Virtually all composers in the Classical, and most composers in the Romantic period followed the convention of notating tempo markings and other directions in Italian.

However, clearly not all of these composers were Italian, and I assume some of them only had a limited understanding of Italian beyond the directions commonly notated in sheet music.

I have a vague recollection that Beethoven, not knowing the corresponding Italian word for the tempo marking he intended, made up an Italian word out of whole cloth.

What examples are there of works whose sheet music includes Italian directions which are unidiomatic, ungrammatical or otherwise erroneous?


There is a difference between "conventional musical terms that were originally Italian" and "the Italian language".

A common example is "con sordino" with a mute or "sordini" (plural) - the "correct" Italian is sordina/sordine, but most musicians either don't know or don't care whether their mutes are grammatically masculine or feminine.

Another is "D.S. al coda/fine" which I have never seen written "correctly" as "D.S. alla coda/fine".

This also works in reverse. A non-Italian speaker who knows a bit of music terminology may think that "Largo e Allegro" is a nonsensical tempo marking, but it is perfectly good Italian, and has been used by composers who actually knew Italian - Handel, for example. "Largo" doesn't mean "slow" in Italian, but it does mean "slow" as a conventional musical term.

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