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Renaissance Choral Music: Home

Topics include how to research choral music of the Renaissance, including composers' works hidden in larger publications.

General references

Much of the music of this era can be found by searching the catalog under the composer's name, used as author. However, many works are included in larger sets and series, which can require the use of works lists and bibliographies in large dictionaries and encyclopedias, to turn to publishers' catalogs, or to use thematic and bibliographic references specific to a given composer. 


ON-LINE:  Oxford Music Online consists of Grove Music Online, plus the Oxford Dictionary of Music and the Oxford Companion to Music.. You must sign into this resource through the MSU Libraries website: Select "Electronic Resources", then type " Oxford Music Online".


New Grove dictionary of music and musicians - 2000 edition behind the Fine Arts reference desk - ML 100.G885 2000. The 1980 edition is in Music Reference and the circulating collection. Older editions are shelved under ML 100.G885 in the circulating collection.. 

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) -- Music Ref ML 100 .M92 (older set, entirely in German; excellent illustrations)

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG)-- Music Ref ML 100 .M92 1994 Sachteil (subjects); complete in 9 v. + index. In German.

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG)--Music Ref ML 100.M922 1999 Personenteil (people); complete in 17 v. + index & supplement. In German.

New Oxford history of music. The age of humanism, 1540-1630; Ars Nova and Renaissance, 1300-1540. ML 160 .N44 v…One set is in reference; other sets are in circulating collection.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC INDEXING for complete works and monuments:
Heyer, Anna Harriet. Historical sets, collected editions, and monuments of music. Mus Ref ML113.H52 (various editions)

Hill, George Robert. Collected editions, historical series and sets and monuments of music. Mus Ref ML 113.H55 1999

Anthologies of music: an annotated index. Mus Ref ML 111.A1 D4 no.68

THEMATIC CATALOGS and bibliographies of specific composers:
Found in Music Ref under call number ML 134 followed by call number based on composer's name [note, not every composer has had such a work written as yet] These typically contain the opening bars of music and any subsequent  themes/movements for each work, as well as data on first performance, location of manuscript, related works, or other documentation deemed necessary.
Examples: ML 134 .J773 Josquin des Prez; ML 134 .M66 Monteverdi.

Call numbers with a fourth line beginning A1-A4 are thematic catalogs; if the fourth line begins with something else, it is primarily a bibliographic or discographic reference, without themes. 

Subject headings

Subject headings generally work very well for finding music of similar topics. Some of the more general headings may cover both instrumental and choral music. Once a suitable entry is found, check the actual subject headings for the item to find similar material.
Music-15th Century
Music-16th Century
Music-17th Century.

In some headings, the singular word denotes a book about the topic, plural denotes scores and recordings. In others, there is no such distinction. Additional subject headings may be used, to break down the type of performance ensemble, possibly the country of origin, language, format. These basic headings also work for recordings (using the plural form if there are two headings).

Masses [books, scores and recordings are all under this heading]
Masses, Unaccompanied [only scores and recordings]
Part songs
Madrigal/Madrigals (Music) [note that under the singular heading are found literary works on the poetic texts of madrigals, with or without mention of music)
Music-Italy-15th Century
Cantatas, Sacred
Cantatas, Secular
Choruses [subdivided by type of chorus, eg Choruses (Mixed voices)]
Psalms (Music)
Passion music

Individual composers may be searched as subjects; if an entire book or a large section of a book is devoted to the composer, the name will appear as a subject. Remember, subject headings lead to books ABOUT the individual; author headings lead works BY the individual.

