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The Harvard concise dictionary of music and musicians

Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
viii, 757 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
"Entries are arranged alphabetically and encompass terms, musical forms and styles, individual works, and instruments, as well as composers, performers, and theorists." Booklist.
Added Author:
Added Uniform Title:
New Harvard dictionary of music.

Harvard biographical dictionary of music.


Call Number

On Order



This compact guide to the history and performance of music is both authoritative and a pleasure to use. With entries drawn and condensed from the widely acclaimed New Harvard Dictionary of Music and its companion The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music, it is a dependable reference for home and classroom and for professional and amateur musicians.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Randel edited The New Harvard Dictionary of Music (1986) and The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (1996), and he has drawn on both works to create this "compact guide." Entries are arranged alphabetically and encompass terms, musical forms and styles, individual works, and instruments, as well as composers, performers, and theorists. A few entries, such as acoustics and organ, cover several pages, but the majority, including those for all but a handful of composers, are quite brief. Line drawings generally embellish definitions of musical instruments. The most obvious question to ask about this volume is how it differs from its predecessors. Randel has condensed information in a number of ways. One is by doing away with some entries, such as those found in Harvard Biographical for Barry Manilow and the Morrisons, both Jim and Van. Also missing are the long articles on topics such as ballet and theatrical dance found in New Harvard, as well as the surveys of the music of individual nations and cultures. Most of the entries that remain have been shortened, and all of the bibliographies have been eliminated. Updating seems to be minimal. A sentence on Andrew Lloyd Webber has been added to Musical comedy, but the biographies we checked are no more current than those in the 1996 biographical volume. Not making an appearance are rising opera stars Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel. A comparable one-volume music dictionary is Baker's Dictionary of Music [RBB Je 1 & 15 98], which has more entries. The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians is convenient and authoritative and would be useful in smaller libraries not owning Baker's or the two earlier Harvard guides.

Choice Review

Randel (musicology, Cornell) has blended three of his earlier books into this handy volume. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music (CH, Jan'87) is the basis for terminological and topical entries, The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (CH, Apr'97) for most of the biographical material, and the first edition of the present title (CH, Apr'79; drawn from Willi Apel's Harvard Dictionary of Music, 1944 and 1969) for the format and approach. The new Concise, with 180 more pages than the old, is a gathering of articles that represent the persons and subjects of Western art and popular music, with some attention to non-Western music. Contemporary musicians in all genres are a strong presence. Composer entries give summary work lists. Entries for musical terms are an important feature, unfortunately given without pronunciation. There are no entries for musical organizations. Valuable, well-illustrated material on instruments is a highlight, but illustrations are otherwise few. Since there is no index (and no bibliographies), many facts are lost in articles about other topics, but some are rescued by cross-references. Format and approach are suitable for general readers, but scholars will find authoritative treatment of esoteric subjects as well. Considering scope, reliability, and cost, this is the preferred single-volume music reference for college libraries, even though it overlaps the works on which it is based, which are in most academic collections. It will appeal to undergraduates and students majoring outside music, and will give reference librarians a promising first port of call for many types of inquiry. G. A. Marco; Independent Scholar

Library Journal Review

Since 1944 (when Willi Apel published the first edition) and down through dozens of revised editions, The Harvard Dictionary has been an indispensable reference tool for everyone involved in music. It contains definitions and explanations of every possible musical term, instrument, and concept, as well as short biographical notes on composers, conductors, and performers. Each new edition expands the area covered, especially globally. A spot check of the contents of this volume reveals that the concise version, edited by Randel (musicology, Cornell Univ.), contains nearly all of the most important entries found in the larger edition. Invaluable--and a bargain. For all libraries.--Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.