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Uniform Titles: A Guide

Uniform Titles

Musical compositions often have a generic title (Piano sonata no. 3) rather than a distinctive one like books often have (A tale of two cities). Moreover, they may exist in a variety of languages, arrangements, and media. For instance, here are several examples of how the title of Beethoven's Third symphony appears on several recordings and scores in our collection:

  Symphony nos. 2 & 3
  Symphony no. 3, Eroica, op. 55 in E flat major
  Sinfonie Nr. 3, Es-dur: Sinfonia eroica, op. 55
  Symphonie III, Es dur, Eroica, op. 55

All of these titles are perfectly legitimate; none is more correct than the others. But if we listed the work by all these titles in the catalog, you would have to look in four places to find them—and many more to find every other manifestation we own. Moreover, you would somehow have to know in advance what versions of the title exist, or poke around the catalog guessing at them.

Obviously, some sort of unifying principle is needed. To bring all versions of a work together, regardless of the title the publisher has assigned it, librarians invented a concept we call the “uniform title.” In the case of Beethoven's Eroica, it is:

  Symphonies, no. 3, op. 55, Eb major

Every single version of Beethoven's Third that we own has this title attached to it. Thus, if you take a look at the the full catalog record for the Bärenreiter score, it looks like this:

  Name   Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
  Uniform Title   Symphonies, no. 3, op. 55, Eb major
  Title Page   Symphonie Nr. 3 in Es-Dur = Symphony no. 3 in E-flat major : Eroica : op. 55 / Ludwig van Beethoven ; herausgegeben von Jonathan Del Mar.
  Publication   Kassel ; New York : Bärenreiter, [1997]

You notice we did not discard the publisher's title. We merely added a uniform title on top of it. By assigning these to each instance of every work, all works by Beethoven collate and sort logically and clearly when you perform an author search:

  Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
  Symphonies
  Symphonies; arr.
  Symphonies, nos. 1-4
  Symphonies, no. 1, op. 21, C major
  Symphonies, no. 1, op. 21, C major; arr.
  Symphonies, no. 2, op. 36, D major
  Symphonies, no. 2, op. 36, D major; arr.
  Symphonies, no. 2, op. 36, D major; Larghetto; arr. 
  Symphonies, no. 3, op. 55, Eb major
  etc.

Note that the plural form is used even when an individual work is being named. Looks strange, but once you get used to it you'll see how it all works in the same genre sort alpha-numerically, with (in this instance) collections containing multiple symphonies at the top.

Another example: Catalog entries for editions in different languages of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Un ballo in maschera (known in English as A masked ball) appear as follows:

 

Name       Verdi, Giuseppe, 1813-1901.
Uniform Title       Ballo in maschera
Title Page       Un ballo in maschera … [title page in Italian]
     
Name       Verdi, Giuseppe, 1813-1901.
Uniform Title       Ballo in maschera
Title Page       A masked ball …[title page in English]
     
Name       Verdi, Giuseppe, 1813-1901.
Uniform Title       Ballo in maschera
Title Page       Ein Maskenball … [title page in German]

Note that the composer's original language (in this case, Italian) is used for the uniform title, and that the initial article "Un" is omitted. (Articles are omitted in all languages.)

There are three general types of uniform titles: 

  Form titles
  Concerto, sonata, symphony, etc.
   
  Distinctive titles
  Opera titles (Un ballo in maschera), named works (Symphonie fantastique), etc. 
   
  Collective titles
  Collections or recordings containing multiple works by a composer.


Each of these is considered in turn in the following pages, with an explanation of how they are constructed.

Many musical works have titles that actually are the names of forms or types of compositions ("sonatas," "concertos," "symphonies," and so forth). In these cases, the name of the form of the work is used as the first word of the uniform title. In the introductory Beethoven symphony examples you saw that each uniform title began with the word "Symphonies":

 

Name

  Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
 

Uniform Title

  Symphonies, no. 3, op. 55, Eb major
 

Publisher’s Title

      Symphonie III, Es dur : Eroica, op. 55 / Ludwig van Beethoven.
 

Publisher

  Wien : Wiener Philharmonischer Verlag, [192-?]
       
