Stolen Time: The History of Tempo Rubato

Stolen Time: The History of Tempo Rubato

Stolen Time: The History of Tempo Rubato

Stolen Time: The History of Tempo Rubato

Synopsis

Tracing the complex history of tempo rubato, this book identifies and traces the development of two main types of rubato: an earlier one in which note values in a melody are altered while the accompaniment keeps strict time, and a later, more familiar one in which the tempo of the entire musical substance fluctuates. In the course of his narrative, Hudson ranges widely over western music, from Gregorian Chant to Chopin, from C.P.E. Bach to jazz, quoting extensively from the writings of theorists, composers, and performers. In so doing he not only suggests new ways of approaching the rubato in the music of nineteenth-century composers like Chopin and Liszt, where we expect to encounter the term, but also illuminates the music of earlier and later periods, revealing its use even in the music of that most metronomic of composers, Stravinsky.

Excerpt

Ever since Pier Francesco Tosi first described a particular baroque performing technique in 1723 in terms of musical theft, a stream of writings has poured forth concerning tempo rubato. Some authors explain how, when, or where to use it. Some identify the purposes it serves or the effect it creates. Some describe it in prose; others depict it in musical notation. Some advocate its use; others complain of its abuse. Some attempt to distinguish various types. Some associate it with particular performers, composers, or periods in music history. The accumulated literature is vast, and yet questions remain unanswered.

There has recently been a crescendo of interest in tempo rubato, especially in its original form. Therefore the time seems right to consider the entire history of the device. The purpose of this book is to trace the development of rubato from its beginnings until the present day and to weave into a logical historical continuity the diverse and immense amount of information available from performers and composers, as well as from writers of all kinds -- historians, biographers, theorists, critics, lexicographers, psychologists, and teachers. Beginning late in the last century, valuable information comes also, of course, from sound recordings.

Smaller parts of this history have been treated previously by others. New insight, however, comes to every part of the history when viewed from the perspective of the entire development. Inaccurate conclusions can be drawn from a limited study if one does not understand the preceding history. Consequently, certain early writers, such as C. P. E. Bach, have frequently been quoted out of context and in support of theories foreign to their concept of rubato. For this reason, I have included many complete quotations in this book, occasionally even those which have often been cited before. It is important that they be interpreted now within a broader view. In addition, I have included many plates and musical examples, hoping that they will provide clarity on a confusing subject and will also enable the reader, if he wishes, to draw his own conclusions. This book is not intended to be exhaustive nor to include every example ever written; it is, rather, a presentation of the broad historical development of tempo rubato . . .

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