Music lexicon

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A music lexicon is a reference work ( lexicon or encyclopedia ) that alphabetically presents, defines and explains the subject matter, history and influential people of music.

Music dictionaries are to be distinguished from:

  • Music dictionaries that explain musical terms, provide evidence of their origin and, if necessary, translate them into other languages.
  • Concert guides describing the musical repertoire (mostly thematic selection). This also includes opera guides.
  • Bibliographies that catalog relevant publications on the subject of music. This includes:
    • Discographies that provide evidence of marketable or historically relevant music recordings; Occasionally these are critically annotated (and are then often called record guides)
    • Bibliography, Music Literature (RILM)
    • Source catalogs and indexes of manuscripts, prints, primary and secondary literature as well as iconographies
    • Holdings from libraries or collectors through to auction catalogs

Every music-loving nation has produced special music lexicons in its own language and based on its particular history. The world's most important contemporary music lexicons are multi-volume encyclopedias, which were created under one editorial team through contributions by many specialist scholars and through an eventful history (often over decades):

There are now also music dictionaries online, for example:


The history of the music lexicons goes back to the Renaissance and in its beginnings it can hardly be distinguished from music history works, composition instructions (harmony, composition, counterpoint, form and instrumentation) and biographical collections. The form of the music lexica that is common today is only gradually emerging. Progressive encyclopedias such as New Grove operate nowadays (paid) Internet portals with the possibility of quick updates (e.g. of the death dates of important artists), while conservative encyclopedias such as the MGG rely on supplementary volumes that appear at several years' intervals.

In the following, the most important lexicons are briefly presented in chronological order, without - for the reasons given above - a strict distinction is made between the forms.

