Contrametric Rubato

The metronome is essential for the study of contrametric rubato.

This week I pondered over how unmusical my singing was sounding. I couldn’t understand what had gone so wrong…

Then, it dawned on me.

My tempi were wrong!

Thus, this week, I have made the metronome a part of everything I do.

This brings me to contrametric rubato.

I came across an interview by a pianist about contrametric rubato in the book Inside Early Music . The pianist said:

I very much believe in the left hand not knowing what the right hand does, and I try to do this in Mozart.

Bernard d. Sherman Inside Early Music, Conversations with Performers, page 309.

This statement reminded me that singing Mozart requires an in depth knowledge of Bel Canto. Bel Canto is not just about voice production – it is, amongst other things, also about style. And, I suspect, contrametric rubato plays a much bigger role in Bel Canto singing, not just of Mozart but later composers, than we of today realise.

In fact, I think the great singers we hear on the gramophone recordings perhaps understood contrametric rubato much better than we do today.

Let me give you a fun example.

Please take a listen to the wonderful Amelita Galli-Curci below. I think that what makes her version of “La Paloma” musical is her use of contrametric rubato. You can hear the steady accompaniment as she weaves around the tempo with her voice. Yes, sometimes she lands on the beat. However, often, she does not!

The splendid musicianship of Amelita Galli-Curci using contrametric rubato.

Published by Deborah Wai Kapohe

I am a classical singer and guitarist. I have created a project called 'The Lilli Lehmann Project'. The project, lasting from 2020 until 2023, aims to refresh my voice and prepare me to be a singing teacher. The scope of the project is that I am studying Lilli Lehmann's singing book, bibliography, recordings and her reviews, as well as other historical vocal pedagogy. I have chosen this platform in order to blog about my discoveries, demonstrate techniques and exercises, and perform pieces of music. I have done so because I wish to be transparent. I think that if a student is prepared to learn from me then I should stand up to public scrutiny.

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