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Musical Forms Glossary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_musical_forms_by_era






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Medieval

Estampie

The medieval dance and musical form called the estampie in French, the estampida in Occitan, and istampitta (also istanpitta or stampita) in Italian was a popular instrumental style of the 13th and 14th centuries.

Gregorian Chant

Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic liturgical music within Western Christianity that accompanied the celebration of Mass and other ritual services. It is named after Pope Gregory I, Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, who is traditionally credited for having ordered the simplification and cataloging of music assigned to specific celebrations in the church calendar. The resulting body of music is the first to be notated in a system ancestral to modern musical notation. In general, the chants were learned by the viva voce method, that is, by following the given example orally, which took many years of experience in the Schola Cantorum. Gregorian chant originated in monastic life, in which celebrating the 'Divine Office' eight times a day at the proper hours was upheld according to the Rule of St. Benedict. Singing psalms made up a large part of the life in a monastic community, while a smaller group and soloists sang the chants. In its long history, Gregorian chant has been subjected to many gradual changes and some reforms.

Motet

In Classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.

The name comes either from the Latin movere, ("to move") or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian mottetto was also used. If the word is from Latin, the name describes the movement of the different voices against one another.

Organum

Organum (from Ancient Greek ὄργανον - organon "organ, instrument, tool") is, in general, a plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony, developed in the Middle Ages. Depending on the mode and form of the chant, a supporting bass line (or bourdon) may be sung on the same text, the melody may be followed in parallel motion (parallel organum), or a combination of both of these techniques may be employed. As no real independent second voice exists, this is a form of heterophony. In its earliest stages, organum involved two musical voices: a Gregorian chant melody, and the same melody transposed by a consonant interval, usually a perfect fifth or fourth. In these cases the composition often began and ended on a unison, the added voice keeping to the initial tone until the first part has reached a fifth or fourth, from where both voices proceeded in parallel harmony, with the reverse process at the end. Organum was originally improvised; while one singer performed a notated melody (the vox principalis), another singer—singing "by ear"—provided the unnotated second melody (the vox organalis). Over time, composers began to write added parts that were not just simple transpositions, thus creating true polyphony.

Saltarello

The saltarello was a lively, merry dance first mentioned in Naples during the 13th century. The music survives, but no early instructions for the actual dance are known. It was played in a fast triple meter and is named for its peculiar leaping step, after the Italian verb saltare ("to jump").

Renaissance

Ballade

A ballade (French pronunciation: [ba'lad]; French for "ballad") refers to a one-movement musical piece with lyrical and dramatic narrative qualities.

Carol

A carol is a festive song, generally religious but not necessarily connected with church worship, and often with a dance-like or popular character.

Today the carol is represented almost exclusively by the Christmas carol, the Advent carol, and to a much lesser extent by the Easter carol; however, despite their present association with religion, this has not always been the case.

Chanson

A chanson (French pronunciation: [ʃɑ̃sɔ̃], "song", from Latin cantio) is in general any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular. A singer specialising in chansons is known as a "chanteur" (male) or "chanteuse" (female); a collection of chansons, especially from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, is also known as a chansonnier.

Galliard

The galliard (gaillarde, in French; gagliarda in Italian) was a form of Renaissance dance and music popular all over Europe in the 16th century. It is mentioned in dance manuals from England, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, among others.

Intermedio

The intermedio, or intermezzo, in the Italian Renaissance, was a theatrical performance or spectacle with music and often dance which was performed between the acts of a play to celebrate special occasions in Italian courts. It was one of the important predecessors to opera, and an influence on other forms like the English court masque. Weddings in ruling families and similar state occasions were the usual occasion for the most lavish intermedi, in cities such as Florence and Ferrara. Some of the best documentation of intermedi comes from weddings in the Medici family, in particular the 1589 Medici wedding, which featured what was undoubtedly both the most spectacular set of intermedi, and the best known, thanks to no fewer than 18 contemporary published festival books and sets of prints that were financed by the Grand Duke.

Laude

Laude (singular: lauda, lauda spirituale) are the most important form of vernacular sacred song in Italy in the late medieval era and Renaissance. They remained popular into the nineteenth century.

Originally, the lauda was a monophonic (single-voice) form, but a polyphonic type developed in the early fifteenth century. The early lauda was probably influenced by the music of the troubadours, since it shows similarities in rhythm, melodic style, and especially notation. Many troubadours had fled their original homelands, such as Provence, during the Albigensian Crusade in the early 13th century, and settled in northern Italy where their music was influential in the development of the Italian secular style.

