A small, restored red brick warehouse on a Brunswick backstreet is sandwiched between grey apartments and another, more graffitied warehouse. Vines have grown slowly above the entranceway to cover some of the old shabbiness and hint at something more beautiful inside.
During the day, Tempo Rubato is a modest bar selling cheap drinks and plants. From 8pm on weekends and some weeknights, their backroom opens for intimate performances of classical music. They’ve hosted string quartets, chamber ensembles, Indian flute performances, a capella voices and plenty of solo recitals on their signature 102-key Stuart & Sons piano.
Modest bar selling drinks and plants during the day…
After spending some time in Europe and enjoying the ease of access to classical music, Tempo Rubato founder Georgina Imberger realised there was nothing like that in Melbourne.
“This genre of music seems reserved for a certain type of person, in certain areas of the city and certain buildings,” manager Georgina Lewis explains.
Access to the world of classical music has always been important to Imberger, who also set up the Melbourne charity Piano Project. This began as music lessons for children who arrived in Australia as refugees, and has now transitioned to become a grant program funding music education projects for children who wouldn’t otherwise have access.
The two Georginas saw an opportunity to raise proceeds for the Piano Project, while filling a gap in Melbourne’s music scene. In June 2019, they opened the doors to Tempo Rubato in Breese Street, Brunswick.
They chose the location for its already diverse, vibrant and artistic population. And Tempo Rubato is by no means a stuffy classical music joint out of place in Brunswick. It fits right into the neighbourhood with calm, friendly staff, freedom to wander in the intervals, a no-frills performance room, and an open-door policy to pooches who love piano.
… intimate performances of classical music at night 🙂
Aptly named, ‘tempo rubato’ comes from a musical direction for the performer to take liberties with the timing in a piece, to create ebb and flow and maximise the emotional expression as they choose. You get the sense performers are given many liberties at Tempo Rubato that they might not elsewhere: dressing casually, experimenting with genres, talking to the audience about the music in between songs, or sitting on the floor. During a Carnatic music performance one Friday night, violinist Bhairavi Raman commented that Tempo Rubato is a rare space in which she does not feel she has to contort her performance to fit expectations.
There’s nothing casual about the technical mastery on display, though, which makes it all the more special to be so up close.
“People love the intimacy, how close they are to the performers, and how immediate the sound and music are,” says Lewis. “It’s always a bit of a magical feeling that washes over you the minute it begins.”
Twenty-two dollars for over an hour of music and a good cause is excellent value for money. If you’re coming to a show, try to get a good view of the musicians on the low stage. Also, remember to ask ahead if you want to plus one your dog!
Tempo Rubato has a lot of heart and is doing something special. Who knew such a place was right under our noses.