A History of Key Characteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries

A History of Key Characteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries

Second Edition

Rita Steblin


University of Rochester Press



A fully updated edition of the leading reference work on musical key characteristics during the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods.
This is a revised second edition of Dr. Steblin's important work on key characteristics, first published in 1983 by UMI Research Press and re-issued by the University of Rochester Press in 1996. The revision has been limited to a thorough correction and update of the material in the first edition, so as to not disrupt the content and organization, for which the book has been praised as a significant and noteworthy reference for both scholars and research students alike.
The book discusses the extra-musical meanings associated with various musical keys by ancient Greek and medieval-renaissance theorists and in particular composers and writers on music in the Baroque, Classical, and early Romantic periods. Chapters focus on Mattheson's extensive key descriptions from 1713, the Rameau-Rousseau and Marpurg-Kirnberger controversies regarding unequal versus equal temperaments, and C.F.D. Schubart's influential list based on the sharp-flat (bright-dark) principle of key-distinctions.

Rita Katherine Steblin is a world-renowned music scholar, living and working in Vienna.


January 2002
424 pages
9x6 in
ISBN: 9781580460415
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
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Table of Contents

The Ancient Greeks and the Doctrine of Ethos
The Medieval-Renaissance Modes and Their Affects
The Transition from Modality to Tonality: Early French Key Characteristics
Johann Mattheson and the Early Eighteenth-Century German Approach to Key Characteristics
Rameau and Rousseau: Equal Temperament versus Unequal Temperament
Marpurg versus Kimberger: The Tuning Controversy in Germany
Psychological Factors: The Sharp-Flat Principle
Physical Factors: The Properties of Instruments
Tradition and Key Characteristics in the Early Nineteenth Century