Madrigal

A madrigal is a type of secular vocal music composition, written during the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Throughout most of its history it was polyphonic and unaccompanied by instruments, with the number of voices varying from two to eight, but most frequently three to six. The earliest examples of the genre date from Italy in the 1520s, and while the center of madrigal production remained in Italy, madrigals were also written in England and Germany, especially late in the 16th and early in the 17th centuries. Unlike many strophic forms of the time, most madrigals are through-composed, with music being written to best express the sentiment of each line of a poetic text. The madrigal originated in part from the frottola, in part from the resurgence in interest in vernacular Italian poetry, and also from the influence of the French chanson and polyphonic style of the motet as written by the Franco-Flemish composers who had naturalized in Italy during the period. A frottola generally would consist of music set to stanzas of text, while madrigals were through-composed. However, some of the same poems were used for both frottola and madrigals. The poetry of Petrarch in particular shows up in a wide variety of genres. The madrigal is related mostly by name alone to the Italian trecento madrigal of the late 13th and 14th centuries.

Madrigal comedy

Madrigal comedy is a term for a kind of entertainment music of the late 16th century in Italy, in which groups of related, generally a cappella madrigals were sung consecutively, generally telling a story, and sometimes having a loose dramatic plot. It is an important element in the origins of opera. The term is of 20th century origin, popularised by Alfred Einstein.

Madrigale spirituale

A madrigale spirituale (Italian; pl. madrigali spirituali) is a madrigal, or madrigal-like piece of music, with a sacred rather than a secular text. Most examples of the form date from the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras, and principally come from Italy and Germany.

Mass

The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy (principally that of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church) to music. Most Masses are settings of the liturgy in Latin, the traditional language of the Roman Catholic Church, but there are a significant number written in the languages of non-Catholic countries where vernacular worship has long been the norm. For example, there are many Masses (often called "Communion Services") written in English for the Church of England.

Cyclic mass

In Renaissance music, the cyclic mass was a setting of the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass, in which each of the movements – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei – shared a common musical theme, commonly a cantus firmus, thus making it a unified whole. The cyclic mass was the first multi-movement form in western music to be subject to a single organizing principle.

The period of composition of cyclic masses was from about 1430 until around 1600, although some composers, especially in conservative musical centers, wrote them after that date. Types of cyclic masses include the "motto" mass (or "head-motif" mass), cantus-firmus mass, paraphrase mass, parody mass, as well as masses based on combinations of these techniques.

Parody mass

A parody mass is a musical setting of the mass, typically from the 16th century, that uses multiple voices of another pre-existing piece of music, such as a fragment of a motet or a secular chanson, as part of its melodic material. It is distinguished from the two other most prominent types of mass composition during the Renaissance, the cantus firmus and the paraphrase mass. "Parody" often has nothing to do with humor, as in the modern sense of the word; while in some cases bawdy secular songs were indeed used in composition of masses, equally often non-liturgical sacred music such as motets formed the basis for parody masses. Instead of calling it a "parody mass", the term "Imitation mass" has been suggested as being both more precise and closer to the original usage, since the term "parody" is based on a misreading of a late 16th century text.

Paraphrase mass

A paraphrase mass is a musical setting of the Ordinary of the Mass, using as its basis an elaborated version of a cantus firmus, typically chosen from plainsong or some other sacred source. It was a common means of mass composition from the late 15th century until the end of the 16th century, during the Renaissance period in music history, and was most frequently used by composers in the parts of western Europe which remained under the direct control of the Roman Catholic Church. It is distinguished from the other types of mass composition, including cantus-firmus, parody, canon, soggetto cavato, free composition, and mixtures of these techniques.

Cantus firmus mass

In Renaissance music, the cyclic mass was a setting of the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass, in which each of the movements – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei – shared a common musical theme, commonly a cantus firmus, thus making it a unified whole. The cyclic mass was the first multi-movement form in western music to be subject to a single organizing principle.

The period of composition of cyclic masses was from about 1430 until around 1600, although some composers, especially in conservative musical centers, wrote them after that date. Types of cyclic masses include the "motto" mass (or "head-motif" mass), cantus-firmus mass, paraphrase mass, parody mass, as well as masses based on combinations of these techniques.

Motet

In Classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.

The name comes either from the Latin movere, ("to move") or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian mottetto was also used. If the word is from Latin, the name describes the movement of the different voices against one another.

Motet-chanson

The motet-chanson was a specialized musical form of the Renaissance, developed in Milan during the 1470s and 1480s, which combined aspects of the contemporary motet and chanson.

It consisted of usually three voice parts, with the tenor voice, the lowest, singing a sacred text in Latin, usually drawn from chant, while the two upper voices sang a secular text in French. Generally the French text was either a commentary on the Latin text or served in a kind of symbolic relation to it. The tenor voice served as a cantus firmus, and usually sang in long notes, with phrases separated by long rests, while the upper voices, singing more quickly, followed the rigid formal structure of the contemporary formes fixes, particularly the rondeau and the bergerette.

Opera

Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (called a libretto) and musical score. Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.

