Music Encyclopedias

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Music Encyclopedias


scholarly reference works containing systematized information on all aspects of musical culture.

The appearance of music encyclopedias in the 18th century is linked with the spread of music not only among the privileged but also among the democratic strata of the population, with the growing interest in problems of the art of music, and with the development of professional musical education and music scholarship. Precursors of music encyclopedias were the numerous medieval treatises on music theory containing lexicographic information, as well as specialized lexicographic works initially devoted to such aspects of music as music theory, musical instruments, musical terminology, and biographies of musicians. One of the first such works was the dictionary of musical terminology compiled by the Franco-Flemish theoretician and composer J. Tinctoris (Terminorum musicae diffinitorium, Treviso, 1475). Appearing several centuries later, music encyclopedias summarized contemporary knowledge of music theory and practice, as well as information contained in previously published music dictionaries. In music encyclopedias, the selection of musical phenomena of the present and past, explanations of historical events and facts, and aesthetic evaluations attest to the achievements in musicology of a particular historical period and reflect the epoch’s ideological and scholarly level.

The first music encyclopedia appeared in Germany in 1732, when J. G. Walther published his Musicalisches Lexicon, oder musikalische Bibliothek in Leipzig. In 1835 publication began of the first multivolume music encyclopedia, G. Schilling’s Encyclopddie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften, oder Universal-Lexikon der Tonkunst (vols. 1–6, Stuttgart, 1835–38; vol. 7, supplement, Stuttgart, 1840–42).

H. Mendel’s Musikalisches Conversations-Lexikon: Eine Encyclopadie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften (vols. 1–11, Berlin, 1870–79; vol. 12, supplement, Berlin, 1883) played a progressive role in the development of music lexicography and laid the foundation for modern music encyclopedias. Among the most important modern music encyclopedias is H. Riemann’s Musik-Lexikon, published in Leipzig in 1882. One of the most popular works of this type, it has been revised and updated many times and has appeared in numerous editions. The most recent edition is a three-volume work issued between 1959 and 1967, with a supplement published in 1972. Other noteworthy music encyclopedias include F. Blume’s Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Allgemeine Enzyclopädie (vols. 1–14, Kassel-Basel, 1949–68, with supplementary volumes currently appearing); the British Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (vols. 1–4, London-New York, 1879–90, 5th ed.; vols. 1–10, London-New York, 1954–61), edited by E. Blom; the French Encyclopédie de la musique (vols. 1–3, Paris, 1958–61); the Italian Enciclopedia della musica (vols. 1–4, Milan, 1963–64), published by Ricordi; the Dutch Algemene muziekencyclopedie (vols. 1–6, Antwerp-Amsterdam, 1957–63); the American International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians (New York, 1939; 9th ed., New York, 1964) by O. Thompson; and the Yugoslav Muzič ka Encik-lopedija (vols. 1–2, Zagreb, 1958–63; 2nd ed., vol. 1, 1971).

In Russia the first encyclopedic reference works on music were written in the 19th century: L. A. Snegirev’s Ruchnaia muzykal’naia kniga (Music Handbook; St. Petersburg, 1837; 2nd ed., vols. 1–2, St. Petersburg, 1840) and P. D. Perepelitsyn’s Muzykal’nyi slovar’: Entsiklopedicheskii spravochnyi sbornik (Music Dictionary: An Encyclopedic Reference Anthology, Moscow, 1884). Between 1901 and 1904, H. Riemann’s Musik-Lexikon was published in Moscow in Russian translation. It was edited by Iu. D. Engel’ and supplemented with many articles on Russian musical culture (biographies, musical terminology).

The second edition of the revised and updated Entsiklopedicheskii muzykal’nyi slovar’ (Encyclopedic Music Dictionary) by B. S. Shteinpress and I. M. Iampol’skii was published in the USSR in 1966 (the first edition had appeared in Moscow in 1959). The work contains about 7,000 articles and includes a supplement with more than 3,000 musical terms in foreign languages. The first volume of the projected five-volume Muzykal’naia entsyklopediia (Music Encyclopedia) appeared in 1973. It is the first large-scale Soviet reference work on music and aims to provide basic information on the leading branches of musical scholarship and practice, to show the richness and progressive role of the Russian classical heritage, to present the most important phenomena of the musical culture of the peoples of the USSR and other socialist countries, to explain the conflict among the various trends in contemporary foreign music, and to describe the musical culture of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.


Spravochnaia literatura po muzyke: Ukazatel’ izdanii na russkom iazyke, 1773–1962. [Compiled by G. B. Koltypina.] Moscow, 1964.
Schaal, R. Jahrbuch der Musikwelt [1st annual edition], 1949–50. Bayreuth, 1949.
Coover, J. B. A Bibliography of Music Dictionaries . Denver, 1952.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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