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Preface to A Dictionary of Music and Musicians

In the preface to the first edition of his dictionary, Sir George Grove demonstrated an enthusiasm to meet what he and his publisher Macmillan saw as a pressing need for an exhaustive, music-focused study resource. Music, Grove felt, had never before been taken “in a more serious spirit,” nor performed and studied with as much rigor. This new interest in music scholarship required a reference tool to support it, and Grove and Macmillan aimed to create one.

A self-educated musical amateur himself, Grove sought to make his dictionary useful to both professional musicians and amateurs, in part by curating the content to focus on what he considered “practical music.” Grove’s curatorial decisions were informed by his position as an Englishman steeped in the Western European tradition. Since he wrote very much from the perspective of his time, his commentary on what he considered practical and essential is, at times, jarring and uncomfortable to a modern reader. Nonetheless, Grove’s original volumes provided the impetus for a work that has taken on a vibrant life of its own, growing and adapting to reflect modern musicological sensibilities. And Grove’s preface hints at the ambitious ideas that have supported the dictionary since its very beginning.

Click here for a list of all Grove Music Online entries written by Grove himself.


Preface.

This work is intended to supply a great and long acknowledged want. A growing demand has arisen in this country and the United States for information on all matters directly and indirectly connected with Music, owing to the great spread of concerts, musical publications, private practice, and interest in the subject, and to the immense improvement in the general position of music which has taken place since the commencement of the present century. Music is now performed, studied, and listened to by a much larger number of persons, and in a more serious spirit, than was the case at any previous period of our history. It is rapidly becoming an essential branch of education; the newest works of continental musicians are eagerly welcomed here very soon after their appearance abroad, and a strong desire is felt by a large, important, and increasing section of the public to know something of the structure and peculiarities of the music which they hear and play, of the nature and history of the instruments on which it is performed, of the biographies and characteristics of its composers – in a word, of all such particulars as may throw light on the rise, progress, and present condition of an Art which is at once so prominent and so eminently progressive.

This desire it is the object of the Dictionary of Music and Musicians to meet. It is designed for the use of Professional musicians and Amateurs alike. It contains definitions and Musical Terms; explanations of the forms in which Musical Works are constructed, and of the methods by which they are elaborated, as well as of the origin, structure, and successive modifications of Instruments; histories and descriptions of Societies and Institutions; notices of the composition, production, and contents of important works; lists of the principal published collections; biographies of representative composers, singers, players, and patrons of music – all the points, in short, immediate and remote,on which those interested in the Art, and alive to its many and far-reaching associations, can desire to be informed.

The limit of the history has been fixed at A.D. 1450, as the most remote date to which the rise of modern music can be carried back. Thus mere archæology has been avoided, while the connection between the mediæval systems and the wonderful modern art to which they gave rise has been insisted on and brought out wherever possible. While the subjects have been treated thoroughly and in a manner not unworthy the attention of the professional musician, the style has been anxiously divested of technicality, and the musical illustrations have been taken, in most cases, from classical works likely to be familiar to the amateur, or within his reach.

The articles are based as far as possible on independent sources, and on the actual research of the writers, and it is hoped that in many cases fresh subjects have been treated, new and interesting information given, and some ancient mistakes corrected. As instances of the kind of subjects embraced and the general mode of treatment adopted, reference may be made to the larger biographies – especially that of Haydn, which is crowded with new facts; to the articles on Auber, Berlioz, Bodenschatz, Bull, Cristofori, David, Farinelli, Finck, Froberger, Galitzin, Gibbons, Hasse; on Additional Accompaniments, Agrémens, Arpeggio, Arrangement, Fingering, Form, and Harmony; on Académie de Musique, Bachgesellschaft, Breitkopf and Härtel, Bassoon, Carmagnole, Choral Symphony, Conservatoire, Concerts, Concert Spirituel, Copyright, Drum, English Opera, Fidelio, Grand Prix de Rome, Handel and Haydn Society, Handel Festivals and Commemorations, Harpsichord, Harmonica, Hexachord, and many others. The engraved illustrations have been specially prepared for the work, and will speak for themselves.

In an English dictionary it has been thought right to treat English music and musicians with special care, and to give their biographies and achievements with some minuteness of detail. On this point thanks are due to Colonel Joseph Lemuel Chester for much accurate information which it would have been almost impossible to obtain elsewhere, and which he has afforded in every case with the greatest kindness and promptitude.

Every means has been taken to procure an adequate treatment of the various topics, and to bring the information down as near as possible to the day of publication. Notwithstanding the Editor’s desire, however, omissions and errors have occurred. These will be rectified in an Appendix on the publication of the final volume.

The limits of the work have necessarily excluded disquisitions on Acoustics, Anatomy, Mechanics, and other branches of science connected with the main subject, which though highly important are not absolutely requisite in a book concerned with practical music. In the case of Acoustics, sufficient references are given to the best works to enable the student to pursue the enquiry for himself, outside the Dictionary. Similarly all investigations into the music of barbarous nations have been avoided, unless they have some direct bearing on European music.

The Editor gladly takes this early opportunity to express his deep obligations to the writers of the various articles. Their names are in themselves a guarantee for the value of their contributions; but the lively interest which they have shown in the work and the care they have taken in the preparation of their articles, often involving much time, and laborious, disinterested research, demand his warm acknowledgment.

29 BEDFORD STREET,
COVENT GARDEN, LONDON.
April 1, 1879


The following is a list of articles originally authored by George Grove and currently accessible on Grove Music Online. Grove wrote many more articles for his dictionary, which have over the years been revised by other scholars or replaced with fresh articles.

A piacere
Attacca
Böhner, Ludwig
Bridgetower, George Polgreen
Chouquet, Gustave
Couac
Fackeltanz
Gadsby, Henry
Goldberg, Joseph
Hayes, Catherine
Lays, François
Lemmens-Sherrington, Helen
Mosewius, Johann Theodor
Neithardt, Heinrich August
Pole, William
Praeger, Ferdinand
Randegger, Alberto
Sainton, Prosper
Schauroth [Hill-Handley], Delphine (Adolphine) von
Schimon, Adolf
Schubert, Louis
Stern, Julius
Stirling, Elizabeth
Tausch, Julius
Taylor, Franklin
Teneramente
Turpin, Edmund
Wasielewski, Wilhelm Joseph von


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