Pavane

The pavane, pavan, paven, pavin, pavian, pavine, or pavyn (It. pavana, padovana; Ger. Paduana) is a slow processional dance common in Europe during the 16th century (Renaissance).

Ricercar

A ricercar (rich-er-kar)(or ricercare, recercar; the terms are interchangeable) is a type of late Renaissance and mostly early Baroque instrumental composition. The term means to search out, and many ricercars serve a preludial function to "search out" the key or mode of a following piece. A ricercar may explore the permutations of a given motif, and in that regard may follow the piece used as illustration. E.g. "Ricercar sopra Benedictus" would develop motives from a motet titled "Benedictus." The term is also used to designate an etude or study that explores a technical device in playing an instrument, or singing.

Tiento

Tiento is a musical genre originating in Spain in the mid-15th century. It is formally analogous to the fantasia (fantasy), found in England, Germany, and the Low Countries, and also the ricercare, first found in Italy. The word derives from the Spanish verb tentar (meaning either to touch, to tempt or to attempt), and was originally applied to music for various instruments. By the end of the 16th century the tiento was exclusively a keyboard form, especially of organ music. It continued to be the predominant form in the Spanish organ tradition through the time of Cabanilles, and developed many variants. Additionally, many 20th century composers have written works entitled "tiento."

Toccata

Toccata (from Italian toccare, "to touch") is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer's fingers. Less frequently, the name is applied to works for multiple instruments (the opening of Claudio Monteverdi's opera Orfeo being a notable example).

Baroque

Allemande

An allemande (also spelled allemanda, almain(e), or alman) (from the French word for "German") is one of the most popular instrumental dance forms in Baroque music, and a standard element of a suite. Originally, the allemande formed the first movement of the suite, before the courante, but, later, it was often preceded by an introductory movement, such as a prelude.

Cantata

A cantata (literally 'sung', derived from the Italian word 'cantare') is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir.

The meaning of the term changed over time, from the simple single voice madrigal of the early 17th century, to the multi-voice 'cantata da camera' and the 'cantata da chiesa' of the later part of that century, from the more substantial dramatic forms of the 18th century (including the 200-odd church and secular cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach) to the usually sacred-texted 19th-century cantata, which was effectively a type of short oratorio.

Concerto

A concerto (from the Italian: concerto, plural concerti or, often, the anglicised form concertos) as a musical work is a composition usually in three parts or movements, in which (usually) one solo instrument (for instance, a piano or violin) is accompanied by an orchestra. The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have origin from the conjunction of the two Latin words conserere (meaning to tie, to join, to weave) and certamen (competition, fight): the idea is that the two parts in a concerto, the soloist and the orchestra, alternate episodes of opposition and cooperation in the creation of the music flow.

The concerto, as understood in this modern way, arose in the Baroque period side by side with the concerto grosso, which contrasted a small group of instruments with the rest of the orchestra. While the concerto grosso is confined to the Baroque period, the solo concerto has continued as a vital musical force to this day.

Concerto grosso

The concerto grosso (Italian for big concert(o), plural concerti grossi) is a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists (the concertino) and full orchestra (the ripieno).

The form developed in the late seventeenth century, although the name was not used at first. Alessandro Stradella seems to have written the first music in which two groups of different sizes are combined in the characteristic way. The first major composer to use the term concerto grosso was Arcangelo Corelli. After Corelli's death, a collection of twelve of his concerti grossi was published; not long after, composers such as Francesco Geminiani and Giuseppe Torelli wrote concertos in the style of Corelli. He also had a strong influence on Antonio Vivaldi.

Fugue

In music, a fugue) is a contrapuntal composition in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition.

The English term fugue originates in the 16th century and is derived from either the French fugue or Italian fuga, which in turn comes from Latin, also fuga, which is itself related to both fugere (‘to flee’) and fugare, (‘to chase’). The adjectival form is fugal. Variants include fughetta (literally, 'a small fugue') and fugato (a passage in fugal style within another work that is not a fugue).

Gavotte

The gavotte (also gavot or gavote) originated as a French folk dance, taking its name from the Gavot people of the Pays de Gap region of Dauphiné, where the dance originated. It is notated in 4/4 or 2/2 time and is of moderate tempo. The distinctive rhythmic feature of the 18th-century French court gavotte is that phrases begin in the middle of the bar; that is, in either 4/4 or 2/2 time, the phrases begin on the third quarter note of the bar, creating a half-measure upbeat.

On the contrary, the music for the earlier court gavotte, first described by Thoinot Arbeau in 1589, invariably began on the downbeat of a duple measure, and the various folk gavottes found in mid-20th century Brittany were danced to music in 4/4, 2/4, 9/8, and 5/8 time. The 19th-century column-dance also called "gavotte" has nothing at all in common with the dances of the 16th to the 18th centuries.

Gigue

The gigue or giga is a lively baroque dance originating from the British jig. It was imported into France in the mid-17th century and usually appears at the end of a suite. The gigue was probably never a court dance, but it was danced by nobility on social occasions and several court composers wrote gigues.

