Reference Entry


David Fallows

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print January 2001 |
Published online January 2001 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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(It.: ‘slow’)

One of the earliest tempo marks to be used in music. Mentioned in passing by Zarlino (‘movimenti tardi e lenti’), it was used by Praetorius (Polyhymnia caduceatrix, 1619; Puericinium, 1621), Thomas Selle (1636) and Schütz. Praetorius (1619) gave the equation lento vel adagio: tardè: mit langsamen Tact, and in Syntagma musicum, iii (2/1619/R) equated adagio: largo: lento: langsam. The word never achieved the same popularity as adagio, largo and grave; but in French music from Lully onwards it became one of the major tempo marks in its adverbial French form lentement. Sans lenteur was a particular favourite of François Couperin. Rousseau (1768) gave the French adjective lent and its adverb lentement as being the same as the Italian largo, which he considered the slowest of all tempos; but there is no evidence that his opinion was generally held and he may well simply have been avoiding the dangers of translation by cognate. In the Polonaise of his B minor orchestral suite J.S. Bach marked ...

Reference Entry.  216 words. 

Subjects: Music

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