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The Oxford History of Western Music

Second Edition

Christopher H. Gibbs and Richard Taruskin

Publication Date - January 2018

ISBN: 9780190600228

992 pages
8 x 10 inches

In Stock

Takes students beyond the "who, what, and when," exploring the "how and why" behind the story of Western Music


The Oxford History of Western Music, College Edition, Second Edition, immerses students in the engaging story of the Western musical tradition. By emphasizing the connections among works, both within each cultural era and across time and place, the text goes beyond a basic retelling of the music's history to build students' ability to listen critically to key works.

A full suite of instructor resources, a free open-access student Companion Website, a three-volume score anthology, and streaming audio recordings support the text, making The Oxford History of Western Music, College Edition, Second Edition, a complete program for building students' understanding and appreciation of the classical canon.

New to this Edition

  • Additional pedagogy in the form of chapter opening summaries and lists of key subjects, along with callouts for key concepts and study points, help students quickly identify important information as they read and review
  • Streamlined chapters, written in a relatable, student-friendly style, relate the story of Western music in a way that is more focused and digestible
  • The three-volume Oxford Recorded Anthology of Western Music is now conveniently available in streaming audio format, replacing the physical CD sets of the previous edition. The streaming audio volumes are available in a variety of purchase and package options. See below for details.


  • Offers a unique focus on the people behind music history, telling the stories of the composers, performers, audiences, and critics who shaped each musical era
  • Makes connections among works and across history, offering differing perspectives on how the Western musical canon developed and showing how the story of classical music has evolved over time
  • Places musical works within their larger cultural, social, and political contexts, providing a compelling narrative of music history
  • Builds listening and analysis skills through comprehensive discussion of key works
  • Includes helpful learning and study tools in the form of chapter timelines, summaries, key terms, and study questions
  • Open-access Companion Website provides free access to additional study and review material and a guide to writing research papers

About the Author(s)

Richard Taruskin is Professor Emeritus of Music Scholarship at The University of California, Berkeley. He is the 2017 recipient of the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy.

Christopher H. Gibbs is the James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Music at Bard College.


"The content in Taruskin/Gibbs is incredible. I enjoy reading it!" --Lori Shipley, Hampton University

"Taruskin and Gibbs offer a thrilling sense of wonder and excitement that I find lacking in other texts." --Robert Eisenstein, University of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College

"This book offers fascinating and essential observations that no other survey text includes. It is superior to all other texts out there." --Julie Hubbert, University of South Carolina

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Reading Music
    Part I Ancient and Medieval Music
    Chapter 1: Music from Antiquity to Gregorian Chant: C. 1200 BCE-750 CE
    Music in the Bible and Ancient Greece
    Ancient Greek Theories of Music
    Music of the Early Christian Church
    The Legend of Pope Gregory I
    The Development of the Liturgy: The Offices
    The Order of the Mass
    Writing It Down: Neumes
    Guido of Arezzo
    Church Modes
    Psalmody in Practice: The Office and the Mass
    The Structure of the Mass
    Frankish Additions to the Chant Repertory
    Hildegard of Bingen
    Other New Frankish Musical Forms
    Liturgical Dramas
    Marian Antiphons

    Notated Music and the Persistence of Oral Traditions
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 2: Secular and Cathedral Music in the Middle Ages: c.1100-1300
    Performance and Oral Culture
    Music for the Elites versus Music for the People

    The Trouvères in Northern France
    Adam de la Halle and the Formes Fixes
    The Geographic Spread of the Troubadour and Trouvère Traditions
    Musical Instruments in the Middle Ages
    Polyphony: Music for More Than one Voice
    Organum and Its Modifications
    Organum and Discant

    Polyphony in Aquitanian Monastic Centers
    Music in Parisian Cathedrals and Universities
    Notre Dame Polyphony
    Metrical Music
    Organum and Conductus with Three and Four Voices
    The Motet: Music for an Intellectual and Political Elite
    "Franconian" or Mensural Notation
    The Late Thirteenth-Century Motet

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 3: The Ars Nova: Musical Developments in the Fourteenth Century
    Ars Nova Notation
    The Roman de Fauvel
    Isorhythmic Technique

    Guilluame de Machaut: Poet and Musician
    Machaut and the Art of Courtly Song
    Machaut and the Isorhythmic Motet
    Musica Ficta
    Machaut's Virelais
    Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame

    A New Complexity: Ars Subtilior
    Trecento Vernacular Music in Italy
    Two "Wild Bird" Madrigals by Jacopo da Bologna
    Francesca Landini and the Ballata Culture

