roo- bah-toh] (Italian) "Robbed." Also tempo rubato ("robbed time"). The practice of performing music in a flexible, instead of strict tempo. Rubato is one of the more controversial issues in musical performance, as its precise manner of execution cannot be precisely notated. However, the "appropriate" application of rubato is often considered to be a sign of the "musicality" of a performer. What sounds like "musical" rubato to one listener may sound overdone and distorted by another.