top of page

Why is Italian used in musical terminology?

This is a good question which has a simple answer.

Musical terms are in Italian because the most influential early composers from the Renaissance to the Baroque period were Italian. It is in this period that numerous musical indications were used extensively for the first time.

It is also customary to describe the tempo or speed of a piece of music by one or more words in Italian too.

Below is a list of the most common musical terms you may hear on the radio and television or may see when looking at recording notes for pieces of music. These can be useful for selecting something to suit your mood.

If you were listening to Bruch’s Violin ‘Concerto’ (an Italian word meaning concert or harmony) it is a piece written for orchestra with a solo instrument; there are three movements:

1st movement allegro moderato (moderately fast or not too fast)

2nd movement adagio (played slowly)

3rd movement allegro energico (fast, energetic or vigorous)

With this knowledge, you may select one particular movement or just notice that the tempo varies across the complete work - useful information to have to hand.

Early Italian flag circa late 1700s

Baroque composer Albinoni

bottom of page