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Classical Music: Background Research

Resources for the study of all genres of classical music, including opera.

Classical Music title with image of violin

New Library System!

On June 1, the Upstate Library introduced a new library system that will change the way you access books and other library materials. When you connect to the library web site, you will find a single search box for books and a selection of databases, meaning you can search for books, articles, and media in one search. You will also be able to choose what you want to search, limit your results to specific materials, and will still be able to access library databases through the Databases and E-Resources page and this library guide. This guide will be updated as soon as possible after the change.

Music Reference Sources

All call numbers beginning with REF are shelved in the Reference Section of the library.

Electronic resources are accessed by links indicated by blue text.

New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed. – REF ML 100 .N48 2001 vols. 1-29.  The first-stop source for a broad range of musical topics, the New Grove is considered the most authoritative music encyclopedia in the English language. Covers all aspects of music including composers and musicians, compositions, music history and criticism, musical instruments, popular and non-Western music. Also available online in Oxford Music Online.

Oxford Companion to Music – REF ML 100 .S37 2002. Partially revised online edition (2011) in Oxford Music Online and Oxford Reference Online. A reliable one-volume reference book containing definitions of musical terms as well as longer articles. Scope is centered around, but not limited to, Western Classical music and music history.

Oxford Dictionary of Music, 6th ed. (formerly Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music)Oxford Reference Online. Brief definitions of musical terms, topics, composers and musicians.

Harvard Dictionary of Music – REF ML 100 .A64 2003. An authoritative dictionary for musical terminology, including entries on basic terms, styles, genres, historical periods and countries. Covers popular styles and non-Western music as well as Western Classical music. Available online in Credo Reference.

Musical Terms, Symbols and Theory: An Illustrated Dictionary - Available online in Credo Reference.

The New Penguin Dictionary of Music - Available online in Credo Reference.

Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd ed. Revised – REF ML 100 .K35 1997. A reliable dictionary centered around Western Classical music. Includes entries on composers and musicians as well as musical terminology and topics. Articles range from short definitions to substantial essays. Available online in Oxford Music Online.

New Grove Dictionary of Opera – REF ML 102 .O6 N5 1992 vols. 1-4.  A comprehensive guide to opera, including descriptive entries on operatic works, performers, librettos, opera history and criticism, and costume. Also available online in Oxford Music Online.

Grove Book of Opera Singers, 2nd ed. - Oxford Reference. Contains biographies of over 1500 opera singers from the earliest times to the present day.

Grove Book of Operas, 2nd ed. - Oxford Reference.  Plot synopses and descriptions of over 250 operas.

Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia - A one-volume popular encyclopedia of famous operas and their composers. Available in Credo Reference.

Opera: The Great Composers and their Masterworks - Articles on the principal opera composers arranged by period. Available in Credo Reference.

Oxford Dictionary of Opera – REF ML 102 .O6 W37 1992. A reliable one-volume reference to all aspects of opera.

A Dictionary of Opera Characters, 2nd. ed.Oxford Reference. Guide to characters in operas.

Kobbe’s Opera Book – MT 95 .K52 1987. Plot outlines and other information for many of the most popular operas from all periods.

All Music Guide to Classical Music – REF ML 100 .A42 2005. Guide to recordings of classical music with information on individual composers and pieces.

Music in American Life, 3 vols. - REF ML 101 .U6 M87 2013. Also available in Gale Virtual Reference Library. Covers major American classical composers and genres.

Encyclopedia of African-American Music - EBSCO eBook Includes African-American composers and contributions to classical music.

Oxford History of Western Music – ML 160 .T18 2005, vols. 1-6. A comprehensive historical survey by an important musicologist.

Music Since 1900 – REF ML 197 .S634 2001. A celebrated chronology of first performances, works completed, and other events related to Western Classical music from 1900 to 2000.

Cambridge Mozart Encyclopedia – ML 410 .M9 C257 2006. An encyclopedic treatment of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life, works, and period.

Oxford Composer Companions. Haydn – ML 410 .H4 H3177 2002. An encyclopedic treatment of the composer Joseph Haydn.

Online Classes and Remote Access