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Tempo Rubato

Discussion in 'Technique' started by Anonymous, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I was wondering what your opinions are on the concept of tempo rubato. Some believe the left hand must be kept in strict time, to avoid the manipulating the rhythm etc. I personally think that the left hand does not need to be kept in strict time so long as the rubato is not too over the top. I hear people being criticized for not keeping the left hand in strict time, yet their interpretation can often sound better because of it. Their may be history behind it, but i think keeping the left hand in strict time with large amounts of rubato in the right hand can ruin some of the harmony and distort the entire feel of the song (from some recordings ive heard.)
     
  2. Nicole

    Nicole New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I see a lot of discussion on Rubato around May 27-28 in the Repertoire section of the forum. It's in a section near the top called, "Poll: Favourite piece outta these by Chopin".

    I have my definite opinions on EXACTLY how Rubato should be done effectively, but will keep mum for a change :shock:
    N
     
  3. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I know its in that other topic thats why i kinda moved it to here, because it got me thinking-it is certainly a part of a pianists technique. I would really like to hear everyones opinion on the matter, just because someone knows more about musical history, it does not make their opinion any less important ;)
     
  4. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    The thing is, that particular sort of rubato is specifically a Chopin thing. It was his nitpick, and it doesn't apply to the rest of the Romantic period. Just Chopin. This little segment (link) from Huneker's biography (pp. 195-7) has a great deal to say about Chopin's preferences concerning rubato.

    Chopin himself said:
    Mikuli says:
    Liszt says:

    Another pupil of Chopin's, Mme. Friederike Streicher, neé Müller, says:
    So, decide for yourself, I suppose.
    I should hope not. ;)
     
  5. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I wonder whether Chopin would have the same opinions today though. He was certainly progressive, and for all we know may have changed his opinions in his later years, where he himself began to push the boundaries of the pure classical music that he was initially so honorable to. I do believe that excess rubato to the extent of distortion is terrible, i just think it sounds worse when the left hand is kept the same IMO. Slight affections etc. i think sound great, and that is slowing the left hand if only for a moment. I do think certain pieces like the waltzes do require strict left hand rhythm, just not pieces like Chopins first ballade for example.
     
  6. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    According to the Eigeldinger book with original citations from contemporaries we find conflicting statements. There are people who wrote that Chopin used that kind of rubato what Terez quoted. Other wrote that Chopin took much more liberty and could not keep rhythm (that wrote contemporary musicians too).

    Could it not be that Chopin did use several kinds of rubato? E.g. for his Mazurkas it is stated that he changed the 3/4 rhythm to something like a 2/4 rhythm (I think Meyerbeer wrote that). Maybe for other pieces (waltzes maybe?) he used strict left hand rhythm and a free right hand part (something I find extremly difficult to achieve, and only rare examples of pianists who use(d) that only occasionally like Cortot e.g.). This fits well with the predilection of Chopin how opera singers acted. And what do singers? They normally start soft, and slightly prolongated with their melody and stop also slightly prolongated (normally). Maybe that's what Chopin did foremost too, who knows?

    But what is common in all statements is that Chopin did never exxagerate, it sounded always naturally and easy, and this should hold true also for his rubato playing I guess- and we only can guess, and read contemporaries quotations about that, isn't it?
     
  7. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I think this is interesting (also confusing at the same time). It's taken from Frederick Niecks book, Frederick Chopin - as a Man and Musician (hope it's okay to do this?)
    This part has a lot of the same excerpts that Terez included and what Olaf refers to. See if you understand it all. And look at the part about mistaking rubato for changing accents.

