Glossary of Musical Terms
Our glossary of musical terms lets you look up any musical term unfamiliar to you, and comes to us courtesy of our good friends at Naxos.
F is a note of the scale (= Italian, French: fa).
Fagott (German) or fagotto (Italian) is the bassoon, the bass of the woodwind section in the orchestra (see Bassoon).
A fanfare is a flourish of trumpets or other similar instruments, used for military or ceremonial purposes, or music that conveys this impression.
Fantasy (= French: fantaisie; Italian: fantasia; German: Fantasie) is a relatively free form in the 16th and 17th centuries, in which a composer may exercise his fancy, usually in contrapuntal form. In later periods the word was used to describe a much freer form, as in the written improvisations for piano of this title by Mozart, or Beethoven's so-called Moonlight Sonata, described by the composer as Sonata quasi una fantasia, Sonata like a Fantasia.
A fiddle is a violin, but the word is used either colloquially or to indicate a folk-instrument. The Australian composer Percy Grainger, who objected to the use of words of Latin origin, used the word fiddle for violin, middle-fiddle for viola and bass fiddle for cello, as part of his eccentric vocabulary of 'blue-eyed English'.
The Italian La Follia, (= Spanish: Fola; French: Folie d'Espagne) is a well known dance tune popular from the 16th century or earlier and found in the work of composers such as Corelli (1653 - 1713), who used the theme for a set of variations forming a violin sonata, or later by Rachmaninov (1873 - 1943) in his incorrectly named Variations on a Theme of Corelli.
Forte (Italian: loud) is used in directions to performers. It appears in the superlative form fortissimo, very loud. The letter f is an abbreviation of forte, ff an abbreviation of fortissimo, with fff or more rarely ffff even louder.
The word fortepiano, with the same meaning as pianoforte, the full name of the piano, with its hammer action and consequent ability to produce sounds both loud and soft, corresponding to the force applied to the keys, is generally used to indicate the earlier form of the piano, as it developed in the 18th century. A Mozart piano, for example, might be called a fortepiano. The instrument is smaller, more delicately incisive in tone than the modern instrument, and is in some respects more versatile.
Fugue has been described as a texture rather than a form. It is, in essence, a contrapuntal composition. The normal fugue opens with a subject or theme in one voice or part. A second voice answers, with the same subject transposed and sometimes slightly altered, usually at the interval of a fifth, while the first voice continues with an accompaniment that may have the character of a countersubject that will be used again as the piece progresses. Other voices enter one by one, each of them with the subject, the third in the form of the first entry, the fourth in the form of the answer in the second voice. A fugue may have as few as two voices (the word voice does not necessarily imply singing in this context) and seldom more than four. The subject announced at the beginning provides the chief melodic element in a fugue. When all the voices have entered, the so-called fugal exposition, there will be an episode, a bridge that leads to a further entry or series of entries answering each other, now in different keys. The fugue, as it had developed by the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, continues in this way, often making use of stretto (overlapping entries of the subject) and pedal-point (a sustained note, usually below the other parts) as it nears the end. The fugue became an important form or texture in the Baroque period, reaching its height in the work of J. S. Bach in the first half of the 18th century. Later composers continued to write fugues, a favourite form of Mozart's wife Constanze, with Beethoven including elaborate fugues in some of his later piano sonatas and a remarkable and challenging Grosse Fuge (Great Fugue) as part of one of his later string quartets. Technically the writing of fugue remains an important element in the training of composers.