    The Crowning Era of the Ars Nova Motet
    Guillaume Du Fay's Nuper rosarum flores
    The Problem with Musical Periods
    Study Questions
    Key Terms

    Part II The Renaissance
    Chapter 4: Music in Europe: Towards an International Style, 1300-1500
    The Influence of English Music
    Surviving English Manuscripts
    The English Kings and the Hundred Years War
    The Influence of John Dunstable on French Music

    Guillaume Du Fay and Fauxbourdon Technique
    Du Fay and Binchois
    The Spread of Music for the Elite

    The Cyclic Mass in the Renaissance
    The Growth of Four-part Harmony
    The "Caput" Mass
    The Man at Arms
    The Importance of "Pervading Imitation"

    High, Middle, and Low Musical Styles
    High Church Music in England
    Moltetti Missales in Milan
    Secular Love Songs
    Instrumental Music

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 5: Church Polyphony in the Late Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries: c. 1475-1600
    The Legendary Josquin des Prez
    Changes in Music Theory
    Josquin's Career
    A Model Masterpiece: Josquin's Ave Maria
    Josquin's Influence of Other Composers

    The "Perfect Art" of the Renaissance
    Adrian Willaert and the Post-Josquin Generation
    The New Instrumental Music
    Jacques Buus

    Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
    Palestrina Continues the Tradition
    Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli and the Council of Trent
    Palestrina's Style
    Palestrina's Textbook Counterpoint

    William Byrd in England
    Music under Elizabeth I
    Byrd's Music of Religious Defiance
    Why Musical Styles Changed

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 6: Religious and Secular Music of the Sixteenth Century
    The Protestant Reformation
    Music in the Lutheran Church
    Singing Together: The Lutheran Chorale

    The Catholic Response: The Counter-Reformation
    Grand Polychoral and "Concerted" Music
    Andrea Gabrielli and the Art of Orchestration

    Vernacular Music in the Sixteenth Century
    Vernacular Song in Italy
    The "Parisian" Chanson
    Orlando di Lasso: Cosmopolitan Composer

    The Literary Revolution: Music's Relation to Words
    The Return of the Madrigal
    Late Italian Madrigalists
    Claudio Monteverdi
    Carlo Gesualdo
    Music for the Eyes

    The English Madrigal
    The Three W's: Ward, Wilbye, and Weelkes
    Study Questions
    Key Terms

    Part III The Baroque Era
    Chapter 7: Humanism and the Birth of Opera: 1570-1640
    The Baroque Era
    Humanism and the Greek Past
    Monody and the Representational Style
    The Intermedio: An Allegorical Pageant with Music

    The Triumph of Monody
    Madrigals and Arias Revisited
    The Birth of Opera
    Establishing Operatic Conventions: "Heard" and "Unheard" Music
    Monteverdi's Operas: From Court Celebrations to Commericial Entertainments
    Monteverdi's Later Career in Venice
    Opera and Politics
    Monteverdi's Final Opera: L'incoronazione di Poppea
    Monteverdi's Operas: From Court Celebrations to Commercial Entertainments

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 8: Music in Italy, Germany, France, and England: 1600-1740
    The Rise of Instrumental Music
    Master Organists: Frescobaldi and Sweelinck
    The Chorale Partita and Chorale Concerto
    Germany, the Thirty Years War, and Heinrich Schütz
    Schütz Returns to a Germany at War
    Italian Oratorio and Cantata
    Barbara Strozzi: Performer and Composer
    French Opera: Tragédie lyrique
    Drama as Court Ritual: Lully's Atys
    Jean-Philippe Rameau

    The Keyboard "Portraits" of Francois Couperin
    English Music: Masques and Consort Music
    Purcell's Dido and Aeneas
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 9: Italian Opera Seria and the Concerto Style: 1650-1750
    Opera Seria
    Reforming Opera
    Metastasio and the Role of the
    The Power of the Opera Singers

    Corelli and the Development of the Concerto
    Antonio Vivaldi
    Music Imitating Nature: Vivaldi's The Four Seasons
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 10: Class of 1685: Bach and Handel
    Bach and Handel's Changing Reputations
    Bach's Life and Career
    Bach's Instrumental Music
    The Chorale Prelude
    The Fugue
    The Well-tempered Clavier
    The Baroque Dance Suite:From France to Germany
    The Brandenburg Concertos: Stylistic Hybrids

    Bach's Vocal Works

    Handel's Life and Career
    Handel's Music
    Instrumental Music
    Handel's "Borrowing"
    Study Questions
    Key Terms

