(Italian: very) appears often in indications to performers of the speed of a piece of music, as in allegro assai, very fast, or allegro assai moderato, very moderately fast.
music that has no specific tonality, is not in a specific key and therefore has no specific ‘home’ note or chord. The word atonality refers technically to various forms of 20th century music not in a key.
a morning-song. A well known example is the Siegfried Idyll, a work written by Richard Wagner to be played for his second wife Cosima on the morning of her birthday.
the note of the musical scale used generally for tuning (= French, Italian, Spanish: la). Notes in English are given letter names, A,B,C,D,E,F & G.
(Italian: becoming faster) is a term in general use to show that the music should be played at an increasing speed
an additional part for a performer of any kind that is less important than another, which it serves to support and enhance. The piano is often used to provide an accompaniment to a solo singer. In instrumental works for, say, violin and piano the roles may be reversed.
(Italian: slow) an indication of tempo and is sometimes used to describe a slow movement, even when the indication of speed at the start of the movement may be different. The diminutive form adagietto is a little faster than
(= Italian: aria) means a tune or melody, for voice or instrument.
‘in the manner of’ (= French: ? la) and may be found in titles like that of Mozart’s ‘Rondo alla turca’, Rondo in the Turkish Style
(Italian: cheerful, lively) is generally taken as fast, although not as fast as vivace or presto. Allegretto is a diminutive, meaning slightly slower than allegro. These indications of speed or tempo are used as general titles for pieces of music headed by instructions of this kind. The first movement of a classical sonata, for example, is often ‘an Allegro’, just as the slow movement is often ‘an Adagio
a German dance (the word itself is French) in 4/4 time, often the first dance in a baroque dance suite, where it is frequently followed by a courante, a more rapid dance. The allemande, which appears in earlier English sources often as alman, almain or with similar spellings, is generally moderate in speed.
(= Italian: high) the lower female or unbroken male voice, or male falsetto of similar range. The alto clef (see Clef) is a sign written on the musical stave to show that the middle line of the stave is middle C. It is now used for much of the music written for viola and other instruments of similar range. Female alto soloists are usually described as contralto rather than alto.
(Italian: walking) a word used to suggest the speed of a piece of music, at walking pace. The diminutive andantino is ambiguous and means either a little faster or a little slower than andante, more often the former.
a short vocal composition. In the Church of England the word indicates such a composition often using a non-liturgical text (i.e. not part of the official service). A full anthem is for full choir, without soloists, while a verse anthem makes contrasting use of solo singers. Both these forms flourished in the Church of England from the late 16th century.
originally indicated a decorative pattern in Arab style found in painting or architecture. Its most common use in music has been as a descriptive title of short decorative piano pieces of the 19th or early 20th century. There are two well known Arabesques by the French composer Debussy.
(Italian: bow) is used as an indication to string-players that they should use the bow, rather than pluck with the fingers (see pizzicato).
a song or air. The word is used in particular to indicate formally constructed songs in opera. The so-called da capo aria of later baroque opera, oratorio and other vocal compositions, is an aria in which the first section is repeated, usually with additional and varied ornamentation, after the first two sections. The diminutive arietta indicates a little aria, while arioso refers to a freer form of aria-like vocal writing.
a note in the musical scale (= German: H; French, Italian, Spanish etc.: si).
(French: teasing), indicates a piece of music of light-hearted character. The best known badinerie is the lively last movement of Bach’s Suite in B minor for flute, strings and continuo.
used as the title of a short light-hearted piece of music, was employed most notably by Beethoven in a series of such compositions for piano. The descriptive title was thereafter used by a number of other composers.
an ancient instrument, at least in its most primitive form, and is still found in a number of countries. It is a reed instrument, with the reed sounded by air expressed from a leather bag. It generally makes use of a single pipe that can be fingered to produce different notes, with additional drones, pipes that produce single notes, a marked feature of bagpipe music and of its imitations for other instruments. The sophisticated and more versatile French musette, a bagpipe operated by bellows, gave its name to a baroque dance suite movement, marked, usually in the bass, by the continuing sound of a drone, a repeated single note.
derived from the late Latin verb ‘ballare’, to dance, came to be used primarily to describe a folk-song of narrative character or a song or poem written in imitation of such a folk-song. The title Ballade was used by Chopin to describe four piano-pieces of otherwise concealed narrative content, apparently based on narrative poems of ballad type by the patriotic poet Mickieiwicz, while Brahms in one of his Ballades transfers into music an old Scottish narrative ballad. The Ballade of French music and poetry of the 14th and 15th centuries denotes a different and fixed literary and musical form.
a vertical line through the stave, to mark metrical units or bars (= measures). By the later 17th century the bar-line had come to be used immediately preceding a strong beat, so that a bar came to begin normally with an accented note. The double bar or double bar-line marks the end of a section or piece.
a boating-song, generally used to describe the boating-songs of gondoliers in Venice, imitated by composers in songs and instrumental pieces in the 19th century. Chopin wrote one such Barcarolle for piano, and Mendelssohn provided four shorter piano pieces of this kind. At the end of the century and in the early 20th century the French composer Gabriel Faure wrote thirteen Barcarolles. There is a particularly well known barcarolle in Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d’Hoffmann).
describes a type of male voice of middle range. The word is also used to specify pitched and valved brass instruments of lowish register and as an adjective to distinguish the rare lowest member of the oboe family, also known as a bass oboe, sounding an octave (eight notes) lower than the normal oboe.
Basso continuo
Basso continuo
the regular rhythmic pattern of the music. Each bar should start with a strong beat and each bar should end with a weak beat. These may be known as the down-beat (strong, at the beginning of a bar) and the up-beat (weak, at the end of a bar). Up and down describe the gestures of a conductor, whose preparatory up-beat is of even greater importance to players than his down-beat.
a cradle-song or lullaby, in lilting triple or compound time. The most famous example of the use of this title is by Chopin, who wrote one Berceuse, followed by Liszt.
(German: agitated) is used as a tempo indication meaning something the same as the Italian ‘agitato’, although massig bewegt is used as the equivalent of allegro moderato.
a Spanish dance, popular in Paris in the time of Chopin and in Latin America. One of the best known examples of the dance in art music is Ravel’s ballet music Bolero, music of mounting intensity described by the composer as an orchestrated crescendo.
a duple-rhythm French dance sometimes found in the baroque dance suite, where it was later placed after the sarabande, with other lighter additional dances.
includes metal instruments where the sound is produced by forcing air through a cup-shaped or conical mouthpiece. The brass section usually consists of trumpets, trombones and tuba and French horns.’
(Italian: vivacity, fire or energy) appears as an instruction to performers as, for example, in allegro con brio, fast with brilliance and fire, an indication used on a number of occasions by Beethoven.