    Let us try if it is not possible to obtain a clearer notion of
    this mysterious tempo rubato. Among instrumentalists the "stolen
    time" was brought into vogue especially by Chopin and Liszt. But
    it is not an invention of theirs or their time. Quanz, the great
    flutist (see Marpurg: "Kritische Beitrage." Vol. I.), said that
    he heard it for the first time from the celebrated singer Santa
    Stella Lotti, who was engaged in 1717 at the Dresden Opera, and
    died in 1759 at Venice. Above all, however, we have to keep in
    mind that the tempo rubato is a genus which comprehends numerous
    species. In short, the tempo rubato of Chopin is not that of
    Liszt, that of Liszt is not that of Henselt, and so on. As for
    the general definitions we find in dictionaries, they can afford
    us no particular enlightenment. But help comes to us from
    elsewhere. Liszt explained Chopin's tempo rubato in a very
    poetical and graphic manner to his pupil the Russian pianist
    Neilissow:--"Look at these trees!" he said, "the wind plays in
    the leaves, stirs up life among them, the tree remains the same,
    that is Chopinesque rubato." But how did the composer himself
    describe it? From Madame Dubois and other pupils of Chopin we
    learn that he was in the habit of saying to them: "Que votre main
    gauche soit votre maitre de chapelle et garde toujours la mesure"
    (Let your left hand be your conductor and always keep time).
    According to Lenz Chopin taught also: "Angenommen, ein Stuck
    dauert so und so viel Minuten, wenn das Ganze nur so lange
    gedauert hat, im Einzelnen kann's anders sein!" (Suppose a piece
    lasts so and so many minutes, if only the whole lasts so long,
    the differences in the details do not matter). This is somewhat
    ambiguous teaching, and seems to be in contradiction to the
    preceding precept. Mikuli, another pupil of Chopin's, explains
    his master's tempo rubato thus:--"While the singing hand, either
    irresolutely lingering or as in passionate speech eagerly
    anticipating with a certain impatient vehemence, freed the truth
    of the musical expression from all rhythmical fetters, the other,
    the accompanying hand, continued to play strictly in time." We
    get a very lucid description of Chopin's tempo rubato from the
    critic of the Athenaeum who after hearing the pianist-composer at
    a London matinee in 1848 wrote:--"He makes free use of tempo
    rubato; leaning about within his bars more than any player we
    recollect, but still subject to a presiding measure such as
    presently habituates the ear to the liberties taken." Often, no
    doubt, people mistook for tempo rubato what in reality was a
    suppression or displacement of accent, to which kind of playing
    the term is indeed sometimes applied. The reader will remember
    the following passage from a criticism in the "Wiener
    Theaterzeitung" of 1829:--"There are defects noticeable in the
    young man's [Chopin's] playing, among which is perhaps especially
    to be mentioned the non-observance of the indication by accent of
    the commencement of musical phrases." Mr. Halle related to me an
    interesting dispute bearing on this matter. The German pianist
    told Chopin one day that he played in his mazurkas often 4/4
    instead of 3/4 time. Chopin would not admit it at first, but when
    Mr. Halle proved his case by counting to Chopin's playing, the
    latter admitted the correctness of the observation, and laughing
    said that this was national. Lenz reports a similar dispute
    between Chopin and Meyerbeer. In short, we may sum up in
    Moscheles' words, Chopin's playing did not degenerate into
    Tactlosigkeit [lit., timelessness], but it was of the most
    charming originality. Along with the above testimony we have,
    however, to take note of what Berlioz said on the subject:
    "Chopin supportait mal le frein de la mesure; il a pousse
    beaucoup trap loin, selon moi, l'independance rhythmique."
    Berlioz even went so far as to say that "Chopin could not play
    strictly in time [ne pouvait pas jouer regulierement]."

    Indeed, so strange was Chopin's style that when Mr. Charles Halle
    first heard him play his compositions he could not imagine how
    what he heard was represented by musical signs. But strange as
    Chopin's style of playing was he thinks that its peculiarities
    are generally exaggerated. The Parisians said of Rubinstein's
    playing of compositions of Chopin: "Ce n'est pas ca!" Mr. Halle
    himself thinks that Rubinstein's rendering of Chopin is clever,
    but not Chopinesque. Nor do Von Bulow's readings come near the
    original. As for Chopin's pupils, they are even less successful
    than others in imitating their master's style. The opinion of one
    who is so distinguished a pianist and at the same time was so
    well acquainted with Chopin as Mr. Halle is worth having. Hearing
    Chopin often play his compositions he got so familiar with that
    master's music and felt so much in sympathy with it that the
    composer liked to have it played by him, and told him that when
    he was in the adjoining room he could imagine he was playing
    himself.
     