 

Name

  Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
 

Uniform Title

  Symphonies, no. 3, op. 55, Eb major
 

Publisher’s Title

  Symphony no. 3, Eroica, op. 55 in E flat major / Ludwig van Beethoven.
 

Publisher

  New York : Kalmus, [196-?]
       
 

Name

  Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
 

Uniform Title

  Symphonies, no. 3, op. 55, Eb major
 

Publisher’s Title

  Sinfonie Nr. 3, Es-dur: Sinfonia eroica, op. 55
 

Publisher

  Wiesbaden : Breitkopf & Härtel, [197-?]

Some other form names commonly used in uniform titles are: 

  Concertos
  Duets… (or "Trios", "Quartets", etc.) 
  Etudes … 
  Masses … 
  Sonatas … 
  Suites … 
  Symphonies … 
  Variations … 

Following the name of the form in the uniform title come the names of the instruments (or voices) that perform the work:

 

Correct

  Incorrect
 

Quartets, strings, no. 3

  String quartets, no. 3 
 

Concertos, piano, orchestra 

      Piano concertos 
 

Sonatas, flute, piano

  Flute, piano sonatas
 

Variations, piano

  Piano variations

Sometimes the medium of performance is implied by the name of the form. For example, "Symphonies" implies performance by an orchestra; "Songs" implies performance by a solo voice with keyboard accompaniment. In such cases the names of the performing instruments or voices are omitted from the uniform title: 

 

Correct

  Incorrect
 

Symphonies, no. 5

  Symphonies, orchestra, no. 5 
 

Songs

      Songs, voice, piano
 

Chorale preludes

  Chorale preludes, organ

After the name of the form and the medium of performance (if necessary), appropriate number(s) and key (tonality) are added as required to identify the individual composition, and to complete the uniform title. The numbering may be sequential ("Symphonies, no. 3"), or may be a number scheme particularly associated with the works of the composer.

Remember: Form, instrument(s)/voice(s), number, key 

 

Name

  Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828.
 

Uniform Title

      Quartets, strings, D.173, G minor ... ["Deutsch" catalog number and key signature]
       
 

Name

  Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
 

Uniform Title

  Concertos, piano, orchestra, K. 488, A major ... ["Köchel" catalog number and key signature]
       
 

Name

  Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
 

Uniform Title

  Symphonies, no. 5, op. 67, C minor ... [Symphony number, opus number, and key signature]

Note: In the final example it is unnecessary to name the orchestra as the performing ensemble, because it is implied by the name of the form, "Symphonies". 

Warning! Some compositions in this category are also known by popular, descriptive names, like Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata for piano, or Haydn's "Surprise" symphony. Such as name is not used in a uniform title unless it is the composer's own, original title for the work (e.g., Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique). If by error you search under a popular title, you will retrieve only those editions for which the popular title actually is printed on the publication. Other editions that omit the popular title, or print it in a different language, will not be found.

This is one reason why we always advise you to search for music by the composer's name, then scroll down the list of titles. Within the list of titles (what librarians call a "browse list"), you will usually find a cross reference from popular or variant titles that will lead you to the correct uniform title, as in the following examples:

  Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
  Moonlight sonata -- See Sonatas, piano, no. 14, op. 27, no. 2, C# minor 
   
  Haydn, Joseph, 1732-1809.
  Surprise symphony -- See Symphonies, H. I, 94, G major

To repeat, the order of elements in a form-type uniform title is:

  1. Form name
  2. Instrument(s) and/or voice(s),
  3. Number(s) (Opus or other number)
  4. Tonality 

Name of the key signature is omitted if the tonality of the work is ambiguous.

When a composer gives a composition a title that is not the name of a musical form, that non-form, or distinctive title, in its original language, is used as the uniform title. Works that have distinctive titles include operas, oratorios, ballets, and many other types of vocal and stage works. Here are some well-known examples from the dramatic repertoire: 

 

Name

  Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
 

Uniform Title

  Zauberflöte
 

Publisher’s Title

      The Magic flute : an opera … 
       
 

Name

  Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971.
 

Uniform Title

  Zhar-ptitsa
 

Publisher’s Title

  The Firebird (l'Oiseau de feu) : a ballet … 
       
 

Name

  Berlioz, Hector, 1803-1869.
 

