Definition of rubato in US English:


(also tempo rubato)

nounPlural rubati, Plural rubatos

  • The temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace.

    • ‘How do you actually control your rubati without disturbing the flow, so that it knits into the textures, rhythmic line and overall character?’
    • ‘And though her readings of Rachmaninoff are in fact quite beautiful in their own right, distinguished as they are by an imaginative rubato, they remain only superficially elegant.’
    • ‘He uses rubato more liberally, and also the sustaining pedal; Perahia doesn't sacrifice clarity for color.’
    • ‘In sustaining rhythmic tension without compromise or wayward rubatos, Mr Rose takes advantage of those larger intervals to effectively punctuate the music's rhythmic profile.’
    • ‘The composer again has given clear indications for rubato in simple instructions, such as ‘holding back’ or ‘more urgently.’’
    • ‘Horenstein and Wild take it just this side of prosaic, so that when they indulge in their (rather chaste) rubati, it hits with all the more punch.’
    • ‘There is no ‘leaning’ into phrases, no unfettered rubati, no search to impose expressivity.’
    • ‘Performers who play together on a regular basis always time their entry cues precisely and instinctively, shaping and moulding their tempi and rubati accordingly.’
    • ‘By most all accounts the evening was a success, with one local critic lauding the orchestra's exciting accelerandos and heart-stopping rubatos.’
    • ‘Young students need to learn concepts relating to ornamentation in baroque music, articulation in classical music, tempo fluctuation and use of rubato in romantic music, as well as color and sonorities in contemporary music.’
    • ‘The rubato and portamento emphasize the Symphonie's Fantastique, grotesque side.’
    • ‘In Concerto #24 his delicious use of rubato at the fortepiano's first entrance is coyly suggestive.’
    • ‘There had been some flaccid rubatos in the preceding Allegro Assai and there were some underplayed syncopations in the Minuet and Trio but the cheer it received was well earned.’
    • ‘The flow gives the impression of being slightly held in reserve, but the conductor's masterly control of rubati conjures the required effect.’
    • ‘Alkan rarely compromises the logic of his counterpoint, and a similar inflexibility was noted in his playing, which avoided the indulgent rubato of many of his contemporaries.’
    • ‘We have analyzed the music and made our decisions about tempo and rubato, phrasing and articulation, voicing and dynamics.’
    • ‘He is less free with tempo than other conductors are, less willing to use rubato to follow the inflections of the text.’
    • ‘They are sensitive to the sense of struggle and resignation in this dramatic movement and their rubato, though fluid, never damages the integrity of the underlying pulse.’
    • ‘The second and third waltzes, on the other hand, are just plain lovely, with a beautifully-managed rubato at the end of the third.’
    • ‘The rubato in ‘Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves’ is equivalent to the melodic rubato in Chopin's music, which Hopkins clearly knew and probably tried to play.’


  • Performed rubato.

    • ‘Author C. Palmer examined three aspects of timing in piano performance that are not explicitly notated in the score: chord asynchronies, rubato patterns and legato/staccato patterns.’
    • ‘He also creates a rubato feel, carefully notated by his tempo indications.’
    • ‘Philip warns, however, that while references to rhythmic freedom are common they ‘give no positive information about what actually happens to the rhythm during a rubato passage’.’


Italian, literally ‘robbed’.