  8. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you for that, Monica!
    But can anyone translate the above sentence, please?
     
  9. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I have read that some said this about Chopin. It was apparently a common critique from the classicists, who did not use rubato at all.
     
  10. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    So what i can summarize from this so far, is that Chopin may have used rubato either freely, or perhaps for particular pieces. The main thing though is that he never exaggerated to the point of distortion...which i think is many peoples main gripe with the use of rubato.
     
  11. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    First, even if a musician don't play rubato itself one could trust that this musician is nevertheless able to observe rhythm treatment from another musician. So I don't see no reason to not trust those statements too.

    Second, the kind of rubato with steady rhythm in one hand and liberty in melody line, is no invention from the romantiques like Chopin. I have read elsewhere that Mozart could and did play in this manner too (but can't point to a certain book where I have read that). And to go even more back in time, in the baroque time the "stylus phantasticus", was based on a performance with complete liberty of rhythm (see Matthesons definition of that style in "Der vollkommene Capellmeister" from 1739).

    So, beside that it seems not true that preromantic musicians did not use rubato at all, I don't see no reason to disqualify statements from contemporaries about Chopin's playing style even if they don't fit the picture the one or the other likes to have about Chopin's playing style.
     
  12. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    It's in the Huneker biography - right at the top of the page that I linked. ;)
     
  13. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ah, I did not found the link in your message at first sight, thank you for that link to the Huneker biography! Although I have a lot of books about Chopin, this one is new to me. I need to read it! The thing about the Mozart rubato style I must have read in another Mozart biography, but I don't know which book it was.
     
  14. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    Yes, it's hard to make links obvious on this forum - they look almost the same as the other text! That's why I put (link) trying to make it more clear, but it's apparently still easy to miss. :(

    Google Books previews are great, but unfortunately you can't copy text from them, and there are only so many pages that you can preview. I ordered the Huneker biography and the Letters from Dover not too long ago, but I don't think they have the Liszt biography. I found the Huneker biography to be more interesting, anyway.
     
  15. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    All three books, Huneker, Niecks, and Liszt are on the Project Gutenberg website for free.

    Here are the specific addresses to the three - Sorry, I don't know how to make them links. Or you can just go the website home page: www.gutenberg.org

    When you get on the page for the book you want to read, go to the lower righthand side under "Download Links" and then click on usually the second listing that looks like this: 310 KB main site mirror sites P2P. You should click on the second "main site' listing.

    Life of Chopin - by Franz Liszt http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4386

    Chopin: The Man and His Music - by James Huneker http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4939

    Frederick Chopin, As a Man and Musician by Frederick Niecks http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4973

    Hope that works.
     
  16. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you much, Monica!
    Just downloaded all three books - and your links in your message are really good visible, too!

    The only thing to clarify is now, how did Chopin played his rubato ... :?

    For me, there exist several kinds of rubato executions, and all have there eligibility.
    However, at least I would be really interested to know these your definite opinions about the exactly and effectively rubato execution!
     
  17. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Yes. I would love to know them... ;)
     
  18. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest


    I heard Horowitz say that he always employed rubato to play Mozart.. he said that was the only way?

    All for a musical reason...
     
  19. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yeah, I noticed that about Horowitz's Mozart, a habit I emulated for many years (much to my teachers' consternation). As I mature, I increasingly refrain from using rubato when playing Mozart, esp. those composed in style galant (Horowitz really pulls the rhythm here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=oQzp_-N6IUs. ) Through my studies of Mozart, I feel rubato is unnecessary for the most part. Sometimes, rubato can be a powerful tool in the Classical repertoire but we must use it so subtly.

    Pete
     
  20. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest


    You have made my point.. or my Piano teacher's point. I must be the only one who needs a little Rubato to take Mozart.. at least a little 'musical interpretation'.
     

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