Uniform Title

  Symphonie fantastique
 

Publisher’s Title

  Phantastische Symphonie : (in 5 Sätzen)...

(Note that for practical reasons--we do not have Cyrillic keyboards--in the Stravinsky example the Cyrillic alphabet has been transcribed into the Latin one.)

Many instrumental compositions also have titles. For example:

 

Name

  Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750.
 

Uniform Title

  Brandenburgische Konzerte
 

Publisher’s Title

      The six Brandenburg concertos … 
       
 

Name

  Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750.
 

Uniform Title

  Wohltemperierte Klavier
 

Publisher’s Title

  48 preludes and fugues (The Well-tempered Clavier) …
       
 

Name

  Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
 

Uniform Title

  Ungarische Tänze
 

Publisher’s Title

  Hungarian dances : for orchestra … 
       
 

Name

  Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971.
 

Uniform Title

  Symphonies d'instruments à vent
 

Publisher’s Title

  Symphonies for wind instruments …

Note that although the Bach Brandenburgische Konzerte are "concertos," and Stravinsky's Symphonies d'instruments à vent are "symphonies," these titles were originally used by the composers as distinctive titles. These titles, therefore, are used in their original languages as the uniform titles. 

You can see that it is helpful to know something about the original language of a work. But don't worry! Cross references will frequently be found in the catalog, leading you from commonly known nicknames, or titles in other languages (including English), to the "correct" title in its original language as we have established it in the catalog. For example: 

  Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
  Magic flute -- See Zauberflöte 
   
  Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971.
  Firebird -- See Zhar-ptitsa

Sometimes a single movement or section of a larger work is published or recorded separately from the whole composition. For example, the "Hallelujah chorus" from Handel's oratorio Messiah may be published separately for performance by a church choir; or the movement "Claire de lune" from Debussy's Suite bergamasque for piano is often performed separately. In a uniform title for such separately published or recorded movements, the entire work is named first, and then the part is named. 

 

Name

  Handel, George Frederic, 1685-1759.
 

Uniform Title

  Messiah. Hallelujah
 

Publisher’s Title

      The Hallelujah chorus, from Messiah … 
       
 

Name

  Debussy, Claude, 1862-1918.
 

Uniform Title

  Suite bergamasque. Clair de lune
 

Publisher’s Title

  Clair de lune : from the Suite bergamasque for piano …
       
 

Name

  Puccini, Giacomo, 1858-1924.
 

Uniform Title

  Tosca. Vissi d'arte; arr.
 

Publisher’s Title

  Vissi d'arte : from Tosca / Giacomo Puccini ; arranged for piano…

Note how this makes titles fall nicely in an alphabetical list:

  Debussy, Claude, 1862-1918.
  Suite bergamasque
  Suite bergamasque; arr.
  Suite bergamasque. Clair de lune
  Suite bergamasque. Clair de lune; arr.
  Suite bergamasque. Menuet
  etc.

Again, you will find many cross references in the catalog leading you to the correct uniform title entry for separately published or recorded parts of larger works. It is very important to remember that this kind of cross reference occurs only when the library owns the movement as a separately published edition, or a separately recorded excerpt. For example: 

  Handel, George Frederic, 1685-1759.
  Hallelujah chorus -- See Messiah. Hallelujah
   
  Debussy, Claude, 1862-1918.
  Clair de lune – See Suite bergamasque. Clair de lune

The library owns many editions and recordings that contain more than one composition by the same composer. Often, a particular composition that you want will be available only in such a collection. For example, several of the sonatas for piano by Beethoven will be found only in collections containing all thirty-two of his sonatas. In this and similar instances, the catalog will not list the individual work you want, and no cross reference will show you the proper heading to search. You must use a bit of imagination to find a collection that contains the piece you want.

For any one composer, there may be as many as three kinds of collections containing his or her works, and each of these kinds of collections also has its own kind of collective uniform title:

  Collections containing works all of the same form or type (all symphonies, or sonatas, or variations, etc.) have form collective titles.
   
  Collections containing works all for the same medium of performance (all piano, or orchestra, or string quartets, etc.), but in various forms have performance medium collective titles.
   
  Collections containing both vocal and instrumental music, and various forms have mixed forms and media collective titles. 