Call number ranges

The most frequently used call numbers for books about choral music are:
ML 1500-1554 General works
ML 2400-2770 Secular works
ML 2900-3275 Sacred works

The major call numbers for scores are:
M 1495 Mixed sacred and secular collections, 2 or more composers, mixed solo/chorus
M1497 Secular collections, 2 or more composers, mixed solo/chorus
M1500-1526 Dramatic music [operas, ballets, etc.]
M1530-1546 Secular choruses with orchestra/ensemble
M1547-1610 Secular choruses, parts songs, one solo instrument or a capella
M1999 Mixed sacred works, 2 or more composers
M2000-2007 Oratorios
M 2010-2017 Services [Masses, Requiems, Orthodox, Anglican…]
M2020-2036 Sacred choruses, part songs, with ensemble or unaccompanied
M2115-2146 Hymals with melodies [texts-only are in BV classification]
M2147-2188 Liturgy and ritual of various denominations [Graduals, Propers, antiphonaries, offices, etc.]

In general, a number ending in "0" denotes a full score, a number ending in "3" denotes a piano reduction. Opera, full score: M1500, piano reduction: M1503. Oratorio full score M2000, piano reduction M2003.

Sample research texts

M 2.W88 v.1, 2. Women composers : music through the ages. Composers born before 1599 (v.1); composers born before 1699 (v.2).

M 2 .R2382 Recent researches in the music of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. An ongoing set from A-R Editions; consult the catalog for individual volumes. Search by series title or call number to see all volumes.

M 2.R2384 Recent researches in the music of the Renaissance. [Also from A-R Editions; consult the catalog by series title or call number]

M 2.M489 Monuments of Renaissance music.

ML 172 .O54 2003 Ongaro, Giulio. Music of the Renaissance.

ML 275.2 .M88 1994 Kmetz, John, ed. Music in the German Renaissance.

ML 430.5 F7613 1981 Frotscher, Gotthold. Performance practices of early music.

ML 1502.S86 2013  Renaissance music for the choral conductor.

ML 3275.H4 1997 Hearing the motet.

Mus Ref. ML 128.M68 L56 1993 Lincoln, Harry B. The Latin motet : indexes to printed collections, 1500-1600.

Art Ref. Z 113.B66 1991 Book of Medieval and Renaissance alphabets.

The series "Corpus mensurabilis musicae" is an example of a series title that contains many relevant works within it but these are not shelved together; each composer's work has its own call number. Search the series as a title to see the various collections that make up the "Corpus". Most will be in the M2 or M3 category.

Related topics

Music in art

Christian art and symbolism

Art, Renaissance [Note: "Art, Renaissance" is a legitimate heading but there is no comparable music heading; music is subdivided by centuries]

Arabic literature, 1258-1800


Selected recordings

CD3310 Portuguese polyphony

CD20242 Journey through Dalmatia

CD 90167 Psaumes et chansons de la Reforme

CD 44566 The flowering of Renaissance choral music

CD 43925 Praetorius, Michael. Musae Sionae. (Mass for Christmas morning)

CD 28947 Venetian Christmas

CD 5094 Schutz, Heinrich. Weihnachtshistorie

CD9316 Muses of Zion : German sacred music 1600-1730

CD 6942 Music of the Duke of Lerma.

CD 90161 Rosenmuller, Johann. Vespro della Beata Vergine.

CD55098 Spanish music of the Golden Age, 1600-1700

CD6159 Music from Christian and Jewish Spain, 1450-1550

CD93171 Sephardic journey: Spain and the Spanish Jews


Indiana University maintains a categorized website, probably the best overall source:

Here are some other examples:

Index to Renaissance vocal music in collections:
(This is an index to collections at York University, Ontario, Canada)

Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music:
A project of several British institutions to digitize some old and fragile manuscripts; some are from the Renaissance.

Motet Database Catalog Online:        Based at University of Florida, the database allows a search by title, composer, and various combinations of criteria. Includes polyphonic settings, primarily in Latin; excludes settings of the Mass but includes Mass Propers and motet genres.

Melodiarium hymnologicum Bohemiae:   A digital collection of monophonic Latin, Czech and German sacred song created or imported into "Czech lands" up to the 18th Century.

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