ru·​ba·​to | \ rü-ˈbä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce rubato (audio) \
plural rubatos

Definition of rubato

: a fluctuation of tempo within a musical phrase often against a rhythmically steady accompaniment

Examples of rubato in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web As usual when classical musicians play Gershwin, the second prelude was played far too slowly and with too much rubato (listen to Gershwin’s performance for the proper speeds here and in the third prelude). San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Jan. 2022 In the slow sections, Malofeev lavished expressive rubato on the music but played the fast sections straight ahead. San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Nov. 2021 One thing that really confused me about listening to modern players approach the solo partita was that often it was played so freely and with so much rubato. New York Times, 13 Oct. 2020 Pianist Julio Elizalde made a capable dancing partner, with a subtle touch and an attentive handling of rubato. Washington Post, 23 Jan. 2020 The pianist could’ve been more judicious with rubato around Grieg’s crashing chords, especially in the first movement cadenza. Globe Staff,, 14 July 2019 His flexible shaping of phrase and pulse bespoke a natural rubato that arose from within Debussy’s music rather than being imposed on it, nor was textural clarity won at the expense of coloristic detail or surging amplitude of sound. John Von Rhein,, 9 Mar. 2018 Keeping the music moving with rubato phrasing of the utmost idiomatic naturalness is something Russian conductors like Bychkov do better than any. John Von Rhein,, 4 May 2018 In the slow second movement, tiny touches of rubato aerated the songlike solo lines. Zoë Madonna,, 20 Apr. 2018 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rubato.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of rubato

1855, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for rubato

Italian, literally, robbed

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Cite this Entry

“Rubato.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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