In the old Kalmus handwritten conductor's score for The Mikado, a few notes in the overture had a unfamiliar notation. For example, here's Measure 50 from the oboe part (other instruments have similar notation):

enter image description here

I'm reading the small vertical marks as "staccatissimo", but what's that backwards "less than" sign? Isn't a standard "accent" written as a "greater than" sign?

  • This "backwards" symbol appears throughout the overture, but in Act I, Scene 1, he uses sf and in Act 1 scene 2 there are "normal" accents (e.g., m. 104; 2 m. after L).
    – Aaron
    Apr 23 at 23:44
  • 1
    If "16va" is a thing, I guess writing accent marks backwards isn't so bad. Apr 24 at 0:44
  • I've seen the "reverse" accent in Musescore (in the articulations section) but never used it myself. Whenever I've seen and listened to misuses of it in scores in Musescore's website, I never quite figured out what it did.
    – Dekkadeci
    Apr 24 at 21:49

3 Answers 3


I received this in a private email from Albert Bergeret, the Artistic Director of the NY G&S Players:

I had never taken notice of the mark that you mention, and I wouldn’t necessarily consider such notations in a Kalmus printed score to be those of the composer, however, by my own impression of the moments noted I would suggest that it implies a leaning into a particular note during its duration rather than the accent mark which implies a hard attack followed by a diminuendo. That’s how [I] hear the places where the notation you have noted appear.

I hope this answers your question, although I must say that my response is subjective, not authoritative.


It can either be a typo for an accent (to be corroborated by checking with analog passages and/or parts), or it can mean a reverse accent: a note starting softer and getting louder. Of course that requires an instrument with continuous tone control, like a bowed string or wind instrument.

  • “Reverse accent”? Is that a thing? Or did he invent it? Maybe that’s why he got knighted.
    – David H
    Apr 24 at 19:03
  • This would be better left as a comment, as it's speculative and nonspecific.
    – Aaron
    Apr 24 at 21:57
  • Reverse accents are pretty common in double bass parts I’ve read, especially on longer notes but sometimes fairly short ones too. You can just think of it as a quick crescendo on a note, just like a normal-direction accent can be thought of as ‘make the attack louder’, ie a short de-crescendo.
    – OwenM
    Apr 25 at 17:16

The Musescore desktop software program has the "reverse accent" labelled as "Fade in":

enter image description here

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