Mass

The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy (principally that of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church) to music. Most Masses are settings of the liturgy in Latin, the traditional language of the Roman Catholic Church, but there are a significant number written in the languages of non-Catholic countries where vernacular worship has long been the norm. For example, there are many Masses (often called "Communion Services") written in English for the Church of England.

Minuet

A minuet, also spelled menuet, is a social dance of French origin for two people, usually in 3/4 time. The word was adapted from Italian minuetto and French menuet, meaning small, pretty, delicate, a diminutive of menu, from the Latin minutus; menuetto is a word that occurs only on musical scores. The name may refer to the short steps, pas menus, taken in the dance, or else be derived from the branle à mener or amener, popular group dances in early 17th-century France (Little 2001). At the period when it was most fashionable it was slow, soft, ceremonious, and graceful.

Opera

Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (called a libretto) and musical score. Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.

Opera buffa

Opera buffa (Italian, plural: opere buffe) is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as 'commedia in musica', 'commedia per musica', 'dramma bernesco', 'dramma comico', 'divertimento giocoso' etc. It is especially associated with developments in Naples in the first half of the 18th century, whence its popularity spread to Rome and northern Italy. It was at first characterized by everyday settings, local dialects, and simple vocal writing (the basso buffo is the associated voice type), the main requirement being clear diction and facility with patter.

Opera seria

Opera seria (usually called dramma per musica or melodramma serio) is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770. The term itself was rarely used at the time and only became common usage once opera seria became unfashionable, and was viewed as a historical genre. The popular rival to opera seria was opera buffa, the 'comic' opera that took its cue from the improvisatory commedia dell'arte.

Oratorio

An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is musical theatre, while oratorio is strictly a concert piece—though oratorios are sometimes staged as operas, and operas are sometimes presented in concert form. In an oratorio there is generally little or no interaction between the characters, and no props or elaborate costumes. A particularly important difference is in the typical subject matter of the text. Opera tends to deal with history and mythology, including age-old devices of romance, deception, and murder, whereas the plot of an oratorio often deals with sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church. Protestant composers took their stories from the Bible, while Catholic composers looked to the lives of saints. Oratorios became extremely popular in early 17th century Italy partly because of the success of the opera and the Church's prohibition of spectacles during Lent. Oratorios became the main choice of music during that period for opera audiences.

Partita

Partita was originally the name for a single instrumental piece of music (16th and 17th centuries), but Johann Kuhnau ( Thomaskantor - 1722, followed by Bach ) and later German composers (notably Johann Sebastian Bach) used it for collections of musical pieces, as a synonym for suite.

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote two sets of Partitas for different instruments. Those for solo keyboard the composer published as his Opus 1 (known as the Klavierübung I). One additional suite in B minor, the Overture in the French Style (often simply called French Overture) is sometimes also considered a Partita. Bach's Partitas are very rarely called the "German Suites", in analogy with the "national" naming of the English and French Suites. See Partitas for keyboard (825–830) and choral partitas for organ.

Passacaglia

The passacaglia is a musical form that originated in early seventeenth-century Spain and is still used by contemporary composers. It is usually of a serious character and is often, but not always, based on a bass-ostinato and written in triple metre.

Prelude

A prelude (Germ. Präludium or Vorspiel; Lat. praeludium; Fr. Prélude; It. Preludio) is a short piece of music, the form of which may vary from piece to piece. The prelude can be thought of as a preface. It may stand on its own or introduce another work. While, during the Baroque era, for example, it may have served as an introduction to succeeding movements of a work that were usually longer and more complex, it may also have been a stand alone piece of work during the Romantic era. It generally features a small number of rhythmic and melodic motifs that recur through the piece. Stylistically, the prelude is improvisatory in nature. The prelude can also refer to an overture, particularly to those seen in an opera or an oratorio.

Sarabande

In music, the sarabande (It., sarabanda) is a dance in triple metre. The second and third beats of each measure are often tied, giving the dance a distinctive rhythm of quarter notes and eighth notes in alternation. The quarters are said to corresponded with dragging steps in the dance.

The sarabande is first mentioned in Central America: in 1539, a dance called a zarabanda is mentioned in a poem written in Panama by Fernando Guzmán Mexía. Apparently the dance became popular in the Spanish colonies before moving back across the Atlantic to Spain. While it was banned in Spain in 1583 for its obscenity, it was frequently cited in literature of the period (for instance in works by Cervantes and Lope de Vega).

Sinfonia

Sinfonia is the Italian word for symphony. In English it most commonly refers to a 17th- or 18th-century orchestral piece used as an introduction, interlude, or postlude to an opera, oratorio, cantata, or suite. It has also sometimes been used for other types of music (see below).

