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Preferred Titles in Music

Using Preferred Titles

In a library catalog, you expect to find all the different versions of the same work together with the author's or composer's name. This is usually easy to do for books, which are unlikely to change title from one edition to another. But a musical work may be printed or recorded with titles that vary as to language or wording.

For example, different title pages of the same piano concerto by Mozart might begin with different letters of the alphabet, depending upon the language of the country of publication, or particular wording used by the publisher.

  • Concerto in A major for piano, K. 488
  • Konzert A Dur, K. 488 fur Klavier
  • Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488

To be able to search for all these different titles together, a distinctive or Preferred Title is created by the library cataloger according to fixed rules, and this appears immediately after the composer's name on all of the catalog records for that composition.


The preferred titles for the preceding examples would appear in the catalog as shown below so that all would sort together alphabetically among Mozart's works by the word "Concertos."

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
Concertos, piano, orchestra, K. 488, A major
Concerto in A major for piano, K. 488 ….

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
Concertos, piano, orchestra, K. 488, A major
Konzert A Dur, K. 488, fur Klavier ….

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
Concertos, piano, orchestra, K. 488, A major
Piano concerto in A major, K. 488 ….

Note that the plural form of "Concertos" is used, since Mozart composed multiple works in that form.

 


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) would appear as follows:

Verdi, Giuseppe, 1813-1901.
Ballo in maschera
Un ballo in maschera … (title page in Italian)

Verdi, Giuseppe, 1813-1901.
Ballo in maschera
A Masked ball …(title page in English)

Verdi, Giuseppe, 1813-1901.
Ballo in maschera
Ein Maskenball … (title page in German)

Note that the composer's original language (in this case, Italian) is used for the preferred title, and that the initial article "Un" is omitted

 


There are three general types of preferred titles.

  • Form titles (based on the name of a musical form such as "Concertos" or "Sonatas")
  • Distinctive titles (such as used for songs and operas)
  • Collective titles (for collections containing multiple works by a composer)

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