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Italian: The Language That Sings

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Italian: The Language That Sings

Music

Italian: The Language That Sings

Italian: The Language That Sings

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Manuscript of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

A page of Beethoven's manuscript to his Symphony No. 9. getty images hide caption

toggle caption getty images

In Terms of Italian

Hear Miles Hoffman's examples of Italian musical terms in action.

Pianissimo & Fortissimo

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6

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Andante Mistico

Bloch: Piano Quintet No. 1

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Allegretto grazioso, ma non troppo presto, pero non troppo adagio, cosi, cosi, con molto garbo ed espressione (Mozart's comic instruction)

Mozart: Flute Quartet, K. 298

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Crescendo

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

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Even when it isn't sung, the Italian language sounds like music, which is part of why Italian words are used to tell musicians how to play—presto, lento, adagio, forte.

Miles Hoffman, author of The NPR Classical Music Companion, recently joined Renee Montagne to discuss the Italian jargon of classical music.

"So many of these musical forms—sonata, cantata, aria—started in Italy," Hoffman says.

"Plus, Italian musicians were in positions of prestige all over Europe, so it became the lingua franca."

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