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MUS 313: The History of Music I

Verifying Information

Sometimes the challenge in locating a piece of music lies in verifying the facts. Some pieces have opus numbers, other numbering (e.g., Quartet No. 2), key designations (e.g., E-flat major), or even nicknames (e.g., the American Quartet). Knowing this information can help you in locate a piece in the Library.

The two major types of tools to use for verifying this type of information are:

  1. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians works lists
  2. The composer's thematic catalog

Most composers listed in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (print Ready Reference ML100 G76N38 2001 and online in Grove Music Online via Oxford Music Online, linked below) have a detailed works list at the end of their entry. Information includes opus and other numbering, title(s), key designations, and date of composition. Sometimes it also includes date of publication, instrumentation, premiere information, and collected works locator information.

If Grove does not have the information you need, you may need to use a thematic catalog for that composer (see our page on Collected Works & Thematic Catalogs for more information).

Improving Your Searching

To search for musical works more efficiently and systematically, it's useful to understand uniform titles.

Uniform titles are standardized titles that bring together all the different versions of a work in the catalog. This means you don't have to perform multiple searches or guess about language or wording to gather complete results.

This page explains how to construct your searches with uniform titles in mind and gives useful background on how uniform titles work so that you can be a better, more strategic searcher.

Uniform Titles in the Catalog

Because musical works can be published with variants in the title wording, and titles can appear in any language, looking for the uniform title can help you search more efficiently and save you the trouble of considering variants in spelling and translation.

For example, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony appears in the catalog with these titles:

  • Cinquième sinfonie en ut mineur = C moll : oeuvre 67
  • Fünfte Symphonie, c-Moll, Opus 67
  • Sinfonie Nr. 5, C-moll, Opus 67
  • Symphonie Nr. 5, c-moll
  • Symphony no. 5, C minor, op. 67
  • Fünfte Symphonie, nach der Handschrift im Besitz der Preussischen Staatsbibliothek
  • Fourth and Fifth Symphonies

You don't need to search for variant spellings if you construct your search with the uniform title in mind. You can find the uniform title in the Details section of the item record underneath the title of the work.

Screenshot of an item record with the uniform title highlighted.

Search Tip:

An effective search strategy is to begin with a keyword search on the terms you know - if that doesn't retrieve adequate results, look for the uniform title within a relevant result and then revise your search according to the uniform title. Using the example above, one successful search for this work would be: beethoven symphonies 67.

Uniform Title Qualifiers

Uniform titles may have a qualifier at the end to distinguish one kind of edition from another (the libretto versus the score or an arrangement versus the original, for example). This is important to understand because you will need to double check the qualifier to ensure you have identified the correct edition for your needs.

Common examples of qualifiers:

  • "Selections"
  • "Arr."
  • "Vocal score"
  • "Libretto"
  • language(s) of translation from original text

Look at the examples below to see uniform titles and qualifiers in action -- the uniform title is in bold:

Rossini, Gioacchino, 1792-1868
Guillaume Tell. Vocal score. English & French
vocal score of William Tell, with text translated into English and French

Sibelius, Jean, 1865-1957
Concerto, violin, orchestra, op. 47, D minor; arr.
Violin Concerto, arranged for piano and violin

Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828
Songs. Selections
a collection of some of Schubert's songs

Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750
Wohltemperierte Klavier. 1. T.
the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix, 1809-1847
Sommernachtstraum. Hochzeitsmarsch
the wedding march from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Sondheim, Stephen
Into the Woods. Libretto
the script of the musical Into the Woods

If you're still curious and want to learn more about uniform titles, check out the next box which breaks down three different types of uniform titles you may encounter in the catalog.

3 Types of Uniform Titles

Form titles are used when the title of a work is a musical form or type, such as concerto, symphony, or quartet. These titles consist of:

  • the form of the work
  • the instrumentation (unless the form implies the instrumentation)
  • the thematic catalog number, opus number, or other numbering
  • the key

A few examples -- the uniform title is in bold:

Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827
Sonatas, piano, no. 18, op. 31, no. 3, E♭ major
Piano Sonata in E-flat, op. 31, no. 3

Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828
Quintets, piano, violin, viola, violoncello, double bass, D. 667, A major
Trout Quintet

Mozart, Wolfgang, Amadeus, 1756-1791
Symphonies, K. 504, D major
Symphony No. 38, "Prague"

Schoenberg, Arnold, 1874-1951
Stücke, orchestra, op. 16
Five Pieces for Orchestra

Distinctive titles are used when the composer has assigned the work a non-form title. These appear in the original language.

Here are a few examples -- the uniform title is in bold:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791
The Magic Flute

Messiaen, Olivier, 1908-1992
Quatuor pour le fin du temps
Quartet for the End of Time

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix, 1809-1847
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971

Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750
Wohltemperierte Klavier
The Well-Tempered Clavier

** You may find that a catalog record has only the distinctive uniform title and not an English translation, so only searching on the English translation means you will miss some items.

Collective titles are used for collections that contain multiple pieces by the same composer. The collective title may refer to the form or the performance medium of the works, or it may indicate that the works are of mixed types.

A few examples -- the uniform title is in bold:

I. Single musical form/type:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791
Sonatas, violin, piano
Complete sonatas for violin & piano

II. Single performance medium:

Chopin, Frederic, 1810-1849
Piano music
Complete works for piano

III. Mixture of forms and media

Liszt, Franz, 1811-1886
Complete works