Don’t speak Italian? That’s OK. I don’t really speak it either. But… Did you ever sing in choir? Ever play in the band or orchestra in school? Ever read Angels and Demons or The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown?
If you did, you’ve probably learned some Italian. Even if you only played the recorder in elementary school, I’d venture to say that you probably know at least a few words. (Beyond Pasta, Spaghetti and Prego! And yes – prego means “you’re welcome” in Italian!)
Classical music goes back many years to a variety of countries, but for some reason, the vast majority of musical terms used are all Italian. Here are a handful of examples of some commonly used terms.
CONCERTO – a piece of music for which a soloist is accompanied by an orchestra, such as Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64.
FORTE – strong, loud – like Will Forte…er…something like that. (I really want to see his new movie, Nebraska)
PASSIONATO – passionate. Just imagine anything sung by the late – and definitely great – Luciano Pavarotti.
STACCATO – detached, articulated – like a woodpecker, only less annoying.
TEMPO – time, the speed of the song. “How fast is this song?” = “What’s the tempo?”
They all get more fun as you go along especially when you hear of a movements such as “allegro con fuoco” – the 4th movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.
ALLEGRO – fast
CON FUOCO – with fire
So picture a movement that is quick, animated, with a lot of heat and fire behind it. In other words, really intense – and in the case of Dvorak – really awesome!
Even this blog is based on an Italian musical term!
GIOCOSO – playful, fun
There are a few possibilities as to why we stick with Italian for our musical terms. Some say that the arts first found their way back into Italy before other European nations for the Renaissance. Others say that Italians just started it and there was no sense in reinventing the wheel.
Whatever the reason, the Italians have certainly made their mark on the musical world with great composers such as Vivaldi, Corelli, Rossini, Respighi, etc. They had great musical notations that we all still use to this day.
Since I have a lot to learn in the world of music – and of the music itself – I’ll endeavor to delve further into some of these terms in future posts. I love music and I love languages, so maybe we’ll all learn a little bit along the way.
So until next time, Ciao!