Reference Entry


Daniel Heartz

in Oxford Music Online

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

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A term which, along with its related forms, ‘classic’, ‘classicism’, ‘classicistic’ etc., has been applied to a wide variety of music from different cultures. It evolved from the Latin classicus (a taxpayer, later also a writer, of the highest class) through the French classique into English ‘classical’ and German Klassik. In one of the earliest definitions (R. Cotgrave: Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, 1611), classique is translated as ‘classical, formall, orderlie, in due or fit ranke; also, approved, authenticall, chiefe, principall’. The two parts of this definition will be retained here and glossed as (i) formal discipline, (ii) model of excellence, supplemented by (iii) that which has to do with Greek or Latin antiquity (Dictionnaire de l’Académie, 1694), and (iv) that which is opposed to ‘romantic’, the latter understood as morbid and unruly (Goethe, 1829). Of the various meanings, (ii) has had the widest currency over the longest time. In this general sense, for example, Forkel recommended J.S. Bach’s main keyboard works as ‘klassisch’ (...

Reference Entry.  5698 words. 

Subjects: Musical Structures, Styles, and Techniques

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