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A Dictionary of Musical Themes [Hardcover]

Sam Morgenstern , Harold Barlow , John Erskine
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 642 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber Limited; Revised edition (3 Oct 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571119980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571119981
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.8 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 510,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Contains the musical themes of more than 10,000 instrumental compositions arranged alphabetically by author. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Ideal for professionals and students alike, with over 1,000 entries for Beethoven or Mozart alone. There are several ways of using this brilliant book: the Notation Index is used by looking up the notes of a theme transposed into C major (EEFGGFED Ode to Joy); there is an index of titles; you can look up a composer by name and see the various melodic lines, in alphabetical order of work and movement. It is a really comprehensive resource to which every musician should have reference.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not live without it 21 Jun 1998
By A Customer
Highly trained, fully employed classical musician whose musical discipline calls for the Big Rep. Refer to this volume constantly. It needs to be reissued, updated, etc. There is a companion volume of 8,000 Opera and Song themes by the authors equally as valuable. This type of reference is desperately needed by the working musical public. There are theme books for certain composers, and there are things like the Schwann and discography books, but nothing like this. Yes, there are certain omissions, but it is probably as comprehensive as it could be without weighing a ton or being completely unmanageable. God bless the authors, they performed a most valuable service.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best reference when trying to identify a melodu 14 July 2001
By A Customer
I've had three editions of this book, the last of which is just about impossible to read because it's falling apart. In a listening history of over 60 years, this is absolutely the finest reference I've ever come across. One caveat: my edition is 1948, so there's nothing composed after about 1945 or so.
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In the past it wasn’t easy to identify an unknown piece of music heard by chance, with no other evidence to hand than the melody itself. In fact just about the only hope was to go to a specialist library and consult A Dictionary of Musical Themes by Sam Morgenstern and Harold Barlow. This reference book, first published in 1950, collects together 10,000 musical themes (mostly classical works) and indexes them using a notation index based on transposing the pitches to C major or C minor (so that “God Save the Queen”, for instance, would come out as CCDBCDEEFE). To compile this dictionary was clearly a labour of love for the authors, both composers themselves. It reminds me of the efforts Victorian scholars put in to compile massive concordances of classic literature, including the Bible and Shakespeare. And similarly, all that effort would no longer be required today.

So who were the authors? Sam Morgenstern (1906-1989) was a teacher at Mannes College of Music in Greenwich Village, New York, and the conductor of Lower Manhattan’s Lemonade Opera Company, which gave the US premiere of Prokofiev’s Duenna in 1948. He composed two short operas himself, along with the Warsaw Ghetto (setting a spoken word poem by Harry Granick to background music), which was premiered at Carnegie Hall on February 10, 1946. He also composed a choral cantata The Common Man, and the latin-tinged piano piece Toccata Guatemala. Although there are no recordings of his work, a crackly radio disk transcription of the second performance of Warsaw Ghetto, made in the studio a week after the premiere, can be heard here (36 minutes in). Morgenstern’s other books included the classic anthology Composers on Music (1956).
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