Sonata

Sonata (from Latin and Italian sonare, "to sound", Italian: pl., Sonate), in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata (Latin and Italian cantare, "to sing"), a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era. The term took on increasing importance in the Classical period, and by the early 19th century the word came to represent a principle of composing large scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded alongside the fugue as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. Though the musical style of sonatas has changed since the Classical Era, most 20th- and 21st- century sonatas still maintain the same structure.

Flute sonata

A flute sonata is a sonata usually for flute and piano, though occasionally other accompanying instruments may be used. Flute sonatas in the Baroque period were very often accompanied in the form of basso continuo.

Suite

In music, a suite is an ordered set of instrumental or orchestral pieces normally performed in a concert setting rather than as accompaniment; they may be extracts from an opera, ballet, (Nutcracker Suite) or incidental music to a play (L'Arlésienne Suites) or film (Lieutenant Kije Suite), or they may be entirely original movements (Holberg Suite, The Planets).

In the Baroque era the suite was more precisely defined, with the pieces unified by key, and consisting of dances usually preceded by a prelude or overture. The suite was also known as Suite de danses, Ordre (the term favored by François Couperin) or Partita. In the eighteenth century, the term ouverture or overture may refer to the entire suite, as it does with the orchestral suites of Bach.

Classical and Romantic

Bagatelle

A bagatelle is a short piece of music, typically for the piano, and usually of a light, mellow character. The name bagatelle literally means a "trifle", as a reference to the innocent character of the piece.

Ballet

Ballet as a music form progressed from simply a complement to dance, to a concrete compositional form that often had as much value as the dance that went along with it. The dance form, originating in France during the 17th century, began as a theatrical dance. It was not until the 19th century that ballet gained status as a "classical" form. In ballet, the terms 'classical' and 'romantic' are chronologically reversed from musical usage. Thus, the 19th century classical period in ballet coincided with the 19th century Romantic era in Music. Ballet music composers from the 17th-19th centuries, including the likes of Jean-Baptiste Lully and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, were predominantly in France and Russia. Yet with the increased international notoriety seen in Tchaikovsky's lifetime, ballet music composition and ballet in general spread across the western world.

Carol

A carol is a festive song, generally religious but not necessarily connected with church worship, and often with a dance-like or popular character.

Today the carol is represented almost exclusively by the Christmas carol, the Advent carol, and to a much lesser extent by the Easter carol; however, despite their present association with religion, this has not always been the case.

Concerto

A concerto (from the Italian: concerto, plural concerti or, often, the anglicised form concertos) as a musical work is a composition usually in three parts or movements, in which (usually) one solo instrument (for instance, a piano or violin) is accompanied by an orchestra. The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have origin from the conjunction of the two Latin words conserere (meaning to tie, to join, to weave) and certamen (competition, fight): the idea is that the two parts in a concerto, the soloist and the orchestra, alternate episodes of opposition and cooperation in the creation of the music flow.

Clarinet concerto

A clarinet concerto is a concerto for clarinet and orchestra (or concert band). Albert Rice has identified a work by Giuseppe Antonio Paganelli as possibly the earliest known concerto for solo clarinet; its score appears to be titled "Concerto per Clareto" and may date from 1733. It may, however, be intended for soprano chalumeau. There are earlier concerti grossi with concertino clarinet parts including two by Johann Valentin Rathgeber, published in 1728. Relatively few clarinet concertos, or wind instrument concertos generally, were produced during Romantic music era, but the form became more popular in the twentieth century. Famous clarinet concertos include those by Mozart, Carl Maria von Weber, Louis Spohr, Carl Nielsen, Copland, and the more recent ones by John Corigliano, Kalevi Aho and John Williams.

Concerto grosso

The concerto grosso (Italian for big concert(o), plural concerti grossi) is a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists (the concertino) and full orchestra (the ripieno).

The form developed in the late seventeenth century, although the name was not used at first. Alessandro Stradella seems to have written the first music in which two groups of different sizes are combined in the characteristic way. The first major composer to use the term concerto grosso was Arcangelo Corelli. After Corelli's death, a collection of twelve of his concerti grossi was published; not long after, composers such as Francesco Geminiani and Giuseppe Torelli wrote concertos in the style of Corelli. He also had a strong influence on Antonio Vivaldi.

Flute concerto

A flute concerto is a concerto for solo flute and instrumental ensemble, customarily the orchestra. Such works have been written from the Baroque period, when the solo concerto form was first developed, up through the present day. Some major composers have contributed to the flute concerto repertoire, with the best known works including those by Mozart, and Vivaldi.

Piano concerto

A piano concerto is a concerto written for piano and orchestra. See also harpsichord concerto; some of these works are occasionally played on piano. Joseph Haydn and Thomas Arne wrote concertos for fortepiano or harpsichord, at the period of time when they were in common usage (the late 18th century.)

