Skip to main content

Classical Music Research Guide: More Reference Works

Dictionaries and Encylopedias with broad coverage

Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti.  15 vols.  Alberto Basso, ed.  Turin:  UTET, 1983-88.  Musicmedia Reference ML100 .D66
International in scope and recognized as the leading Italian encyclopedia of music.  Organized in sections:

  • Il lessico: dictionary of terms (4 vols.)
  • Le biografie:  biographies of musicians and other musical figures (8 vols.)
  • Appendice:  supplement to Le biografie
  • I titoli e I personaggi [titles and characters]: musical works, works on music, and characters in dramatic works. (3 vols.)

Encyclopédie de la musique, 3 vols.  François Michel et al.  Paris:  Fasquelle, 1958-61.  Musicmedia Reference ML100 .E48
May provide entries for individuals not treated in other sources.  Especially notable for its many musical examples, illustrations, and reproductions from early manuscripts and prints.

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart:  Allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik, 2d ed.  27 vols.  Ludwig Finscher, ed.  Kassel and New York: Bärenreiter, 1994-2007.  Musicmedia Reference ML100 .M92 1994
Known as MGG, this pre-eminent music encyclopedia covers music of all periods, genres, and regions.  Even for those unfamiliar with German, it can be useful for its bibliographies, works lists for composers, and particularly for articles on German-speaking regions and their musicians. 

  • Personenteil section: articles on individuals (17 vols.)
  • Sachteil section: articles on subjects, terms, organizations, and places.  (9 vols.)
  • Register (Index):   indispensible, because many concepts and terms are embedded in longer, comprehensive articles. It contains two separate alphabets—the first for the Sachteil and the second for the Personenteil. 

New Oxford Companion to Music, 2 vols.  Denis Arnold, ed.  New york:  Oxford University Press, 1983.  Musicmedia Reference ML100 .S37 1983.
A comprehensive work encompassing western and nonwestern music, this offers short, signed articles aimed at a general audience.  Includes entries for formal and popular names of compositions and for countries and geographic areas.  Many black-and-white illustrations.

Riemann Musik Lexikon, 12th ed.  5 vols. Willibald Gurlitt, ed.  Mainz:  B. Schott's Söhne; New York:  Schott, 1959-75.  Musicmedia Reference ML100 .R52
Long a standard reference for comprehensive coverage of music, Riemann contains brief but authoritative entries with bibliographies and works lists.  Comprises a Sachteil [v.3.] covering subjects, and a Personenteil for individuals, the latter consisting of two volumes plus a two-volume supplement (Ergänzungsband).

Interdisciplinary Sources

Online Full-Text Sources

  • Oxford Reference Online
    Contents of more than 170 reference works in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Useful for general reference.  Also notice the Subject tab at top left.
  • Books in Print

Reference Universe
An online index to 4,200 subject encyclopedias and reference works.  Use Reference Universe to figure out which reference books contain information on your topic.   Note that some of the sources are not online:  you'll need to consult those books in person.


Special Topics

Diccionario de la mùsica española e hispanoamerica, 10 vols.  Emilio Casares Rodicio, general ed.  [Spain]:  Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 1999-2002.  Musicmedia Reference ML101 .S8 D53 1999
Comprehensive dictionary of the music of Spain and Latin America.  signed articles, many containing bibliographies and discographies , on topics including musicians and performing groups, instruments, ethnic groups, musical genres, cities, and countries.  a very helpful "Using the Dictionary" section (in both English and Spahish) is found near the beginning of each volume, as is a list of abbreviations.  Text in Spanish.

Encyclopedia of Keyboard Instruments3 vols. New York: Routledge, 2003-06.  Robert Pamieri, ed.  Musicmedia Reference ML102 .K5 E53 1994

Piano:  An Encyclopedia.  2d. ed.  Robert Palmieri and Margaret W. Palmieri, eds. Musicmedia Reference ML102 .P5 P53 2003 

Harpsichord and Clavichord:  An Encyclopedia.  Igor Kipnis, ed.  Musicmedia Reference ML102 .H385 H37 2007

The Organ:  An Encyclopedia.  Douglas E. Bush and Richard Kassel, eds.  Musicmedia Reference ML102 .O7 O74 2006

Historical Dictionary of Sacred MusicBy Joseph P. Swain. Lanham, Md.:  Scarecrow Press, 2006.  Musicmedia Reference ML102 .C5 S83 2006
Brief entries on terms, people, and works associated with Christian and Jewish music.  Appendices contain texts for the Roman Catholic Rite, Shema, and Kaddish, with English translations.  Includes bibliography.

Opening Night!  Opera & Oratorio Premieres (Stanford University Libraries)
Data on 38,000 opera and oratorio premieres, searchable by year of premiere, genre, oratorio subject, country, and many other options.  Spans the years 1589-1995.  Users are invited to submit new entries.

The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 3 vols.  Stanley Sadie, ed.    London:  Macmillan, 1984.  Musicmedia Reference  ML102 .I5 N48 1984

Biographical Sources

Gale Biography in Context
An online compilation consisting of over 135 reference works published by Gale, including Contemporary Musicians and Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians.  However, some of Baker's content is lacking.

ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, 4th ed. Compiled for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. New York: Bowker, 1980.  Musicmedia Reference ML106 .U3 A5 1980

Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Classical Musicians.  By Nicolas Slonimsky.  Laura Kuhn and Dennis McIntire, eds.  Schirmer Books, 1997.
Musicmedia Reference ML105 .S612 1997 (print ed.)  Search online through Biography in Context.
Includes some individuals not represented in the Centennial Edition (2001) of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians.

Biographisch-Bibliographisches Quellen-Lexikon der Musiker und Musikgelehrten der christlichen Zeitrechnung bis zur Mitte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts11 vols. By Robert Eitner. 2. verb. Aufl. [2d ed.] Graz:  Akademische Druck- u. Verlags Anstalt, 1959.  ML 105 .E37
First published 1889-1904, this standard tool is still useful for biographies and works lists, especially of musicians who have fallen into relative obscurity.  Coverage ends with the mid-nineteenth century.  Addenda and other supplementary materials are listed in Duckles and Reed's Music Reference and Research Materials, pp. 315-16 (Musicmedia Reference ML113 .D83 1997)

Contemporary Composers.  Brian Morton and Pamela Collins, eds.  Chicago:  St. James, 1992.  Musicmedia Reference ML390 .M677 1992
A useful source for information on composers active around 1990. 

Contemporary Musicians. Detroit:  Gale Research, 1989— .  Search online through Gale Biography in Context.
Issued serially, vols. 62–64 were released in 2008.  Emphasizes popular music, but treats many classical musicians as well.

International Who's Who in Classical MusicLondon:  Europa Publications, 2002– .
Provides brief biographies of living musicians and people working in the field. Information includes addresses, websites, management agencies, and recordings, dependent on what data each individual has supplied.  Issued annually, older volumes include people who have been dropped to accommodate new listings. Musicmedia Reference ML106 .G7 W42

Musical AKAs:  Assumed Names and Sobriquets of Composers, Songwriters, Librettists, Lyricists, Hymnists, and Writers on MusicLanham, MD:  Scarecrow Press, 2007 .
A very useful reference that links pseudonyms, nicknames, and various other appellations with the individuals they referred to.
Musicmedia Reference ML105 .D76 2007

© Emory University Libraries - 540 Asbury Circle, Atlanta, Georgia 30322