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A (i)  

David Fallows

(It.).

A preposition found particularly in 16th- and 17th-century editions of polyphonic music where works are described as being a due (a 2), a tre (a 3), a dieci (a 10), etc., meaning in two, three or ten voices respectively. Many prints had it with an accent (à 2, etc.), but in modern Italian à is a variant form of ha (‘he has’) so is perhaps better avoided in this context wherever possible. It is the current French form, however, and is found particularly in French orchestral scores, à 2 (à deux) meaning the same as the Italian A due. As one of the commonest words in the Italian language, a occurs in many compound tempo and expression marks and has different meanings that may be found in any Italian dictionary. It appears before a vowel as ad and contracts with the definite article as ...

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A (v)  

Article

Robert Donington

Article

Richard Rastall

As used in the notation of music, abbreviations fall into two main categories: modifications of normal note shapes, signs etc.; and verbal instructions that replace fully written-out music. Abbreviations are far more common in manuscript than in printed music.

Modified note shapes and other non-verbal signs usually represent repetitions of passages of music, varying in length from a single note to a large part of a movement. Other abbreviations of this type avoid such clumsy features of notation as leger lines. See ex.1, ex.2, ex.3, ex.4, ex.5, ex.6, ex.7, ex.8, ex.9, ex.10, ex.11.

Abbreviated verbal instructions are sometimes used in a score when instruments play in unison in orchestral music: the lines belonging to one instrument may be left blank in the score, the notes being replaced by an instruction such as col violini (‘with the violins’) or col basso (‘with the bass’). This often occurs when, for instance, first and second violins play in unison, the seconds having ...

Article

Clive Brown

[Stossen].

The normal German equivalent of the Italian verb staccare (‘to separate or detach; to play staccato’); the noun Stoss was used to mean staccato. Like its Italian counterpart it implies not only separation but also, in many cases, accent. Stoss means literally a blow or shove and the verb means to push, shove or jab. The prefix ab- indicates ‘off’. J.G. Walther, in his Musicalisches Lexicon, 1732, made a distinction between staccato and stoccato deriving the one from staccare (Ger. entkleben, ablösen), and the other from stocco (‘a stick’; Ger. Stock), which he considered to imply that the note was pushed or jabbed (gestossen). Walther's etymology, whether accurate or not, emphasizes the dual meaning of the term staccato in German usage. It was often, especially in the context of keyboard playing, used merely to indicate that notes were to be shortened; thus Türk equated the noun ...

Article

Peter Walls

(Ger.).

In string playing Abstrich and Aufstrich denote ‘down-bow’ and ‘up-bow’, respectively. ‘Down-bow’ is indicated by the sign (a stylized representation of the frog of the bow) and ‘up-bow’ by (representing the point of the bow). These symbols were first described by Baillot (L'art du violon, 1834) who implied that they had been in general use for some time. ...

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James Tyler

Article

Howard Mayer Brown

According to C.P.E. Bach, Marpurg and Quantz in the 18th century, an Abzug is a decrescendo into the principal note from a long appoggiatura. Georg Simon Löhlein (Clavier-Schule, 1765 and later) said ‘Abzug’ is synonymous with ‘Schneller’, that is, a trill with one repercussion starting and ending with the main note, the ornament called ‘inverted mordent’ by some writers. For these meanings of the term see F. Neumann: ...

Article

Howard Mayer Brown

Article

(It.: ‘hastening’, ‘quickening’; gerund of accelerare)

A direction to increase the speed of a musical performance, often over a fairly long passage. It is usually abbreviated to accel., and is in practice much rarer than its contrary, rallentando. Koch (Musikalisches Lexikon, 1802), translating it as eilend, drew attention to terms he considered more common at the time, ...

Article

Accent  

Matthias Thiemel

The prominence given to a note or notes in performance by a perceptible alteration (usually increase) in volume (‘dynamic accent’); a lengthening of duration or a brief preceding silence of articulation (‘agogic accent’); an added ornament or pitch inflection of a melodic note (‘pitch accent’); or by any combination of these. The term is also used for any of the notational signs used to indicate that such prominence is required. On instruments capable of immediate dynamic nuance, including the voice and most strings, wind and percussion, an increase of volume is usually the chief element in this prominence, commonly at the start (with a more assertive effect), but alternatively just after the start (with a more insinuating effect, for which one specific term is Sforzando). On instruments not capable of much if any dynamic nuance, such as the harpsichord and the organ, prominence of this type can be given, and an effect of dynamic accentuation simulated, by agogic accents. In principle, any quality that distinguishes notes from their predecessors and successors can produce a ‘subjective’ or ‘perceptible’ accent....

Article

Accento  

Article

Matthias Thiemel

The use of Periodicals, in musical performance, real or imagined. The term may refer to particular notes or chords, or more comprehensively to an entire performance; in the modern Western tradition, accentuation, together with phrasing, articulation, dynamics etc. contributes to ‘expression’, and in vocal settings since the 16th century at least this has often been taken to imply a responsibility of conforming expressively to the spoken accentuation of the text.