Violin concerto

A violin concerto is a concerto for solo violin (occasionally, two or more violins) and instrumental ensemble, customarily orchestra. Such works have been written since the Baroque period, when the solo concerto form was first developed, up through the present day. Many major composers have contributed to the violin concerto repertoire, with the best known works including those by Bach, Barber, Bartók, Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Bruch, Dvorak, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Paganini, Prokofiev, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi. Traditionally a three-movement work, the violin concerto has been structured in four movements by a number of 20th Century composers, including Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, and Berg (in the latter, the first two and last two movements are connected, with the only break coming between the second and third). In some violin concertos, especially from the Baroque and modern eras, the violin (or group of violins) is accompanied by a chamber ensemble rather than an orchestra—for instance, Vivaldi's L'estro Armonico, originally scored for four violins, two violas, cello, and continuo, and Allan Pettersson's first concerto, for violin and string quartet.

Étude

An étude (a French word meaning study), is an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill. The tradition of writing études emerged in the early 19th century with the rapidly growing popularity of the piano. Of the vast number of études from that era some are still used as teaching material (particularly pieces by Carl Czerny and Muzio Clementi), and a few, by major composers such as Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy and Charles-Valentin Alkan, achieved a place in today's concert repertory. Composers of the 20th century variously composed études related to the old tradition (György Ligeti), études that required wholly unorthodox technique (John Cage), and études that required unusually facile technique.

Impromptu

An impromptu (loosely meaning "offhand") is a free-form musical composition with the character of an ex tempore improvisation as if prompted by the spirit of the moment, usually for a solo instrument, such as piano. The first recorded use of the term impromptu in this sense occurred in 1817, in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, an idea of the publisher to describe a piano piece by Jan Václav Voříšek.

Intermezzo

In music, an intermezzo (Italian, plural: intermezzi), in the most general sense, is a composition which fits between other musical or dramatic entities, such as acts of a play or movements of a larger musical work. In music history, the term has had several different usages, which fit into two general categories: the opera intermezzo and the instrumental intermezzo.

Lied

Lied is a German and Dutch word meaning "song"; among English speakers, however, the word is used primarily as a term for European romantic songs, also known as art songs. The term is usually used to describe songs composed to a German poem of reasonably high literary aspirations, especially during the nineteenth century, beginning with Carl Loewe, Heinrich Marschner, and Franz Schubert and culminating with Hugo Wolf. The poetry forming the basis for Lieder often centers upon pastoral themes, or themes of romantic love. Typically, Lieder are arranged for a single singer and piano. Some of the most famous examples of Lieder are Schubert's Der Tod und Das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden) and Gretchen am Spinnrade. Sometimes Lieder are gathered in a Liederkreis or "song cycle"—a series of songs (generally three or more) tied by a single narrative or theme, such as Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben or Dichterliebe. The composers Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann are most closely associated with this genre, mainly developed in the Romantic era.

Mass

The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy (principally that of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church) to music. Most Masses are settings of the liturgy in Latin, the traditional language of the Roman Catholic Church, but there are a significant number written in the languages of non-Catholic countries where vernacular worship has long been the norm. For example, there are many Masses (often called "Communion Services") written in English for the Church of England.

Mazurka

The mazurka (in Polish, mazurek) is a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with an accent on the second or third beat.

Nocturne

A nocturne (from the French which meant nocturnal, from Latin nocturnus) is usually a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night. Historically, nocturne is a very old term applied to night Offices and, since the Middle Ages, to divisions in the canonical hour of Matins.

The name nocturne was first applied to pieces in the 18th century, when it indicated an ensemble piece in several movements, normally played for an evening party and then laid aside. Sometimes it carried the Italian equivalent, notturno, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's quadraphonic Notturno in D, K.286, written for four lightly echoing separated ensembles of paired horns with strings, and his Serenata Notturna, K. 239. At this time, the piece was not necessarily evocative of the night, but might merely be intended for performance at night, much like a serenade.

Opera

Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (called a libretto) and musical score. Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.

Ballad opera

The term ballad opera is used to refer to a genre of English stage entertainment originating in the 18th century and continuing to develop in the following century and later. There are many types of ballad opera. This article describes the principal sub-genres.

Opera buffa

Opera buffa (Italian, plural: opere buffe) is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as 'commedia in musica', 'commedia per musica', 'dramma bernesco', 'dramma comico', 'divertimento giocoso' etc. It is especially associated with developments in Naples in the first half of the 18th century, whence its popularity spread to Rome and northern Italy. It was at first characterized by everyday settings, local dialects, and simple vocal writing (the basso buffo is the associated voice type), the main requirement being clear diction and facility with patter.

Opera comique

Opéra comique (plural: opéras comiques) is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged out of the popular opéra comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent (and to a lesser extent the Comédie-Italienne), which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections. Associated with the Paris theatre of the same name, the Opéra-Comique, opéra comique is not always comic or light in nature — indeed, Carmen, probably the most famous opéra comique, is a tragedy.

