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Classical musical terms

L

l abrev. for left
la sixth syllable of any major scale
labial pipes flue stops
lacrimoso tearful
lage position of the hand for playing a chord
lagnoso lamenting
lagrimoso tearful
lai a form of poetry set to music, born in 13th-century France
lament a mournful piece, either meant to be played at a funeral, or to commemorate a death
lamentations the lamentations of Jeremiah form part of the catholic liturgy of holy week, the week before Easter, traditionally chanted, but from the middle of the 15th century providing material for polyphonic setting
lamento lamenting music
lancers a type of square-dance, or quadrille, danced by 8 or 16 couples, particularly popular in the second half of the 19th-century
lancio vigor
landini cadence the melodic cadence that moves in the sequence 7-6-8, used primarily by Francesco Landini, and later by other composers
ländler a slow dance in triple time originating in rural Austria. fashionable in the late 18th-and early 19th-centuries
langaus wild Austrian dance
langsam slow
languido languidly, sluggishly, spiritless
largamente broadly and consequently slowly. largo-largo is used as a frequent instruction to performers. Handel's largo, an aria from his opera Serse, is in fact marked larghetto, although this does not seem to affect its speed in popular performance
largando slowing down
larghetto a little faster than largo
largo an instruction to a musician to play in a very slow and dignified
larigot shepherd's pipe
lauda Italian hymn
lauds the second of the canonical hours
lauf  rapid section
lavolta a dance, usually in fast triple time, featuring a series of leaps, when the woman is swept high into the air by her partner. Very popular in the 16th-century, in the royal courts of western Europe
lay a form of poetry set to music, born in 13th-century France
lead cue (noun), or, serve as concertmaster (verb)
leader the directing member of a chamber group or ensemble of musicians. in an orchestra, the leader is the principal first violinist
leading note the seventh degree of the diatonic scale, when it is only a half-step below the tonic. It is called "leading" because it gives the feeling of wanting to move up a half-step toward the tonic
leap the movement of a single musical line by more than a second at a time.
lebendig lively
lecturer clinician
ledger line a short line written in a musical score above or below the five main lines of the staff, to accommodate notes that lie outside the staff
leere saite open string
legatissimo extremely connected
legato a direction to play smoothly, so that all the notes run into one another. The opposite of staccato
legend a narrative piece
eger line a short line written in a musical score above or below the five main lines of the staff, to accommodate notes that lie outside the staff
leggero light, fast and graceful
leggierissimo very light
legno wood, appears in the phrase 'col legno', with the wood, an instruction to string players to hit the strings with the back of the bow. Examples of col legno are found in the Dance Macabre of Saint-Saens and at the opening of Holst's the planets.
leidenshaftlich passionately
leier lyre, also hurdy-gurdy
leierkasten street organ
leise low, soft
leiter orchestra leader
leitmotif use of a musical phrase to identify with a certain person, place or thing in a dramatic work, especially an opera, usually repeated every time its referent appeared in the work
leitton leading tone
lent the season of the church year from ash Wednesday to Easter (40 days, not counting Sunday's)
lento direction to play slowly
less prosperous princedoms which might employ much smaller forces, a dozen or less string players and four or five wind players
letter notation the use of letters for indication of tones
leuto lauto, or lute
levara to take off stops
libretto the text of an opera or oratorio. In the past, it was printed as a booklet for the audience. May or may not be written by the composer. It's author is known as the librettist.
licenza freedom in interpretation
licenza direction allowing a musician a degree of freedom when interpreting the relevant passages
liebesgeige viola d'amore
lied song, generally applied to the distinctive German vocal style which originated in the late 18th-and early 19th-century
liedercyclus song cycle
liedform song form
liedmotet song motet
lieto gay
lievo light
ligature the band that secures the reed to the mouthpiece of wind instruments such as the clarinet and saxophone. Also a slur mark on a score, instructing a singer to sing two or more notes to a single syllable
linear counterpoint counterpoint in which the lines are more important than the harmonic progressions
lining out speaking out each line immediately before it is sung by an assembly
linke hand left hand
lip embouchure
lippenpfeife labial pipe
lira obsolete violins with drones
liscio flowing
l'istesso the same
l'istesso tempo in the same tempo
litany a series of suppliant prayers in the Christian church, usually with the congregation making a fixed response
liturgical drama medieval plays representing bible stories in Latin, accompanied by staging, costumes, and occasionally music.
liturgy structure of religious services of any denomination within the Christian church
liuto lute
livret libretto
loco instruction to play notes at the pitch written, canceling a previous instruction that the notes be played an octave higher or lower than written
locrian the seventh mode
locrian mode a mode whose scale pattern is that of playing b to b on the white keys of a piano. While this mode theoretically existed in medieval times, it was never used
lombardic style inverted dotting
long rest a long rest looks like a bold line in a measure with a number above it. it means to rest the number of measures indicated
lontano as from far away
loud pedal common name for the piano's -right- sustaining pedal
lourd heavy
loure is a French dance of the 17th and 18th centuries, the name derived from a bagpipe used in Normandy. the dance is usually in 6/4 time and has been described as a slow gigue. examples are found in Bach's e major partite for unaccompanied violin and in the fifth of his French suites
low mass weekday masses, without the singing that characterizes the high mass
lucernarium the first item of vespers in the ambrosia, usually referring to light
luftpause breath pause
lullaby a cradle song
lundu rural Brazilian harvest dance
lunga long
lur prehistoric Nordic brass trumpet
lusingando caressing
lustig instruction to play a piece in a cheerful, boisterous manner
lute a stringed instrument with a pear-shaped body and fretted fingerboard, played by plucking with the fingers. The lute is an ancient instrument of eastern origin. it was popular in Europe from the middle ages to the 18th-century
lute harpsichord gut strung harpsichord
lutherie the art of building lutes, or, by extension, stringed instruments
luttuoso grieving, sad
lydian the fourth of the modes
lydian mode a medieval mode whose scale pattern is that of playing f to f on the white keys of a piano
lyra Greek stringed instrument with two curving arms and strings attached to a crosspiece
lyra piano a piano with a lyre-shaped case
lyric there are several meanings. Originally, "lyric" meant the vocal performance accompanying the lure. As a noun, it may mean a short poem, expressing the writer's personal feelings. The lyrics of a popular song are the words. as an adjective, it can indicate a singing voice of intermediate vocal weight, as in lyric soprano or lyric tenor.
lyric soprano a female singer with a slightly higher range than a dramatic soprano
lyric tenor a male singer with a slightly higher range than a dramatic tenor
lyricist the person who writes the words, known as the lyrics, of a song or musical play

 

 

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