This chapter explores the practice of tempo modification (also known as tempo rubato or rubato) - changing the tempo to enhance the ebb and flow of a musical phrase. As a means of appreciating the change in trends regarding tempo modification between c.1900 and the present, the tempo data (the rate of accelerando and ritardando and the percentage change figures) for a range of performances of a section of the same work is provided and other performances are verbally described. Early recordings reveal much freer use of tempo modification (both frequency and wider boundaries of temporal change) than more recent performances. Early recorded examples are compared with contemporaneous written descriptions exposing the anomalies between theory and practice as well as the inherent problems associated with written description. The hidden meanings in written texts are also exposed. The veracity of information about tempo modification in detailed 19th-century codifications are also discussed. Finally, written texts and audible examples that herald the change in taste during the early 20th century - the move towards more subtle use of tempo modification - are analysed and discussed.
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