Opera seria

Opera seria (usually called dramma per musica or melodramma serio) is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770. The term itself was rarely used at the time and only became common usage once opera seria became unfashionable, and was viewed as a historical genre. The popular rival to opera seria was opera buffa, the 'comic' opera that took its cue from the improvisatory commedia dell'arte.

Operetta

Operetta (Italian, plural: operette) is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.

Overture

Overture (from the French ouverture, meaning opening) in music is the instrumental introduction to a dramatic, choral or, occasionally, instrumental composition. During the early Romantic era, composers such as Beethoven and Mendelssohn began to use the term to refer to instrumental, programmatic works that presaged genres such as the symphonic poem.

Singspiel

A Singspiel (German literally meaning "song-play") (plural: Singspiele) is a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera. It is characterized by spoken dialogue, which is alternated with ensembles, songs, ballads, and arias (which were often lyrical, strophic, or folk-like), rather like an operetta.

Zarzuela

Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance. The name derives from a Royal hunting lodge, the Palacio de la Zarzuela near Madrid, where this type of entertainment was first presented to the court.

There are two main forms of zarzuela: Baroque zarzuela (c.1630–1750), the earliest style, and Romantic zarzuela (c.1850–1950), which can be further divided into two. Main sub-genres are género grande and género chico, although other sub-divisions exist.

Concert Aria

A concert aria is normally a free-standing aria or opera-like scene (scena) composed for singer and orchestra, written specifically for performance in concert rather than as part of an opera. Concert arias have usually been composed for particular singers, the composer always bearing that singer's voice and skill in mind when composing the work.

Oratorio

An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is musical theatre, while oratorio is strictly a concert piece—though oratorios are sometimes staged as operas, and operas are sometimes presented in concert form. In an oratorio there is generally little or no interaction between the characters, and no props or elaborate costumes. A particularly important difference is in the typical subject matter of the text. Opera tends to deal with history and mythology, including age-old devices of romance, deception, and murder, whereas the plot of an oratorio often deals with sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church. Protestant composers took their stories from the Bible, while Catholic composers looked to the lives of saints. Oratorios became extremely popular in early 17th century Italy partly because of the success of the opera and the Church's prohibition of spectacles during Lent. Oratorios became the main choice of music during that period for opera audiences.

Polonaise

The polonaise (Polish: polonez, chodzony; Italian: polacca) is a slow dance of Polish origin, in 3/4 time. Its name is French for "Polish." The notation alla polacca on a score indicates that the piece should be played with the rhythm and character of a polonaise (e.g., the rondo in Beethoven's Triple Concerto op. 56 has this instruction).

The polonaise had a rhythm quite close to that of the Swedish semiquaver or sixteenth-note polska, and the two dances have a common origin.

Prelude

A prelude (Germ. Präludium or Vorspiel; Lat. praeludium; Fr. Prélude; It. Preludio) is a short piece of music, the form of which may vary from piece to piece. The prelude can be thought of as a preface. It may stand on its own or introduce another work. While, during the Baroque era, for example, it may have served as an introduction to succeeding movements of a work that were usually longer and more complex, it may also have been a stand alone piece of work during the Romantic era. It generally features a small number of rhythmic and melodic motifs that recur through the piece. Stylistically, the prelude is improvisatory in nature. The prelude can also refer to an overture, particularly to those seen in an opera or an oratorio.

Quartet

In music, a quartet (French: quatuor, German: Quartett, Italian: quartetto, Spanish: cuarteto, Polish: kwartet) is a method of instrumentation (or a medium), used to perform a musical composition, and consisting of four parts.

Piano quartet

A piano quartet is a musical ensemble consisting of a piano and three other instruments, or a piece written for such a group. In classical music, those other instruments are usually a string trio, that is a violin, viola and cello.

String quartet

A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players — usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist — or a piece written to be performed by such a group. The string quartet is one of the most prominent chamber ensembles in classical music. The string quartet is widely seen as one of the most important forms in chamber music, with most major composers, from the late 18th century onwards, writing string quartets.

Quintet

A quintet is a group containing five members. It is commonly associated with musical groups, such as a string quintet, or a group of five singers, but can be applied to any situation where five similar or related objects are considered a single unit. In classical instrumental music, any additional instrument (such as a piano, clarinet, oboe, etc.) joined to the usual string quartet (two violins, a viola, and a cello), gives the resulting ensemble its name, such as "piano quintet", "clarinet quintet", etc. A piece of music written for such a group is similarly named.

Piano quintet

In European classical music, piano quintet is a chamber musical ensemble comprising one piano and four other instruments, or music composed for or played by such a group. Since the Romantic period, a piano quintet is most commonly scored for one piano, two violins, a viola, and a cello—that is, a piano with a string quartet. Acknowledged masterpieces for this combination of instruments have been composed by Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvořák and Dmitri Shostakovich.

