Italian: The Language That Sings

Manuscript of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

hide captionA page of Beethoven's manuscript to his Symphony No. 9.

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In Terms of Italian

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

Pianissimo & Fortissimo

Andante Mistico

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


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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