Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Rhythmic flexibility within a phrase or measure; a relaxation of strict time.
  • adj. Containing or characterized by rubato.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A tempo in which strict timing is relaxed, the music being played near, but not on the beat

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Robbed; borrowed.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In music, in modified or distorted rhythm: especially used of the arbitrary lengthening of certain notes in a measure and the corresponding shortening of others, for the purpose of bringing some tone or chord into decided prominence without altering the total duration of the measure.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a flexible tempo; not strictly on the beat

Etymologies

Italian (tempo) rubato, stolen (time), rubato, past participle of rubare, to rob, of Germanic origin; see reup- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • Minute adjustments in just the right places (aka rubato) can make the music broaden out or seem hurried, or languid ... it's the power to create emotion in time.

    Boing Boing

  • I love the word "rubato," which means you can mess around with the time as needed.

    More on Music

  • I love it that the word "rubato," from the Italian, means, literally, "robbed."

    More on Music

  • Frisell both live and on record with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Elvin Jones, but never with the kind of rubato elegance found here.

    AvaxHome

  • "Chopin's music frequently uses a musicial technique called" rubato "

    AnimeBlogger.net Antenna

  • Mr. Motian prefers medium-slow tempos, just a hair faster than rubato, which suits Mr. Turner very nicely.

    Summer Swing Dawns

  • He offered a particularly impressive Scherzo No. 2; despite a few missed notes, it was his best outing of the evening, with splendid virtuosity in the middle section and perfectly judged rubato throughout.

    Ganz's copious, commanding Chopin project

  • Hans Graf's conducting is similarly efficient enough, middle-of-the-road in his tempi and sparing in his use of rubato, while the Houston Symphony proves itself a highly competent band.

    Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde – review

  • Tom and I were to play three rubato chords while I faded the machine drums out, Andrew switched to soprano, and Jimmy was then free to start the opening pattern of the intro to this tune.

    Joseph Vella: Jazz, Math, Tech & Lyle Mays

  • Just as, on "Walk with Music," he conveys a wide range of feelings while staying in the same fast tempo, on "Spring is Here," he puts across massive amounts of inner turmoil (somehow the coming of spring, normally a happy occasion, makes the protagonist 's loneliness seem even more acute) in rubato — without ever being tempted by a tempo.

    Hard-Bop, Key Chops And Country Stomps

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