Rubato in Baroque music

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punyama
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Rubato in Baroque music

Post by punyama » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:18 am

Hey guys,

I was wondering about how you guys feel about using rubato in Baroque repertoire. My teacher says I shouldn’t use rubato when playing the prelude from BWV 998 and also that I may choose to play with rubato after learning how to play it without. For some reason it sounds a bit too dry to me without SOME rubato... Maybe I’m too used to playing romantic pieces...I need to warm up to the prelude more. Any thoughts?

Best,
Phoebe

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George Crocket
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by George Crocket » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:18 am

punyama wrote:
Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:18 am
Hey guys,

I was wondering about how you guys feel about using rubato in Baroque repertoire. My teacher says I shouldn’t use rubato when playing the prelude from BWV 998 and also that I may choose to play with rubato after learning how to play it without. For some reason it sounds a bit too dry to me without SOME rubato... Maybe I’m too used to playing romantic pieces...I need to warm up to the prelude more. Any thoughts?

Best,
Phoebe
For all repertoire my teacher tells me to learn to play without rubato. Only when you have done that should you add any rubato. Otherwise your "rubato" is an excuse for not being able to play the piece in tempo.
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:21 am

It depends on many things, inc where you are coming from and how your tutor is managing your development. I have a student who for a long time played everything as if it was Tarrega, and is now getting better at deploying rubato, tone colour and dynamics in a more considered way, sympathetic to style. Assuming this is the tutor's strategy I would flow with that and come out the other end better able to choose how you manage those resources.
Even within Baroque there is scope for variety; a dance movement or a fugue might show less scope for flexibility (though still some!) than a prelude, part of whose point is often a sense of improvisational spirit.
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by zupfgeiger » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:53 am

Segovia was notorious for his excessive rubato while playing Bach. That was his romantic 19th century style. But a bit of rubato should make the music more lively. Two weeks ago I heard a very interesting lecture by lutenist Peter Croton. He emphasized the importance of the emotional element in baroque music.
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by gilles T » Mon Oct 23, 2017 9:56 am

Hello,

I agree with the above statements. Rubato should never be an excuse not to play in tempo, so the good strategy is to work the technical side of a piece strictly in a firm tempo, or "tactus", and then work to make make the music expressive.

That said, "rubato" is maybe not the proper word when it comes to baroque music : there are so many ways to make the music lively, touching and expressive without twisting the rhythmic pulse — what "rubato" is all about. For instance, playing in "notes inégales" is an historical legit way to make the music "swing" without altering the rhythm.

My other advice would be to listen extensively to viola da gamba music (on a very good sound system) : gamba players display an incredible amount of subtle nuances, from the faintest thrill to the widest vibrato and they know better how to make an instrument sing like a human voice. I find this very useful for us, guitar players, who are not blessed with an instrument that can sustain a note. We are more close to hapsichord players, who must invent subtle time shifts between the notes to compensate the lack of dynamics of their instrument.

regards,
Gilles

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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by Rasputin » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:46 am

I find it useful to play pieces in strict time, if only because it sharpens my awareness of the rubato I later put in. Another thing I do is to set the metronome to mark the first beat of each bar only, then play around with the individual beats while leaving the bars straight. Actually I had left off doing that, so this thread is a good reminder. It's not as easy as it sounds, especially in slow music where there may only be a few bars per minute.

I have not yet learnt to play one part in strict time and another with rubato. This would be a good thing to practise I think, and would make it easier to keep the bars straight. If you have beat 1 in time throughout, nobody can accuse you of using rubato to hide a lack of rhythm.
Last edited by Rasputin on Mon Oct 23, 2017 1:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:14 am

punyama wrote:
Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:18 am
Hey guys,

I was wondering about how you guys feel about using rubato in Baroque repertoire. My teacher says I shouldn’t use rubato when playing the prelude from BWV 998 and also that I may choose to play with rubato after learning how to play it without. For some reason it sounds a bit too dry to me without SOME rubato... Maybe I’m too used to playing romantic pieces...I need to warm up to the prelude more. Any thoughts?

Best,
Phoebe
Before attempting anything as serious and difficult as BWV 998, I think it is a good idea to study Performing Baroque Music on the Classical Guitar by Peter Croton, especially the chapter "Rhythmic inequality and tempo modifications." A great book, great reading, but I think absolutely required for informed performance of Baroque music on the guitar. Thomas Mace (1676) says that beginners should keep strict time. He then goes on to describe the liberties that masters may take. There are several score of other opinions from the Baroque period quoted in the same chapter.
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cefyn
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by cefyn » Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:30 am

There's a video of Tatyana Ryzhkova playing BWV 998 - plenty of Rubato here - a bit too much, for me I think


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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by Rognvald » Mon Oct 23, 2017 1:50 pm

"My other advice would be to listen extensively to viola da gamba music (on a very good sound system) : gamba players display an incredible amount of subtle nuances, from the faintest thrill to the widest vibrato and they know better how to make an instrument sing like a human voice. " gilles T