1472 Johannes Tinctoris Terminorum musicae diffinitorium Probably the oldest compendium or lexicon on musical matter, written in 1472, printed in 1495. The original contained 28 printed pages of text. Forkel prints the text in his Allgemeine Litteratur der Musik 1792. It was first translated from Latin into German by Heinrich Bellermann , and appeared in Yearbooks for Musical Sciences, Volume 1 (1863), pp. 55–114. A new edition by Peter Gülke was published by Bärenreiter-Verlag in 1983 and included the facsimile of the cradle print , the translation and a commentary.
1656 Renati Des-Cartes ( Descartes ) Musicae Compendium Guide to Music, Amsterdam 1656, covers the basic issues of pitches, intervals, keys and time signatures on 33 printed pages. The Latin facsimile was published in 1978 by the Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft with a German translation and comments by Johannes Brockt .
1732 Johann Gottfried Walther Musical Lexicon
or Musical Library,
“In this not only the musicians, which in old as well as newer times, in the same way in different nations, have made themselves known through theory and practice, and what has become known by everyone, or which he left in writing, with all diligence and according to the most noble circumstances but also the musical art or other related words used in Greek, Latin, Italian and French, presented and explained in alphabetical order, and at the same time most of the signatures are explained. ”This is what it says, awkwardly but precisely, on the title page of the First edition of the first music lexicon according to modern standards. 1st edition with 670 printed pages appeared in Leipzig in 1732. Facsimile editions were published in Leipzig in 1953 and in Kassel in 1986 (Bärenreiter).
1749 Anonymous,
based on Walther
Brief musical lexicon "Which contains useful instructions and a thorough concept of music, which explains the terms technici, explains the instruments and describes the most distinguished musici, along with a historical description of the name, division, origin, invention, reproduction and improvement of the music, it bit." It achieved great excellence, wonderful use and use, at the same time its noblest cultoribus, so lived from the beginning of the world to our time, everything from the best and most famous Musicorum sought together with diligence, brought into alphabetical order, and to be distanced to lovers of musical sciences Thinking well presented ", published in Chemnitz with 432 printed pages, to be read in a facsimile of the central antiquarian Leipzig 1975.
1750-72 Denis Diderot /
Jean Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert
Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers in 17 text and 10 illustrated books. Hidden in it are diverse articles on the musical field and a number of copper plates on instruments, their manufacture, etc.
1768 Jean-Jacques Rousseau Dictionnaire de musique Foreword from 1764. The edition by Dupont, Paris 1824, reproduces the dictionary on 807 printed pages. Quite idiosyncratic definitions of the literary figure and philosopher and composer (inventor of the monodrama), which are sometimes rather ridiculous, but sometimes strikingly plausible.
1771 Johann Georg Sulzer General theory of fine arts Published in 4 volumes and a register in 2 parts Leipzig 1771 and 1774, or in four parts Leipzig 1773–74, (2nd edition 1777–78). Blanckenburg brought out a new edition with extensive bibliographical additions (4 parts Leipzig 1786–87, 2nd edition 1792–94, register volume 1799). Blanckenburg's additions (which are also contained in the Hildesheim 1967-70, Olms reprint) also appeared separately as literary additions to Johann Georg Sulzer's general theory of the fine arts (3 parts, Leipzig 1796-98). It does not include the supplements to Sulzer's general theory of fine arts, edited by Johann Gottfried Dyck and Georg Schatz, 8 parts, (Leipzig 1792–1808). The musical articles were written by the Bach student Johann Philipp Kirnberger (112 musical articles in letters A up to the article "Modulation") and later by his student Johann Abraham Peter Schulz (also under Kirnberger's guidance). They became very influential in the scientific and aesthetic discourse. The facsimile Hildesheim 1967–70 / 94 contains 3277 printed pages (including notes). The software edition of the Digital Library 2002 does not contain the extensive footnotes.
1802 Heinrich Christoph Koch Musical lexicon "Which contains the theoretical and practical art of music, edited encyclopaedically, explains all old and new artificial words, and describes the old and new instruments." After Walther 1732, the most thorough and still most influential music lexicon. It was published in Frankfurt am Main in 1802 in 1802 columns (= 901 pages) and for the first time defined the vocabulary still in use today from acoustics (sound, resonance, sound), aesthetics (expression, character, sensation), performance practice (bow stroke, chorus, musical Competitions), genre (chamber music, melodrama, variations), history, instrument (touch, color piano, fantasizing machine), composition (layout, elaboration, typesetting), musicology (canon, professor, dissecting (= analysis)), reception (dilettante , Connoisseur, lover), tone composition (fraudulent conclusion, through-composed, cobblestone) and other areas of knowledge.
