Definition of musica reservata in English:

musica reservata

Pronunciation /ˌmjuːzɪkə ˌrɛzəˈvɑːtə/


  • A style of 16th-cent. music characterized by heightened expressiveness, usually employing mannerist and chromatic techniques to intensify the imagery and emotion of the words in singing.

    The precise meaning of reservata here has divided musicologists. Some have supposed it to imply a reserved or restrained compositional technique, characterized by simplicity, clarity, and balance. However, references to musica reservata in 16th-cent. treatises do not bear this out, and it seems more likely that reservata referred not to the style itself but to the fact that the music was reserved for a particular connoisseur audience.


1940s; earliest use found in Willi Apel (b. 1893). From post-classical Latin musica reservata from classical Latin mūsica + reservāta, feminine of reservātus, past participle of reservāre.