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I have often seen and heard musicians [on lots of instruments] whether piano, flute, violin etc.. use the slight lengthening or mildest slowing on certain notes to emphasise the tune in a more individual way, or 'Rubato'.. and I think it is a useful thing to do for more complex or faster pieces, particularly a good way to bring out the particular melody, or to really bring into focus part of a musical work.  It can happen quite without thinking in a particularly conscious way, rather than mechanically going at one fixed tempo, to emphasise a particular bar or notes, by that slower fixing onto it, for just a momentary thought.  And in slower pieces too, it can bring notice to a melody or piece, in a more lyrical way.

 

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I remember Leonard Bernstein, in one of his popular TV programmes from the 1960s(?), demonstrating rubato and saying that it means 'stolen' in Italian. Time is stolen from one note and given to another.

 

(The programmes are all on YouTube. As are his Norton Lectures given at Harvard if you've got a spare day or two.)

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