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Tempo Rubato explained
#1730029 08/10/11 10:48 AM
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B37vc8rRz8I&feature=youtube_gdata_player

I just learnt of this concept. Thought I'd share this find. Very eloquent and interesting explanation. And such control of timing, volume and expression.

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1730140 08/10/11 02:13 PM
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A couple of things....

You'd probably get more interest in this if you noted that it's BARENBOIM talking about it. That's more important than the fact that it's about rubato.

(And I guess I just did.) grin

And while it's sort of interesting, he's arguably wrong on his first point, that 'what is stolen must be given back.' Other authoritative people have addressed this and said that it's not so, and I agree with them. IMO rubato much more often involves lingering than pushing, and in the best playing, we usually don't give back what we've 'stolen,' or at least not most of it.

I think the look on the face of the guy in the audience at 0:28 is priceless. IMO Barenboim thinks he's being much more important and revealing on the subject than he is, and his tone conveys this from the start -- and it looks to me like that guy is already having that feeling.

Nevertheless, I like how he uses Beethoven's little-heard G major Sonata (from Op. 31) as an example. smile

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1730196 08/10/11 03:31 PM
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I like how, in demonstrating the sonata, he doesn't follow his own "what is stolen must be given back" rule.

That being said, his control of tempo is masterful. What I think people actually mean when they talk about giving back what is stolen is that when you steal time, it's important to also spend time being a model citizen and observing strict time.

Or put another way - one must "steal" time, not simply lose track of it. When you steal time, you know exactly where it came from and how much you stole. This is as opposed to simply slowing down or speeding up here and there without any thought to where, how much, and why. Stealing time is okay. Being sloppy and simply losing track of time is not.


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Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1730212 08/10/11 03:43 PM
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I think that by "given back," he means that we must catch up with the beat and tempo that we left behind while stealing the time.

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
Kreisler #1730239 08/10/11 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
I like how, in demonstrating the sonata, he doesn't follow his own "what is stolen must be given back" rule.

That being said, his control of tempo is masterful. What I think people actually mean when they talk about giving back what is stolen is that when you steal time, it's important to also spend time being a model citizen and observing strict time.

Or put another way - one must "steal" time, not simply lose track of it. When you steal time, you know exactly where it came from and how much you stole. This is as opposed to simply slowing down or speeding up here and there without any thought to where, how much, and why. Stealing time is okay. Being sloppy and simply losing track of time is not.


You're exactly right, Kreisler. Barenboim, should have added "time" when talking about giving back in regard to stealing, because you can't steal time. I would love to have the chance to study with him.



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Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1730266 08/10/11 05:54 PM
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Haha, I am reading, at the moment, Barenboim's book Music Quickens Time. He says quite literally this exact same thing, just worded slightly more correctly, in the book... xD


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Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1730637 08/11/11 01:05 AM
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It reminds me of literature class, when we spend so much time analyzing a certain passage, when it means what it means!

I'd like to think when he said it must be given back, it simply means, it must be given back! laugh


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Re: Tempo Rubato explained
SamOnThePiano #1730640 08/11/11 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Samuel.cho
....I'd like to think when he said it must be given back, it simply means, it must be given back! laugh

Yes -- which is wrong. smile

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
Mark_C #1730656 08/11/11 01:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Samuel.cho
....I'd like to think when he said it must be given back, it simply means, it must be given back! laugh

Yes -- which is wrong. smile


But the point is, a lot of posters here are trying to decrypt what he's saying! shocked


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Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1730663 08/11/11 01:32 AM
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It can be fun analysing a single line of text. Scholars are still unsure, hundreds of years later, what exactly the second stanza of Shakespeare's 40th sonnet means. I gave my suggestion of what Barenboim might have meant based on how he explained it after the original statement (with suddenly being back with the beat at the end of the rubato and whatnot).

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
Steve712 #1730721 08/11/11 02:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve712
It can be fun analysing a single line of text. Scholars are still unsure, hundreds of years later, what exactly the second stanza of Shakespeare's 40th sonnet means.....

And y'know, I bet some people here don't even know offhand the second stanza of Shakespeare's 40th sonnet!!!!



BTW that's a joke.


I don't think there's any ambiguity about what he meant: that if you take extra time 'here,' you have to make it up pretty soon by taking less time 'there.' (And vice versa.)

There are many who disagree with it (as I do), and as Kreisler pointed out, it seems even Barenboim himself doesn't necessarily follow it.

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1730783 08/11/11 06:57 AM
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Although Barenboim is a clearly musical genius, I don't find his reasoning behind his interpretation of the phrase "stolen time" very convincing. He says something like "in a civilized society we know that anything stolen must be given back". In fact, I find the idea that one should somehow be keeping track of how much time was stolen/given back during a piece and everything should cancel out by the end to be quite silly.

