piano, Frederic Chopin, in his piano concertos.  For just a couple of examples of rubato, listen to the delay between 1:39-1:40 and 4:40-4:41 in the first video. There are many more examples in this piece that I think you can hear for yourself and many obvious examples I think you will see/hear in the second Chopin piano concerto.  

Also, listen to the rubato technique [some subtle] used by the soloist in the beautiful adagio movement of Mendelssohn's 2nd Piano Concerto in D minor.

Then, see if you can find examples of rubato in the beautiful Andante movement of Brahms Piano concerto #2.  

And please enjoy this final piece conducted by the maestro, Jun Markl, who I believe [I could be wrong] inserts some subtle rubato for the strings to create this moving and beautiful moderato movement in Camille Saint-Saens amazing Organ Symphony. Even if I am wrong about the rubato, this is such a beautiful and moving Romantic piece of music I want you to enjoy.   

Note: Unlike the soloist in a concerto [like a piano concerto] where the pianist will use the rubato technique as it moves him, when there is rubato used by the orchestra [tutti], it must be directed by the maestro, because all the orchestra members have to be on the same page.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy how rubato in Romantic music enhances the beauty of the music.

Frederic Chopin: Piano Concerto #1 in E minor, Movement 2, Romance, Larghetto:

Frederic Chopin: Piano Concerto #2 in F minor, Movement 2, Larghetto:

Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto #2 in D minor, Movement 2 Adagio:

Johannes Brahms: Piano concerto #2 in B flat minor, Movement 3, Andante:

Camille Saint-Saens: Symphony #3 in C minor, "Organ", Movement 2, moderato:

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