    Part IV The Classical Era
    Chapter 11: The Mid-Eighteenth Century: From Bach's Sons to the Comic Style
    Forefather of the New Style: Domenico Scarlatti
    Bach's Sons
    The Music of Wilhelm Friedmann Bach
    C. P. E. Bach's Expressive Music
    The London Bach: Johann Christian

    Intermission Plays
    Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona
    The "War of the Buffoons": Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

    Operatic Innovations
    The Reform Operas of Gluck
    Music and Culture in the Enlightenment
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 12: Concert Life Lifts Off, 1725-1810: Franz Joseph Haydn
    The Birth of the Symphony
    Modern Concert Life Is Born
    The Mannheim Orchestra: "An Army of Generals"
    Franz Joseph Haydn
    Haydn's Early Life and Career
    Haydn's Years with the Esterházy Family
    Haydn's Symphony No. 45: The "Farewell" Symphony
    Haydn's String Quartets and Concertos
    The Symphony Composer in London
    Sonata Form
    Haydn's Symphony No. 104, "London"
    Haydn's Final Years
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 13: The Composer's Voice: Mozart (1756-1791)
    Mozart's Early Operas
    Musical Portraits in Opera
    The "Da Ponte" Operas
    Mozart's Two Last Operas
    Mozart's Symphonies
    The "Symphonic" Concerto Is Born
    The Piano Concerto in G Major, K. 453
    Domestic Genres

    Sacred Music and the Requiem
    Mozart and the Emergence of Romanticism
    The "Beautiful" and the "Sublime"

    Study Questions
    Key Terms

    Part V Romanticism
    Chapter 14: Beethoven (1770-1827)
    The Religion of Art
    Early Life and Works
    Early Life
    The Move to Vienna

    Personal Disaster: The Loss of Hearing
    The Middle Period
    The Mighty Eroica Symphony
    Beethoven's Opera Fidelio
    The Fifth Symphony and Fate
    "More Expression of Feeling than Tone Painting": The Pastoral Symphony
    Concert Life in Beethoven's Vienna
    Rising Fame and Decreasing Productivity

    Late Beethoven
    The Ninth Symphony
    Inwardness: The Late String Quartets
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 15: Opera in the Age of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Weber: 1810-1850
    The Popularity of Rossini
    Rossinian Conventions: The Overture
    Imbroglio: The Comic Finale
    The Serious Aria

    Vincenzo Bellini and Bel Canto
    Gaetano Donizetti
    German Romantic Opera: Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freichütz
    Folk Song, Folklore, and Folk Tales
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 16: Schubert's Private Art: 1797-1828
    Schubert: A Life in Art
    Schubert's Health Crisis
    What Contemporaries Knew of Schubert's Music

    The Elevation of the Lied
    Lyric and Ballad: Goethe's "Heideröslein" and "Der Erlkönig"
    Schubert's Settings of Goethe
    Schubert's Piano Character Pieces
    Schubert's Later Works
    The "Unfinished" Symphony
    Following Beethoven
    Schubert's Last Songs

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 17: Romantic Spectacles: From Virtuosos to Grand Opera: 1800-1850
    The Devil's Violinist: Niccolò Paganini
    Paganini's Caprices
    "The Paganini of the Piano": Franz Liszt
    Transforming Music through Arrangements
    The Lisztian Concert

    Spectacle on the Stage: French Grand Opera
    Daniel-François-Esprit Auber's La muette de Portici
    Giacomo Meyerbeer
    Meyerbeer's Contested Reputation
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 18: Music and Literature: Berlioz, Mendelssohn, and Schumann, 1830-1850
    Hector Berlioz
    Berlioz's Fantastic First Symphony
    The Orchestration of the Fantastique
    Tracing the Idée Fixe through the Fantastique
    The Initial Reception of
    the Symphonie fantastique
    The Prodigious Mendelssohn
    The Concert Overture
    Mendelssohn's Paulus and Civic Nationalism
    Nationalism Takes a Racial Turn

    Schumann and Literature
    The Influence of Literature on Schumann's Music
    Schumann's "Year of Song"
    Schumann's Last Years

    Genius Restrained: Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Clara Wieck Schumann
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 19: "Outsiders" in the Romantic Tradition: Chopin, Gottschalk, and Glinka, 1820-1860
    The Genius of Chopin
    Chopin's Career: From Warsaw to Paris
    The Pinnacle of Salon Music
    The Chopinesque Miniature
    Chopin's Mazurkas and Ballades

