Stolen Time: The History of Tempo Rubato

By Richard Hudson | Go to book overview

4
THE EARLIER RUBATO IN VIOLIN MUSIC

EARLY in the Baroque period the solo violin, a relatively new instrument at that time, became the instrumental equivalent of the solo voice. In canzonas, sonatas, and eventually in concertos, the violin imitated the styles and forms of vocal music. We have already noted the practice of improvised embellishment in Corelli's violin sonatas. Tempo rubato was therefore a part of this practice, in fact if not in name, as it had been in vocal music long before North and Tosi. The expression does not actually appear in violin sources, however, until the early Classic period, slightly after 1750.1


The Classic Period

In 1754 the violinist includes 'appoggiature, trilli, modi di tempo rubbato [sic], e protratto' in a list of techniques applied by a good singer 2. Leopold Mozart, in his Gründliche Violinschule of 1756, speaks of the problems of accompanying a virtuoso performer (presumably either a singer or a violinist):

when a true virtuoso who is worthy of the title is to be accompanied, then one must not allow oneself to be beguiled by the postponing or anticipating of the notes. . . into hesitating or hurrying, but must continue to play throughout in the same manner; else the effect which the performer desired to build up would be demolished by the accompaniment.

____________________
1
Referring to an even earlier date, Burney makes a curious comment about Francesco Geminiani , a virtuoso violinist and pupil of Corelli. In 1711 Geminiani became leader of the opera orchestra in Naples, but 'he was soon discovered to be so wild and unsteady a timist, that instead of regulating and conducting the band, he threw it into confusion, as none of the performers were able to follow him in his tempo rubato, and other unexpected accelerations and relaxations of measure.' If this story is true, Geminiani perhaps carried over into his conducting some of the devices he employed in his violin playing. See Charles Burney, A General History of Music, 2nd edn. ( London, 1789), iv, 641; and New Grove, vii, 224.
2
Trattato di musica secondo la vera scienza dell'armonia ( Padua, 1754), repr. in MMMLF, 2nd ser., viii ( 1966), 149 (in ch. 5). See Fredric Johnson, "'Tartini's Trattato. . . : An Annotated Translation with Commentary'", Ph.D. diss. (Indiana Univ., 1985; UM 86-17,820), 380; and Rodolfo Celletti, A History of Bel Canto, trans. Frederick Fuller (OUP, 1991), 115.

-89-

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Stolen Time: The History of Tempo Rubato
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Plates x
  • Abbreviations xii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Background of the Later Rubato 4
  • 2 - Background of the Earlier Rubato 13
  • 3 - The Earlier Rubato in Vocal Music 41
  • 4 - The Earlier Rubato in Violin Music 89
  • 5 - Both Types of Rubato in Keyboard Music 113
  • 6 - Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven 154
  • 7 - Chopin 175
  • 8 - Contemporaries of Chopin 238
  • 9 - The Later Romantic Rubato 300
  • 10 - The Modern Rubato 356
  • 11 - The Future of Rubato 436
  • Bibliography 449
  • Discography 462
  • Index 465
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