A fourth category of collection contains works by more than one composer. Such collections often, but not always, are cross indexed in the catalog from the names of individual composers or compositions. 

Each of these is considered in turn below.


Collections containing works all of the same form or type (all symphonies, or sonatas, or variations, etc.)

Form collective titles consist of the form name, and—if necessary—the medium of performance, exactly like the beginning of a form-type uniform title for an individual work. Remember that these works do not all have to be for the same performance medium. Examples: 

 

Name

  Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
 

Uniform Title

  Sonatas, violin, piano
 

Publisher’s Title

      Eighteen sonatas for pianoforte and violin … [including works all in the same form (sonata) and performance medium (violin and piano)] 
       
 

Name

  Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828.
 

Uniform Title

  Songs
 

Publisher’s Title

  Gesänge : für Singstimme mit Klavier = Songs : for voice and piano … [including works all of one type (song) and performance medium (voice and piano)]
       
 

Name

  Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
 

Uniform Title

  Concertos
 

Publisher’s Title

  Complete concerti in full score … [including works all of one form (concerto), but with different solo instruments]
 

Publisher

  Wiesbaden : Breitkopf & Härtel, [197-?]

Collections containing works all for the same medium of performance (all piano, or orchestra, or string quartets, etc.), but in various forms

Performance medium collective titles consist of the name of the performance medium, followed by "music." The performance medium can be specific ("Piano music," Orchestra music," etc.), or broad ("Keyboard music" if the collection includes both harpsichord and piano music, "Vocal music" if the collection includes both songs and duets, etc.). Examples: 

 

Name

  Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
 

Uniform Title

  Violin, piano music
 

Publisher’s Title

      Complete works for violin and piano … [includes multiple forms (sonatas, variations, etc.) in a single performance medium (violin and piano)] 
       
 

Name

  Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750.
 

Uniform Title

  Organ music
 

Publisher’s Title

  Complete organ music : a critical edition in eight volumes … [includes multiple forms (fugues, chorales, etc.) in a single performance medium]
       
 

Name

  Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
 

Uniform Title

  Chamber music
 

Publisher’s Title

  Complete chamber music … [includes multiple forms (sonatas, variations, etc.) and multiple types of chamber groups (string quartets, sextets, etc.)]

For collective uniform titles, remember that form always takes precedence over performance medium. That is, if a collection contains works

 

all of the same form

       
      and also
   
 

all of the same performance medium 


the uniform title will always be based on the form. 


Collections containing both vocal and instrumental music, and various forms

Some collections of a composer's works contain both instrumental and vocal music in various forms. Most often such a collection will contain all of the composer's works, will consist of several volumes, and will be intended primarily for scholarly study rather than for use in performance. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that the composition you want is available only in such a collection. 

The collective uniform title for collections of a composer's complete works consists of the single word "Works." Two examples: 

 

Name

  Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
 

Uniform Title

  Works
 

Publisher’s Title

      Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke = New edition of the complete works … [includes operas, symphonies, songs, sonatas, etc.] 
       
 

Name

  Joplin, Scott, 1868-1917.
 

Uniform Title

  Works
 

Publisher’s Title

  The complete works of Scott Joplin …[includes operas, piano rags, etc.]

The collection of a composer's complete works usually consists of many volumes, and the title pages and contents pages often are in a foreign language. If you suspect that the composition you want can be found only in such a collection, you may want to ask a reference librarian to help you locate the particular volume and pages that you need.

Any kind of uniform title (form, distinctive, or collective) may have qualifiers added at the end in order to distinguish one kind of edition from another. Five qualifiers are encountered frequently in the catalog. If more than one is used, they appear in the following order:

  "Vocal score" or "Chorus score" (if the item is a score)
   
  "Libretto" or "Text" (if the item is printed text)
   
  Language(s) of translation(s) from the original language 
   
  "Selections" 
   
  "arr." (abbreviation for "arranged") 

"Vocal score"
For a work originally composed for voice(s) and instrumental ensemble (usually an orchestra), the music for accompanying instruments is arranged for a keyboard instrument. Commonly used for editions of operas, oratorios, etc., intended for study and rehearsal use by the singers. 

 

Name

  Bizet, Georges, 1838-1875.
 

