The Oxford History of Western Music

The Oxford History of Western Music is a narrative history from the "earliest notations" (taken to be around the eighth century) to the late twentieth century. It was written by the American musicologist Richard Taruskin. Published by Oxford University Press in 2005, it is a five volume work on the various significant periods of Western music and their characteristic qualities, events and composition styles. A paperback edition in five volumes followed in 2009. Oxford University Press had previously published narrative histories of music, although Taruskin's was the first sole author work, spanning over 4000 pages.[1]

Oxford History of MusicEdit

The Oxford History of Music was first published in six volumes under the general editorship of Sir Henry Hadow between 1901 and 1905.[2] The first two volumes, written by H. E. Woolridge, were entitled The Polyphonic Period and began with the music of ancient Greece: these volumes dated quite quickly. The third volume, on seventeenth century music, was written by Sir Hubert Parry. J. A. Fuller Maitland wrote volume four on the age of Bach and Handel, Hadow himself wrote the fifth volume (The Viennese Period) and Edward Dannreuther covered the Romantic period in volume six. Other volumes were reprinted as they stood, but Sir Percy Buck, who was also involved with the OUP's Tudor Church Music, revised the first two volumes (1929 and 1932), and edited a new introductory volume (1929). The introductory volume included a contribution from Sylvia Townsend Warner.[3] In 1940 H C Colles added a seventh volume, Symphony and Drama, 1850-1900.

New Oxford History of MusicEdit

The New Oxford History of Music, initially produced under the general editorship of Sir Jack Westrup, began to appear in 1954 and was finally completed (with Volume IX) in 1990. It spanned ten volumes.[4]

  • I. Ancient and Oriental Music (ed. Egon Wellesz, 1957)
  • II. Early Medieval Music up to 1300 (ed. Anselm Hughes, 1954) (second edition Richard Crocker, 1990)
  • III. Ars Nova and the Renaissance (1300-1540) (ed. Gerald Abraham, Anselm Hughes, 1963)
  • IV. The Age of Humanism (1540-1630) (ed. Gerald Abraham, 1954)
  • V. Opera and Church Music (1630-1750) (ed. Anthony Lewis, Nigel Fortune, 1975)
  • VI. Concert Music (1630-1750) (ed. Gerald Abraham, 1986)
  • VII. The Age of Enlightenment (1745-1790) (ed. Egon Wellesz, 1973)
  • VIII. The Age of Beethoven (1790-1830) (ed. Gerald Abraham, 1982)
  • IX. Romanticism (1830-1890) (ed. Gerald Abraham, 1990)
  • X. The Modern Age (1890-1960) (ed. Martin Cooper, 1974)


  1. ^ "A History of Western Music? Well, It's a Long Story" (brief interview with Taruskin by James Oestreich in the New York Times)
  2. ^ The New Oxford History of Music, Questia library
  3. ^ Anne Pimlott Baker, ‘Buck, Sir Percy Carter (1871–1947)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 16 Aug 2016 (subscription or membership of a UK public library required)
  4. ^ Oxford University Press

External linksEdit