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Historical Dictionary of Choral Music

Melvin P. Unger

The human voice an incredibly beautiful and expressive instrument, and when multiple voices are unified in tone and purpose a powerful statement is realized. No wonder people have always wanted to sing in a communal context-a desire apparently stemming from a deeply rooted human instinct. Consequently, choral performance has often been related historically to human rituals and ceremonies, especially rites of a religious nature.

This Historical Dictionary of Choral Music examines choral music and practice in the Western world from the Medieval era to the 21st century, focusing mostly on familiar figures like Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Britten. But its scope is considerably broader, and it includes all sorts of music-religious, secular, and popular-from sources throughout the world. It contains a chronology, an introduction, a bibliography, and more than 1,000 cross-referenced dictionary entries on important composers, genres, conductors, institutions, styles, and technical terms of choral music.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 584Size: 6 x 9
978-0-8108-5751-3 • Hardback • June 2010 • $159.00 • (£105.00)
978-0-8108-7392-6 • eBook • June 2010 • $154.99 • (£100.00)
Melvin P. Unger is director of the School of Music at the State University of New York at Fredonia.
This book is an incredible accomplishment, successfully covering both familiar and lesser known individuals and repertoire, as well as the standard choral genres. It will prove useful for professionals and lay musicians alike, and will be particularly welcome in university graduate programs, which have long needed a resource of this type.
Donald Neuen, Professor of Choral Conducting and Director of Choral Studies, University of California at Los Angeles; Minister of Music and Co

The importance of Melvin Unger's new book, Historical Dictionary of Choral Music, is immeasurable. The breadth of the scope of material is what one would expect, but the succinct details of definitions, personalities, styles, and political and artistic attitudes elevate the book to the level of masterwork.
Robert Page, Paul Mellon University Professor of Music; Director of Choral/Opera Studies, Carnegie Mellon University

Unger (Handbook to Bach's Sacred Cantata Texts) opens this singular reference with a chronology locates the genesis of choral music in 590 CE. The 1000 fully cross-referenced, alphabetized entries define both religious and secular choral composers, composition styles, conductors, institutions, genres, and technical concerns. Each runs between a single and several paragraphs. While the guide covers Western music, the greatest emphasis is placed on work from Europe and America. Entries are concise. However, an exceptional 72-page, thematically organized bibliography closes the book and will prove immensely useful to musicologists.
Library Journal

What a wonderful resource for conductors and singers, teachers and students, professionals and amateurs alike! Speaking as a mixture of the above who never has enough time for the detailed research to which we all aspire, I will find this book a constant and invaluable resource and am grateful!
Simon Carrington, Founder, The King?s Singers; Professor Emeritus, Yale University

Unger (Baldwin-Wallace College) provides basic information about important composers, genres, conductors, institutions, styles, and technical terms. This dictionary represents composers from all periods of Western music; Renaissance composers Josquin and Lassus receive as much attention as Handel and Brahms. Unger also discusses the accomplishments of composers active today (e.g., Pärt, Tormis, Tavener) in adequate detail....The articles on genres and terms are generally informative; 'Mass,' 'motet,' 'madrigal,' and 'spiritual' are discussed thoroughly. The 'cantata' entry is also extensive....Unger provides an extensive bibliography, focusing mainly on recently published sources....Unger's dictionary is especially welcome....Unger's inclusion of secular music within his spectrum provides additional justification for purchasing this dictionary. Summing Up: Recommended.

Highly recommended for academic libraries and serious choral enthusiasts.

The dictionary format is reader-friendly, giving potted biographies of a number of composers, specifically in relation to their choral works, and this is helpful in the case of those who are no longer known for this kind of composition. As with other series of this kind, there is a useful chronology of key dates in terms of musical change and significant publication or performance dates of choral music and foundation dates of some choirs....This will be a useful addition to general reference libraries and music libraries in particular; choral practitioners may also find it helpful for programming.

Reference Reviews