1834-38 Gustav Schilling Encyclopedia of
All Musical Sciences
or Universal Lexicon of Music
in 6 volumes and an additional volume, published in Stuttgart 1834–38 (2nd edition 1840–42), a somewhat talkative and unnecessary, but widespread and therefore powerful lexicon with universal claims.
1870-79 /
Mendel-Reissmann Musical conversation lexicon “An encyclopedia of the entire musical sciences for educated people of all classes. Founded by Hermann Mendel, continued by Dr. August Reissmann ”(from vol. VII, 1876). Published in eleven volumes (and one supplementary volume), offers a wealth of lexical entries on 6550 pages, which offers extensive information as well as curiosities, anecdotes and (today) forgotten people. The facts are not always reliable (a flaw in all older encyclopedias), but the articles are always worth reading. The first edition appeared in Berlin from 1870–1879, the second from 1880–1883, and the third from 1890–1891.
George Grove A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London, later also New York) in two, 1880 in three and 1890 in four volumes, ed. Sir George Grove with appendix and index. 2nd edition in five volumes, ed. JA Fuller Maitland and published 1904-10, it followed as the 6th volume an "American Supplement". 3rd edition, five volumes, published in 1927, ed. HC Colles. 4th edition (Ed. Colles), five volumes plus supplementary volume, published in 1940. 5th edition, nine volumes, ed. Eric Blom appeared in 1954. Supplementary volume in 1961. Found 1980 (in 20 volumes) and 2001 (in 29 volumes) its update and expansion in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians , edited by Stanley Sadie.
1882 /
1958-75 /
Hugo Riemann Riemann Music Lexicon
An individual's last undertaking to write a dictionary. 7th completely revised edition Leipzig 1909 with (besides 23 pages preliminary remarks) 1598 pages of text. The history of the publisher is changeable and reflects the situation in recent music history. The edition by Alfred Einstein (Jew, persecuted, emigrant) made the work known and popular in the Anglo-American region (10th – 11th edition), an edition by the musicologist Joseph Müller-Blattau (12th edition, begun in 1939) came not beyond three deliveries. The Riemann Musiklexikon 1958-75 (also counted as the 12th edition) in three volumes and two supplementary volumes edited by Wilibald Gurlitt (volume 1–2, persons, 1959–61), Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (volume 3, subject part 1967) and Carl Dahlhaus (Volumes 4-5, person supplement 1972, 1975), published by Schott Mainz, became the most widespread and most profound music lexicon of the post-war period. Its power of definition determines the musicological discourse to this day and represents a benchmark for current music lexicons. The Brockhaus Riemann music lexicon from 1989 in four volumes and a supplementary volume (1st edition 1989, greatly expanded 2nd edition 1995 published by Wolfgang Thein) is a compression and Supplementary update to the Riemann Music Lexicon . The 13th updated new edition of the Riemann Music Lexicon was published by Schott Music in 2012. The editor is Wolfgang Ruf. The streamlined revision comprises 5 volumes with 9,400 articles on music theory and practice.
1949-67 /
Music in the past and present
Main part in individual deliveries between 1949 and 1967, finally summarized in 14 volumes. The editor was Friedrich Blume . Since the letters A – D were initially very sparse with entries, supplementary volumes were necessary, which included articles but did not update any existing ones (supplements, volumes 15–16 (1973 and 1976)). The register was published in 1986 as the 17th volume. In 1989 a paperback edition was published by dtv / Bärenreiter (also in 17 volumes), in 2001 the digital library published the lexicon as volume 60 for the first time as a CD-ROM with 83,845 screen pages. The second, completely revised edition, edited by Ludwig Finscher , consists of a ten-volume factual part (including register volume; 1994–1999) and a seventeen-volume personal part (1999–2007). A register volume on the personal part appeared in 2007, a supplement volume appeared in 2008.
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
(New Grove)
in 20 volumes ed. Stanley Sadie is the greatly expanded new edition of A Dictionary of Music and Musicians by Sir George Grove. The following were added:
  • 1984 New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, in three volumes,
  • 1986 New Grove Dictionary of American Music, four volumes,
  • 1992 New Grove Dictionary of Opera, four volumes,
  • 1999 New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, two volumes, the 2nd edition 2002 in three volumes.

