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Preferred Titles in Music

Collective Titles

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 particular 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 preferred 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 are indexed in the catalog under the title of the collection, and usually contain entries for the related composers and works that they contain.

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

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
Sonatas, violin, piano
Eighteen sonatas for pianoforte and violin …
(including works all in the same form (sonata) and performance medium (violin and piano).
Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828.
Gesange : fur Singstimme mit Klavier = Songs : for voice and piano …
(including works all of one type (song) and performance medium (voice and piano)
Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
Complete concerti in full score …
(including works all of one form (concerto), but with different solo instruments)

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:

Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
Violin, piano music
Complete works for violin and piano …
(includes multiple forms (sonatas, variations, etc.) in a single performance medium (violin and piano).
Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750.
Organ music
Complete organ music : a critical edition in eight volumes …
(includes multiple forms (fugues, chorales, etc.) in a single performance medium.
Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
Chamber music Complete chamber music …
(includes multiple forms (sonatas, variations, etc.) and multiple types of chamber groups (string quartets, sextets, etc.)

For collective preferred 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 preferred title will always be based on the form.

Mixed forms and media preferred titles: 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 preferred title for collections of a composer's complete works consists of the single word "Works." Two examples:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
Neue Ausgabe samtlicher Werke = New edition of the complete works …
(includes operas, symphonies, songs, sonatas, etc.)
Joplin, Scott, 1868-1917.
The complete works of Scott Joplin …
(includes operas, piano rags, etc.)

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