If Barenboim had said something like "these famous composers, pianists, and teachers all said that any stolen time should be returned" then he would have been more convincing.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/11/11 09:20 AM.
Re: Tempo Rubato explained
pianoloverus #1730876 08/11/11 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
In fact, I find the idea that one should somehow be keeping track of how much time was stolen/given back during a piece and everything should cancel out by the end to be quite silly.


That's silly, but I really don't think that's what Barenboim meant. He may have used slightly inaccurate language to describe it but knowing how he plays, I don't think he believes in what you described anyway and therefore, you have to make that tiny leap of faith and interpret what he said in a more sensible way: the rubato must be applied in a sensible rhythmic background context. You cannot slow and speed up at will wherever you want.. it needs to be done keeping in mind the basic pulse of the piece to which you need to come back to at some point (these points again can be figured out logically and musically by analyzing the structure of the piece. As Alexander Ghendin said in a masterclass that I attended last week, harmony is closely tied in with the rhythm.. just as you have rhyming lines in poetry) to honor the pulse. That's how I would interpret it. Now if there's a problem with this interpretation, I'd love to hear it.

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
liszt85 #1730884 08/11/11 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by liszt85
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
In fact, I find the idea that one should somehow be keeping track of how much time was stolen/given back during a piece and everything should cancel out by the end to be quite silly.


That's silly, but I really don't think that's what Barenboim meant. He may have used slightly inaccurate language to describe it but knowing how he plays, I don't think he believes in what you described anyway and therefore, you have to make that tiny leap of faith and interpret what he said in a more sensible way: the rubato must be applied in a sensible rhythmic background context. You cannot slow and speed up at will wherever you want.. it needs to be done keeping in mind the basic pulse of the piece to which you need to come back to at some point (these points again can be figured out logically and musically by analyzing the structure of the piece. As Alexander Ghendin said in a masterclass that I attended last week, harmony is closely tied in with the rhythm.. just as you have rhyming lines in poetry) to honor the pulse. That's how I would interpret it. Now if there's a problem with this interpretation, I'd love to hear it.
I doubt anyone would argue with your idea.

But I also think Barenboim should say precisely what he means if that's what he meant. I've heard his idea of "what was borrowed must be returned" before, but it never made any sense to me. Same with the idea of keeping the left hand steady while the right hand plays rubato.

I think what you said is far different from what Barenboim said which is why several posters already disagreed with it or found it bizarre.

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1730885 08/11/11 09:51 AM
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pianoloverus and liszt85 :

That's more or less the way I (would like to) interpret what Barenboim says. To interpret "if you borrow you must pay back" as implying a balance sheet to make up for stolen time is just - for the third use of the word - silly.

It makes much more sense to me - and certainly listening to great artists bears this out - that there is a basic tempo that a piece must adhere to, and while we may deviate from that tempo as the music of the moment may dictate - we should return to that tempo and maintain it as the basic tempo of the piece. I am not sure that that is what Barenboim is saying, but I don't see any other musical or logical way of interpreting his remark.

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Re: Tempo Rubato explained
liszt85 #1730896 08/11/11 10:09 AM
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I totally agreement with you Liszt85. I actually loved the idea of stealing time and giving it back again. Of course it's not black and white all the time (I think he also said it wasn't possible at all times). But it makes that you use rubato with a bit more care. It's often overused and some tend to steal so much that I really would like them to give back most of it and return to the basic and natural pulse of a piece. It makes me dizy at times and it often ruins the peformance:-). The sensible rythmic background Liszt85 is talking about, and maybe the idea that you can't steal too much without being punished might make a fair difference in the outcome of your performance.


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Re: Tempo Rubato explained
martijnathome #1730992 08/11/11 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by martijnathome
It's often overused and some tend to steal so much that I really would like them to give back most of it and return to the basic and natural pulse of a piece.
If that's all Barenboim meant than very few would disagree. I can't imagine many would think that if one slows down in some phrase that this suddenly becomes the new tempo for the rest of the piece.

But if one interprets what Barenboim said as meaning that there should be corresponding amounts of speeding up beyond the basic pulse of the piece at some point in order to give back the stolen time, then his explanation becomes open to criticism.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/11/11 12:02 PM.
Re: Tempo Rubato explained
pianoloverus #1731010 08/11/11 12:18 PM
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I think Plover is 100% on target, and I'm really puzzled that people are wanting to make it into something else. I guess it's because what Barenboim said seems borderline ridiculous and we can't believe he could possibly have meant it....but I don't see that any other way of seeing it really works.

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
EltonRach #1731027 08/11/11 12:31 PM
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I had a teacher who told me to practise rubato with the metronome so that I could be sure I was giving back all the time I stole. It's not a completely ridiculous concept to everyone because he must have learned it somewhere.

Re: Tempo Rubato explained
Frozenicicles #1731034 08/11/11 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles
....It's not a completely ridiculous concept to everyone because he must have learned it somewhere.

Of course not. Lots of people think it.

But is it a good idea? A lot of us think it isn't. Take your pick. smile

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