The second, again greatly expanded edition of New Grove appeared in 2001 in 29 volumes.

The paid Internet portal Grove Music Online , edited by Laura Macy, brings regular updates.

Special dictionaries

There is a wide variety of special dictionaries. To give an idea of ​​the range, the following are briefly presented:

The Wordsworth Dictionary of Musical Quotations 1991 ed. Derek Watson, sayings and anecdotes from all areas of the music - quote collection.
Metzler Composers Lexicon 1992 ed. Horst Weber, 340 “work history portraits” by composers. With a few exceptions and a few gaps, the canons of the most important composers.
Contemporary composers Since 1992 under the direction of Walter-Wolfgang Sparrer published loose-leaf collection, quarterly in deliveries, gathers articles on mostly living composers. Usually a basic sheet (with two pages), after an unpredictable time a mostly several dozen-page main article is added, which is supplemented by music examples, a detailed catalog of works, bibliography and discography. Suffers from severe imbalance of entries and hypotrophy of insignificant compared to (often absent or neglected) important composers. Still an important source for professionals. Munich, edition text + kritik.
Concise dictionary of musical terminology Published between 1971 and 2006 as a loose-leaf collection, initially under Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht , after his death in 1999 by Albrecht Riethmüller . With the 40th delivery in autumn 2005, the project was ended, if not completed (see afterword by Riethmüller). On almost 4000 pages in 6 folders it contains 247 articles in an incomparably thorough and detailed manner on basic musical terms that are often used in a blurred, nebulous manner. Hence an important instrument of musical education.
Polyglot dictionary of musical terminology
Terminorum Musicae Index Septem Linguis Redactus
1980 at Bärenreiter, Kassel, ed. "International Association of Music Libraries" by Horst Leuchtmann. Translates terms into seven languages ​​(including Russian). Can be used for music until 1870, but needs to be expanded for the present.
Lexicon program music in three volumes 1999–2004, ed. Klaus Schneider. Volume 1 fabrics and motifs (420 pages), volume 2 figures and people (351 pages), volume 3 music about music with variations, transcriptions, homages, style imitations, and works about the BACH motif (421 pages). Attempt to catalog (and only rarely comment on) the diversity of the music. Because of its one-sidedness in the scene sometimes referred to as the “sales catalog of the slow-moving publishers”. The problem is the unweighted abundance of titles (equally banal and ingenious) and the fact that the entries are mostly based on the title, but not on the basis of in-depth knowledge of the pieces. Still stimulating.
Compendium of musical subjects ed. 2001 Alexander Reischert, 1417 p., Index of "fabrics and motifs", lists almost exclusively text-based music, while the large amount of absolute music with a subject-matter is left out.
Biographical-bibliographical source lexicon
of musicians and music scholars of
the Christian era
up to the middle of the 19th century
ed. Robert Eitner in 10 vols. (11th vol. Supplements and Miscellels, 1960) lists the musical prints by composers up to the year of birth 1780, which can be verified in Eitner's time. Basis for the large-scale international catalogs of the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM) of all collections in all libraries in the world (at least if they were part of the association). The reprint of the Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt Graz 1959-60 contains the text of the second edition as well as the Miscellanea Musicae Biobibliographica - music-historical sources as additions and improvements to Eitner's source lexicon , ed. H. Springer, M. Schneider and W. Wolffheim, vol. 1–3 (4 issues each, no more published) Leipzig 1913–16 and Eitner's additions. (Does not include the supplements to MfM 36/37, 1904–05 and the bibliography of the music collections of the 16th and 17th centuries by Fr. X. Haberl, A. Lagerberg and CF Pohl, Berlin 1877.)
The lexicon of electronic music ed. Herbert Eimert u. Hans Ulrich Humpert , Bosse Verlag, Regensburg 1973, technical-aesthetic encyclopedia with some amazing insights and a wealth of articles (1022) about outdated technology and many misprints. Was influential and is widely quoted to this day.
Lexicon of Onomatopoeia
The words that imitate sound in comics
ed. EJ Havlik , 1991. Very informative (and also funny) dictionary about sound in the guise of language. On 263 printed pages, it reflects the whole range of problems of translating sound phenomena into speech.
A Dictionary of Musical Themes ed. Harold Barlow and Sam Morgenstein 1949, brings together almost 10,000 musical themes ("melodies") of classical instrumental music from the Renaissance to Benjamin Britten. Simple (yet sophisticated) system for finding motifs that you have in your head but don't know how to name - provided you have a profound musical education.

See also


  1. ^ Outline of the general history of music. Founded by Bernhard Kothe , continued by Rudolph Procházka , 12th edition, obtained from Max Chop , Leipzig 1929, p. 115 ( Terminorum musicae definitorum ).
  2. (PDF; 18 MB)
  3. Musical Lexicon (PDF; 84 MB)
  4. The Musical Lexicon (PDF; 86 MB)
  5. Compare the not quite balanced remarks Robert Eitner:  Mendel, Hermann . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1885, p. 316.
  6. ^ Grove Music Online - Online version of the New Grove
  7. Complete overview of the articles with excerpts

Web links

Wikisource: Music Lexicons  - Sources and Full Texts