Philosophies of Music History

By Warren Dwight Allen | Go to book overview
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"Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach; yet even this negative recompense has yet been granted to very few."--Samuel Johnson

SEVERAL of the seventeenth-century treatises cited in Chapter 1 were encyclopedic in size and scope, but not in arrangement. As if to remedy that defect, the few important music treatises of the early eighteenth century are nearly all in the form of dictionaries. There had been little or no activity along that line since 1474, when Tinctoris, one of the numerous Flemish musicians in Italy, had put out his Terminorum Musicae diffinitorium,1 not only the first musical dictionary, but one of the first printed books on music. In 1703 Brossard Dictionary came out in Paris, to be translated by James Grassineau in 1740 [8, 14]. In the latter year Walther and Mattheson presented the first two of a long series of lexicons which have been monuments to German thoroughness ever since [12], [15].

Mattheson ( 1681-1764), contemporary of Bach and Handel, was their equal in indefatigable versatility, leaving over 8,000 printed pages of history, criticism, biography, journalistic comment, etc., in addition to much music written during an active professional career. He was evidently a progressive supporter of innovation, especially in the field of changing orchestral styles. The work of Walther and Mattheson was continued later in the century by Ernst Ludwig Gerber [31]. The activities of these men are linked up more or less with musical criticism, and to understand them fully it would be necessary to study the development of societies and journals for music research.

Brossard Dictionary came out shortly after the first edition of the Academy's Dictionary of the French Language ( 1694). The history by Bonnet-Bourdelot followed, in 1715. J. J. Rousseau

Reprinted in Forkel, Allgemeine Lit. der Musik.


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