Uniform Title

      Carmen. Vocal score 

Used for an edition of the complete music of the opera, but with the orchestra music arranged for piano. 


"Chorus score"
Similar to "Vocal score," but only the chorus parts (no solo voices) are printed, and the accompaniment is arranged for piano, or is omitted entirely. 

 

Name

  Kodaly, Zoltan, 1882-1967.
 

Uniform Title

      Psalmus hungaricus. Chorus score 

Used for an edition that prints only the chorus music for this work originally composed for tenor solo, chorus, and orchestra. 


"Libretto"
The edition includes only the words of a large vocal work such as a opera or oratorio (i.e., the music is not printed).

 

Name

  Bizet, Georges, 1838-1875.
 

Uniform Title

      Carmen. Libretto 

Used for a book that includes the words only of the opera. 


"Text" or "Texts"
The edition includes the words only of smaller vocal works, such as a song, song cycle, or song collection. 

 

Name

  Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828.
 

Uniform Title

      Songs. Texts

Used for a book that contains the words only of all the songs of Schubert. 


Language(s) of translation(s)
The name(s) of the language(s) is/are added for an edition of a vocal work that includes a translation of the text to a language other than the original one. If this element isn't present, you can assume the work is in its original language.

 

Name

  Bizet, Georges, 1838-1875.
 

Uniform Title

      Carmen. Vocal score. English & French 

Used for an edition for voices and piano of the complete opera, with text in the original French, and an English translation provided.

 

Name

  Bizet, Georges, 1838-1875.
 

Uniform Title

      Carmen. Libretto. English 

Used for a book containing only the text of the complete opera in English translation, without the original French text. 


"Selections"
This indicates that the edition or recording contains only a portion of the work(s) described in the first part of the uniform title.

 

Name

  Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
 

Uniform Title

      Piano music. Selections 

 Used for a collection of three or more solo piano works by Beethoven, in various forms, but not including all of the piano works. 

 

Name

  Schumann, Robert, 1810-1856.
 

Uniform Title

      Dichterliebe. Selections 

Used for a collection of three or more songs form the sixteen-song cycle Dichterliebe, but not containing the complete cycle. 


"arr." (abbreviation for "arranged")
The music has been arranged for a different medium of performance, or a different purpose than originally intended by the composer. One of the most frequent uses of "arr." in uniform titles is with editions of works for instrumental soloist(s) and orchestra, with the orchestral accompaniment arranged for a keyboard instrument. 

 

Name

  Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
 

Uniform Title

      Concertos, piano, orchestra, no. 1, op. 15, D minor; arr. 

Used for an edition for solo piano with orchestra arranged for accompanying piano. 

 

Name

  Joplin, Scott, 1868-1917.
 

Uniform Title

      Entertainer; arr.

Used for an edition for other than piano of Joplin's ragtime piano work.

That's it!

Now that you've got a basic understanding of how the catalog is organized, try doing a composer search. Scroll down the list of titles; you'll find it all suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Three tips:

  Always begin looking up a composition by the composer's name, not by the title or keyword.
   
  Avoid the temptation to limit the resulting list of titles (for reasons currently beyond our control, it makes the list look a mess.)
   
  Make good use of the "Jump to a title or line number" at the bottom of each page of titles. It makes for fast and easy navigating.

Songs

To do a thorough search for individual songs or arias, many of which are buried in anthologies and collections, several separate searches may be necessary:

  A composer search as described above, scrolling down to the title you want.
   
  A composer search as described above; then click the "limit" button and add words from the song title in the "words in song title or contents note" option. As a general rule, add the fewest, most distinctive words possible.
   
  A keyword search. Experiment with a variety of combinations. For instance, start with the fewest and most distinctive words from the song title. If you get too many false hits, either limit the search to the composer's name; or re-do the search adding more words or the composer's name to the keywords.

Remember, the librarians are alway happy to answer any questions you may have.

Happy hunting!

Library Director

Peter Caleb's picture
Peter Caleb
Contact:
The Peter Jay Sharp Library
Manhattan School of Music
130 Claremont Avenue
New York, NY 10027
USA
917-493-4507
Website
The Manhattan School of Music The Peter Jay Sharp Library 130 Claremont Avenue New York, NY 10027 USA