    An American Virtuoso: Louis Moreau Gottschalk
    Russia: The Newcomer
    National Markings and Folk Tunes
    Mikhail Glinka
    An Education in Italy and Germany
    Glinka's A Life for the Tsar

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 20: Musical Politics in the Mid-19th Century
    Franz Brendel and the Dialectic of History
    The New German School
    Liszt's Symphonic Poems
    Liszt's Les Préludes
    The Meaning of Les Préludes
    "The Music of the Future"

    Eduard Hanslick and Absolute Music
    The Concerto Transformed
    Concertos by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, and Berlioz
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 21: Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi: Class of 1813
    Art and Revolution: Wagner's Early Career
    A Union of the Arts
    From Theory into Practice: The Ring of the Nibelung
    Wagnerian Leitmotifs
    Wagner's Theories on Words, Orchestra, and Theater

    The Ultimate Experience: Tristan und Isolde
    The Love Duet and "Liebestod" in Tristan and Isolde
    Troubling Parallels between Wagner's Life and Art
    Wagner's Final Opera: Parsifal
    Verdi: Upholding the Italian Tradition
    Early Verdi: The "Galley" Years
    Stirrings of Revolution: The Struggle for a Unified Italy
    Tragicomedy in the Shakespearean Manner

    A Trio of Masterpieces
    Il trovatore and La traviata
    Rigoletto: Opera as Modern Drama

    Verdi in Retirement
    Verdi's Last Opera: Falstaff
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 22: Music in Eastern Europe and Russia: 1825-1895
    Bedrich Smetana: Czech Composer
    Early Life and Work
    Travels Abroad
    Return to Prague
    Smetana's Má vlast and His Later Operas

    Russian Musical Nationalism
    A New Russian Music
    Modest Musorgsky's Realism
    Boris Godunov and Russian History
    The Coronation Scene
    Revising Boris Godunov

    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Tchaikovsky and 19th Century Russian Symphonies
    Fate in Music: Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony
    Tchaikovsky's Life versus His Art

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 23: The Revival of the Symphony: 1875-1900
    New Halls and New Orchestras
    The Development of the Classical Canon
    "New Paths": Johannes Brahms
    Brahms's Symphonic Attempts
    Brahms's Chamber Music and "Developing
    Brahms's Choral Works
    Brahms's First Symphony

    The Symphony as Sacrament: Anton Bruckner
    The Czech Master: Antonín Dvorák
    Dvorák in America
    The "Boston School"
    Symphonies in France
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 24: Opera of the Later 19th Century: 1850-1900
    Stereotyping the Other: "Orientalism"
    Bizet's Carmen
    Russian Orientalism

    Opéra Lyrique
    Jacques Offenbach and French Operetta
    Johann Strauss II: The Waltz King and Viennese Operetta
    England's Gilbert and Sullivan

    The Classic vs. the Popular: The Operas of Giacomo Puccini
    Study Questions
    Key Terms

    Part VI The Twentieth Century to Today
    Chapter 25: Early Modernism in Vienna: Mahler, Strauss, and Schoenberg (1890-1918)
    The Birth of Modernism
    Vienna at the Turn of the Century

    Gustav Mahler: Conductor and Composer
    Mahler's Lieder
    From Symphonic Poem to First Symphony
    Moving Beyond Program Music
    Mahler's Middle Period
    Mahler's Late Works

    Richard Strauss: Radical Modernist
    Maximalizing Opera: Strauss's Salome
    Arnold Schoenberg: The Next Generation
    A New Synthesis of Wagner and Brahms
    Schoenberg's Expressionism
    The "Emancipation of Dissonance"
    The Monodrama Erwartung
    At the Opposite Extreme: Schoenberg's Atonal Miniatures
    Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 26: Modernism in France: 1870-1930
    Erik Satie: Escaping the Shadow of Wagner
    Claude Debussy: Searching for a New Harmonic Freedom
    Early Years
    Impressionism and Symbolism
    Pelléas et Mélisande

    "Essentially French": Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Ravel
    Maurice Ravel
    New Possibilities for Women
    The Rebirth of Ballet
    Stravinsky's The Firebird and Petrushka
    The Rite of Spring
    Scandalized Reactions to The Rite of Spring

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 27: Nationalism in Music: 1890-1930
    Finland's Jean Sibelius
    England: Elgar and Vaughan Williams
    The Allure of Spain: Manual de Falla
    Folk and Modernist Synthesis: Béla Bartók
    Adopting Folk Traditions to Modern Music
    Modernism in Eastern Europe: Karol Szymanowski and George Enescu
    The Oldest Modernist: Leos Janác ek
    Speech Melodies
    Alexander Scriabin: From Expression to Revelation
    Scriabin's Mysterium
    Charles Ives: American Modernist
    Reactions to Ives's Music
    The Concord Sonata
    Nostalgia in Ives's Music: Three Places in New England