String quintet

A string quintet is an ensemble of five string instrument players or a piece written for such a combination. The most common combinations in classical music are two violins, two violas and cello or two violins, viola and two cellos. The second cello is occasionally replaced by a double bass, as in Antonín Dvořák's quintet Op. 77 or Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart pioneered writing for a string quartet augmented by a second viola, and one outstanding masterpiece for the two-cello quintet is Franz Schubert's Quintet in C major. Closely related chamber music genres include the string trio, the string quartet, and the string sextet.

Requiem

A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead (Latin: Missa pro defunctis) or Mass of the dead (Latin: Missa defunctorum), is Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular formula of the Roman Missal. It is frequently, but not necessarily, celebrated in the context of a funeral.

Rhapsody

A rhapsody in music is a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality. An air of spontaneous inspiration and a sense of improvisation make it freer in form than a set of variations. Sergei Rachmaninoff's set of variations on a theme by Niccolò Paganini are so free in structure that the composer called them a Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Rondo

Rondo, and its French equivalent rondeau, is a word that has been used in music in a number of ways, most often in reference to a musical form, but also to a character-type that is distinct from the form. Although now called rondo form, the form started off in the Baroque period as the ritornello, from the Italian word ritornare meaning "to return" - indicating the return to the original theme or motif ("A"). The typical Baroque ritornello pattern is ABACABA. Although there are a few differences, some people use the two terms, rondo and ritornello, interchangeably.

Scherzo

A scherzo (plural scherzi) is a piece of music, often a movement from a larger piece such as a symphony or a sonata. The scherzo's precise definition has varied over the years, but it often refers to a movement which replaces the minuet as the third movement in a four-movement work, such as a symphony, sonata, or string quartet. Scherzo also frequently refers to a fast-moving humorous composition which may or may not be part of a larger work. The word "scherzo" means "joke" in Italian. Sometimes the word "scherzando" ("joking") is used in musical notation to indicate that a passage should be executed in a playful manner.

Serenade

In music, a serenade (or sometimes serenata) is a musical composition, and/or performance, in someone's honor. Serenades are typically calm, light music.

The word Serenade is derived from the Italian word sereno, which means calm.

Sonata

Sonata (from Latin and Italian sonare, "to sound", Italian: pl., Sonate), in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata (Latin and Italian cantare, "to sing"), a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era. The term took on increasing importance in the Classical period, and by the early 19th century the word came to represent a principle of composing large scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded alongside the fugue as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. Though the musical style of sonatas has changed since the Classical Era, most 20th- and 21st- century sonatas still maintain the same structure.

Bassoon sonata

A bassoon sonata is a sonata for bassoon, often with piano accompaniment. Sonatas written for bassoon were relatively uncommon until the second half of the twentieth century. Occasionally, sonatas written for bassoon are also able to be performed on cello. The twentieth century also saw a greater proliferation of sonatas for solo bassoon and sonatas for bassoon in various duets with other instruments (such as cello or oboe). Unless otherwise noted, the pieces below are for bassoon and piano.

Cello sonata

A cello sonata usually denotes a sonata written for cello and piano, though other instrumentations are used, such as solo cello. The most famous Romantic-era cellos sonatas are those written by Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven. Some of the earliest cello sonatas were written in the 18th century by Francesco Geminiani and Antonio Vivaldi.

Clarinet sonata

A clarinet sonata is piece of music in sonata form for clarinet, often with piano accompaniment.

The Clarinet Sonatas by Brahms are of special significance to the clarinet repertoire. Written for clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld fairly late in Brahms' life, they are regarded as masterpieces by an icon of 19th century romantic music.

Piano sonata

A piano sonata is a sonata written for unaccompanied piano. Piano sonatas are usually written in three or four movements, although piano sonatas have been written with one movement (Scarlatti, Scriabin), two movements (Beethoven, Haydn), five (Brahms' Third Piano Sonata) or even more movements. The first movement is usually composed in sonata form.

Violin sonata

A violin sonata is a musical composition for violin, which is nearly always accompanied by a piano or other keyboard instrument, or by figured bass in the Baroque period.

Symphony

A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. "Symphony" does not necessarily imply a specific form, though most are composed according to the sonata principle. Many symphonies are tonal works in four movements with the first in sonata form, which is often described by music theorists as the structure of a "classical" symphony, although many symphonies by the acknowledged classical masters of the form, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven do not conform to this model.

Waltz

A waltz, or valse from the French term, is a piece of music in triple meter, most often 3/4-beat (help·info) but sometimes 3/8 or 3/2. Waltzes typically have one chord per measure, and the accompaniment style particularly associated with the waltz is (as seen in the example to the right) to play the root of the chord on the first beat, the upper notes on the second and third beats. This is known as an "oom-pa-pa" beat.



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Published - February 2011







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