Yes, absolutely, gilles. A musical instrument was never intended to be a machine . . .it was intended to mimic the human voice. What is it with so many CG players today that tempo, technique, although important, overrides or, in a worst-case scenario, supplants musicality? We don't see this with woodwind players, pianists, horn players, harpists and certainly not with string players. Something, to me, is drastically wrong with 21st Century Guitar pedagogy. We are creating a generation of technical phenoms that have the spirit and soul of an asparagus stalk. Perhaps it is because so many people today live lives devoid of quality human interaction and spend their waking hours on their computers, cell phones or seated like a blob in front of a TV. Believe me . . . it shows in their "music." Playing again . . . and avoiding the Herd . . . Rognvald.
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by Tomzooki » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:09 pm

gilles T wrote:
Mon Oct 23, 2017 9:56 am
Hello,

I agree with the above statements. Rubato should never be an excuse not to play in tempo, so the good strategy is to work the technical side of a piece strictly in a firm tempo, or "tactus", and then work to make make the music expressive.

That said, "rubato" is maybe not the proper word when it comes to baroque music : there are so many ways to make the music lively, touching and expressive without twisting the rhythmic pulse — what "rubato" is all about. For instance, playing in "notes inégales" is an historical legit way to make the music "swing" without altering the rhythm.

My other advice would be to listen extensively to viola da gamba music (on a very good sound system) : gamba players display an incredible amount of subtle nuances, from the faintest thrill to the widest vibrato and they know better how to make an instrument sing like a human voice. I find this very useful for us, guitar players, who are not blessed with an instrument that can sustain a note. We are more close to hapsichord players, who must invent subtle time shifts between the notes to compensate the lack of dynamics of their instrument.

regards,
Gilles
Very good advice! In fact in baroque music « rubato », and also vibrato, are used, but they are used diffently than in romantic music. It is hard to explain de différences in simple words, but listening to good recordings can give a good idea
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Michael.N.
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by Michael.N. » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:34 pm

Bowed string players have the advantage of being able to swell the note. Vibrato tends to be less wide, almost used as an ornament. I've heard baroque players talking of using rubato within the bar rather than across it. I think I have a vague notion of what they mean.
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Rasputin
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by Rasputin » Tue Oct 24, 2017 8:08 pm

Michael.N. wrote:
Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:34 pm
Bowed string players have the advantage of being able to swell the note. Vibrato tends to be less wide, almost used as an ornament. I've heard baroque players talking of using rubato within the bar rather than across it. I think I have a vague notion of what they mean.
I wonder if they mean this:
Rasputin wrote:
Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:46 am
Another thing I do is to set the metronome to mark the first beat of each bar only, then play around with the individual beats while leaving the bars straight...

If you have beat 1 in time throughout, nobody can accuse you of using rubato to hide a lack of rhythm.
It would be good to know this idea has some legitimacy!

Mozart talks about playing in strict time with the left hand while playing rubato with the right hand, which means that the beats must line back up at some point, the obvious place being the downbeat of the bar.

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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by celestemcc » Tue Oct 24, 2017 10:47 pm

There's a video of Tatyana Ryzhkova playing BWV 998 - plenty of Rubato here - a bit too much, for me I think
Oy, way too much. Even on the opening motif, the d-c#-d. And every time it came up. Too much for me as well.

Bach can be phrased beautifully without "rubato"...
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by Rognvald » Tue Oct 24, 2017 11:56 pm

celestemcc wrote:
Tue Oct 24, 2017 10:47 pm
There's a video of Tatyana Ryzhkova playing BWV 998 - plenty of Rubato here - a bit too much, for me I think
Oy, way too much. Even on the opening motif, the d-c#-d. And every time it came up. Too much for me as well.

Bach can be phrased beautifully without "rubato"...

Hi, C,
It was a practice among many Baroque composers, Bach included, to omit tempos markings. It was assumed that if the piece was labeled a "Minuet," "Sarabande," "Bouree," etc., that the tempo would be implicit in the naming of the piece according to contemporary values/tastes. So, there is no definitive tempo and as a "prelude" it certainly can be open to interpretation. I have heard it played fast(J. Vieuax), moderate(Kindgren), and now rubato by Ms. Ryzhkova. She certainly plays well and obviously enjoys the piece. For me, I listen for the voice . . . and with that as a criterion, she passes with flying colors. Playing again ... .Rognvald
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Re: Rubato in Baroque music

Post by celestemcc » Wed Oct 25, 2017 1:01 am

It was a practice among many Baroque composers
It's not her tempo I question at all -- I've played it, and at pretty much the speed she does. And she is quite accomplished for sure and clearly loves the piece. It's the hesitation -- the rubato, for lack of another word, that she does with the motif. And that she does it every time it occurs. A bit exaggerated, too Romantic. Ironically I was just listening to the Merz transcription of Schubert's "Staendchen" where this kind of rubato is absolutely perfect.
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