    The Nationalists' Legacy
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 28: Neoclassicism and Twelve-Tone Music: 1915-1950
    The First World War and Its Impact on the Arts
    Igor Stravinsky's Neoclassical Path
    The Music of Stravinsky's Octet
    Arnold Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone Revolution
    The Road to Twelve-Tone Music
    The Rules of
    Twelve-Tone Music
    Alban Berg's Twelve-Tone Romanticism
    Anton Webern's Structural Rigor
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 29: Music Between the Wars: 1920-1940
    Popular Music and Classical Composers: Ragtime, Blues, and Jazz
    Jazz's Impact on French Music
    In Search of "Real" American Music
    Aaron Copland in Paris
    George Gershwin and Popular Music
    Duke Ellington

    Surrealism in Music
    Satie's Parade
    Further Forays in French Surrealism: Les Six
    American Surrealism

    Music in Germany Between the Wars
    Alban Berg's Wozzeck
    Music for Political Action
    From Vienna to Hollywood: Operatic Techniques in Film Scores

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 30: Music and Totalitarianism in the Soviet Union, Italy, and Germany 1920-1945
    Totalitarianism and Music
    The Rise of the Soviet Union
    Music in the Soviet Union
    The Rise of Socialist Realism

    Dmitry Shostakovich's Troubled Life and Career
    Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony: Capitulation or Hidden Critique?
    Shostakovich's Later Works

    Sergey Prokofiev's Return to His Homeland
    Italian Fascism
    Arturo Toscanini and Music Making in the New Italy
    Music in Nazi Germany
    The Flight to Freedom
    Carl Orff and Youth Culture
    Shades of Gray: Hartmann, Webern, and Strauss

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 31: Music and Politics in America and Its Allies: 1930-1950
    Ultra-modern Composers
    Edgard Varese
    Splitting the Semitone: Microtonal Music
    New Sounds, New Instruments, New Tunings

    The American Left and Music
    Aaron Copland's"American" Music
    Carlos Chavez and Silvestre Revueltas in Mexico
    American Patriotic Works

    The Great American Symphony
    Accessible Listening: Samuel Barber and Sergey Rachmaninoff
    Opera in Midcentury
    Benjamin Britten
    A Modern Antihero: Britten's Peter Grimes
    Britten on "The Composer's Duty"

    Olivier Messiaen: "The Charm of Impossibilities"
    Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time
    Faith, Nature, Color, and Rhythm

    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 32: Music in the Aftermath of World War II: 1945-1970
    The Aftermath of World War II
    The Revival of Serialism
    Toward Total Serialism: Olivier Messiaen's Mode de valeurs et d'intensités
    The Darmstadt School
    Conversions to Serialism
    American Academic Music

    Indeterminacy: John Cage and the "New York School"
    Music for Prepared Piano
    "Permission": Cage's Influence
    Morton Feldman: Preserving the Avant-garde

    Electronics: An Old Dream Comes True
    Musique Concrète versus Elektronische Musik
    The New Technology Spreads
    Electronics and Live Music

    Music in History: Elliott Carter and Milton Babbitt
    "Who Cares if You Listen?"
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 33: Change in the Sixties and Seventies: Rock, Minimalism, and The Mixing of Art and Popular Music
    The Revolutionary Sixties
    The Music of Youth: Rock 'n' Roll
    The British Invasion: The Beatles
    The Influence of Rock

    The Rise of Minimalism
    La Monte Young
    Terry Riley's In C

    "Classical" Minimalism: Steve Reich
    Phase Music
    Music for 18 Musicians

    Philip Glass
    Einstein on the Beach
    The Impact of Minimalism
    The Spiritual Minimalists
    Study Questions
    Key Terms
    Chapter 34 "Many Streams": Millennium's End, 1970-Present
    Competing Visions for Music
    A New Diversity
    Collage and Pastiche: Luciano Berio and George Rochberg
    Across Time and Space: George Crumb and Frederic Rzewski
    The Neo-Romantics
    American Neo-Romantics
    European Neo-Romantics

    The Avant-Garde Continues
    The Digital Revolution
    Performance Art
    The Death of Classical Music and the Revival of Opera
    John Adams and Nixon in China
    A New Spirituality

    Study Questions
    Key Terms

    Further Reading