Over the centuries composers and theorists have offered more or less precise guidelines for accentuation. Some 13th-century writers (Anonymus 4, Franco of Cologne, Odington and Lambertus) stated that singers should moderate dissonances occurring at points of emphasis or at the beginnings of compositions. Keyboard composers up to the early 18th century advocated the use of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ fingers on ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ beats. In general, however, polyphonic music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods is characterized by freedom in the accentuation implied by the separate parts: Rousseau observed that ‘there are as many accents as there are modifications of the voice; and there are as many kinds of accent as there are differences between such modifications’ (...

Article

Article

Robert E. Seletsky

(It.; Fr. pincé étouffé; Ger. Zusammenschlag).

A ‘crushed note’. C.P.E. Bach (1753) and F.W. Marpurg (1755), who provided the German translation Zusammenschlag, defined the acciaccatura as a non-harmonic note played a tone or semitone below any of the main notes in arpeggiated chords, and immediately released. In 18th-century German sources such as C.P.E. Bach's treatise, it was frequently indicated with an upward diagonal stroke through the stem between the harmonic members of the chord. In melodic usage, the same writers classed the unprepared, simultaneously struck dissonant 2nd followed by the release of the lower note as a form of mordent. The Italian theorists Francesco Gasparini (1708) and Francesco Geminiani (1749) reserved the term acciaccatura for dissonances a whole tone below the harmonic notes played during arpeggiation, but used the terms mordente (Gasparini) or tatto (Geminiani) when the dissonant note was a semitone below the main note. These writers were unclear about the necessity of releasing the non-harmonic notes of whole tone interval; but Geminiani stated that the ...

Article

David Hiley

A sign placed, in modern notational practice, before a note, which alters its previously understood pitch by one or two semitones. The sharp (♯; Fr. dièse; Ger. Kreuz; It. diesis) raises a note by one semitone; the double sharp (𝄪; Fr. double dièse; Ger. Doppelkreuz; It. doppio diesis) raises it by two semitones. The flat (♭; Fr. bémol; Ger. Be; It. bemolle) lowers a note by one semitone; the double flat (♭♭; Fr. double bémol; Ger. Doppel-Be; It. doppio bemolle) lowers it by two semitones. The natural (♮; Fr. bécarre; Ger. Auflösungszeichen or Quadrat; It. bequadro) cancels a previous sharp or flat. A double sharp is changed to a single sharp by writing ♮♯ or occasionally ♯, a double flat to a single flat by ♮♭ or occasionally ♭.

For a discussion of the addition of accidentals to early music see Musica ficta; see also...

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Article

David Fuller

(Lat.: ‘at the pleasure’ [of the performer])

Used in titles, particularly in the later 18th century, to indicate that one or more instruments may be left out, e.g. Tapray: Simphonie concertante pour le clavecin et le piano-forte avec orchestre ad libitum (1783), and in scores, as a direction to the player to improvise or ornament. Handel's Organ Concertos op.7 furnish several examples: embellishment of a written line (no.2, Overture), elaboration of a fermata (same movement), continuation of a solo passage (no.1, first movement), improvisation of an adagio on a harmonic skeleton (no.5), and improvisation of a whole movement ...

Article

David Fallows

(It., diminutive of adagio).

A tempo designation suggesting something more lighthearted than Adagio as in Poulenc’s Les biches and Stravinsky's Piano Sonata (1924). But its most famous use is in Mahler's Fifth Symphony, where the fourth movement, for strings and harp, has the title Adagietto and the tempo designation sehr langsam; there it is used to mean a relatively brief slow movement with a fairly light texture. Unlike ...

Article

Adagio  

David Fallows

(It.: ‘at ease’, ‘leisurely’).

A tempo designation whose meaning has changed substantially over the years. Early forms of the word in musical scores include adaggio (Monteverdi, 1610; Cavalli, L’Elena, 1659) and adasio (Frescobaldi, 1635; Erasmus Kindermann, 1639). In the 18th and 19th centuries it was often abbreviated to ado and adago. The form ad agio is also found, though not in musical contexts.

Praetorius (Syntagma musicum, iii, 2/1619/R) equated it with largo and lento, translating all three as langsam; in the preface to his Sonnata’s of III Parts (1683) Purcell said that it and grave ‘import nothing but a very slow movement’. Monteverdi seems to have used the word in this sense in the six-voice Magnificat of his 1610 collection, where he gave the organist the instruction ‘Et si suona Adaggio, perchè li soprano cantano di croma’ (‘play slowly because the sopranos sing quavers’). Banchieri was probably the first to use it specifically as a tempo designation, rather than just part of an elaborate explanatory sentence, in ‘La battaglia’ from ...