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"Includes entries on all the styles and forms in Western music; comprehensive articles on the music of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Near East; descriptions of instruments enriched by historical background; and articles that reflect today's beat, including popular music, jazz, and rock." Also in print, Music Library Reference ML100 A641 2003
Biographical information about composers, performers, music theorists, and instrument makers. This biographical dictionary emphasizes classical and art music, but also gives ample attention to jazz and blues, rock and pop, and hymns and showtunes across the ages - with unusual care devoted to coverage of the twentieth century.
Includes information on "musical terms, musical works, musical instruments, composers, librettists, musicians, singers, and orchestras. Earlier editions also available in print under the title The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music
This dictionary provides some help in the form of pronunciations by a phonetic system devised by E. Douglas Brown of the staff of WOI Radio at Iowa State University. Many of the pronunciations in the dictionary were derived from tape-recorded pronunciations made by foreign nationals who were were speaking their respective native languages.
Start with these...
English, German, French, and Italian...Five standard reference dictionaries.
This is in 2 parts: 1. Men and their works. 2. Techniques, forms, and instruments. This is ideal to complement Grove on French topics. It will also include more obscure French people/topics not covered elsewhere.
This dictionary of music and musicians is divided in 3 parts: terms, biography, and titles & characters. The last part is possibly the most interesting. For example, it provides excellent plots for operas, description of characters in these, different song settings for specific texts, etc. The terms section is probably the best source to get definition of Italian terms.
Comprehensive online encyclopedia devoted to world music research. Contains the full text of the 10-volume print encyclopedia. Includes maps, music examples, bibliographies, discographies, and videographies. A CD sampler accompanies the first 9 vols.
Other General music Dictionaries to Consider
For more obscure topics and/or people some of these dictionaries pick up where the others fall short.
Looking for something a little more succinct? This has short articles on composers, performers, terms, titles (e.g., of operas), etc. The J.S. Bach article, for instance, has 3 pages. Good as a quick reference for any level of readership.