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Using the Music Library

Principles of Uniform Titles

Libraries use music uniform titles in their catalog records to uniquely identify and bring together under one heading similar printed and recorded musical works by a composer. Uniform titles can be used to find all editions and recordings of a single work more easily.

When the wording on the title pages or recording labels differs among various publications of the same piece of music, a uniform title is needed to allow all of the various editions to be similarly searchable in the catalog. For example, the titles that appear on different editions of Johann Sebastian Bach's English Suites may be as different as "Englishen Suiten," "Anglishe Siuity," "Sechs grosse Suiten genannt," and "Six English Suites." It may be impossible for someone looking for all of the different editions of this work to identify all of the variant titles they may have to look under. So, in addition to the title as it appears on the piece, the bibliographic record for all of the entries will also use the same uniform title: Englishe Suiten. This title can be searched for all editions of Bach's English Suites in the library's Library Catalog. The author, uniform title, and title in a typical bibliographical record for Bach's English Suites found in the Library Catalog will look like:

    AUTHOR Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750.
    TITLE Englishe Suiten
      Englishe Suiten / Joh. Seb. Bach ; nach der handschriftlich Unberlieferung aus Bachs Schulerkreis herausgegeben von Rudolf Steglich ; Fingersatz von Hans-Martin Theopold.

In the following examples, music uniform titles appear within [brackets] between the composer's name and the title as it appears on the score or recording. In the Library Catalog, there would be no brackets present around the uniform title. Searching under the uniform title would bring up all three of the following examples.

    Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
      [Symphonies, no. 5, op. 67, C minor]
      Funfte Symphonie, op. 67

    Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
      [Symphonies, no. 5, op. 67, C minor]
      Symphony no. 5, C minor, op. 67

    Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
      [Symphonies, no. 5, op. 67, C minor]
      5e symphonie en ut mineur

Uniform titles are used for all musical forms (concerto, symphony, trio sonata, etc.), genres (capriccio, nocturne, intermezzo, etc.), and chamber music combinations (trio, quartet, quintet, etc.). The form of the work comes first, followed by instrumentation when needed, opus, thematic catalog or other identifying number, and finally, the key signature for pre-20th century works.
    Rachmaninoff, Sergei, 1873-1943.
      [Concertos, piano, orchestra, no. 2, op. 18, C minor]
      Piano concerto no. 2 in C minor, op. 18

    Chopin, Frederic, 1810-1849.
      [Waltzes, piano, op. 69. No. 2]
      Valse in B mior, op. 69, no. 2

    Bartok, Bela, 1881-1945.
      [Quartets, strings, no. 4]
      Streichquartett IV

In some cases, instrumentation is not needed because it is implied by form or genre. For example, it is assumed that a symphony would be for orchestra. Therefore, in uniform titles for symphonies, the instrumentation would be added only for those that are for groups of instruments other than orchestra (i.e., band).

Uniform titles may reflect single works or collections of consecutively numbered similar works. The titles are always given in plural unless the composer has written only one work of that type. For instance, Max Reger composed several sonatas while Leonard Bernstein only composed one. Therefore, the uniform titles would appear as in the examples below. Instrumentation, serial numbers, opus numbers, thematic index numbers, quantitative numbers, key, and composition dates are moved to subordinate positions in the uniform title, or are omitted. However, integral adjectives which were part of the composer's original title are retained at the beginning, such as the word "little" in Kabalevsky's work for piano shown in the third example below.

    Reger, Max, 1873-1916.
      [Sonatas, clarinet, piano, no. 1-3]
      Drei Sonataen fur Klarinette und Klavier

    Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-
      [Sonata, clarinet, piano]
      Sonata for clarinet and piano

    Kabalevsky, Dmitry Borisovich, 1904-
      [Little pieces, piano, op. 39]
      24 little pieces, op. 39, for the piano


Arrangements of works for different instrumentation than the original are related to the original through uniform titles. The example below represents an arrangement of Aaron Copland's sonata, originally for violin and piano, for clarinet and piano.
    Copland, Aaron, 1900-
      [Sonatas, violin, piano; arr.]
      Sonata for clarinet and piano


For non-generic or "distinctive" uniform titles, the title in the original language is used. These may be found in the composer's worklist in The New Grove Dictionary (in the music reference section with call number ML100.N48), the composer's thematic catalog, or other authoritative source.
    Berlioz, Hector, 1803-1869.
      [Symphonie fantastique]
      Fantastic Symphony

    Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
      [Zauberflote]
      The magic flute


For classical works with "popular" titles, the generic uniform title is used.
    Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
      [Symphonies, K. 551, C major]
      Jupiter symphony

    Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828.
      [Quintets, piano, violin, viola, violoncello, double bass, D. 667, A major]
      Trout quintet for piano and strings, op. 114


Separate parts of larger works are hierarchically identified through uniform titles. Vocal scores, librettos, and translations are also hierarchically indentified through uniform titles.
    Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883.
      [Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Vorspiel]
      Prelude to the Mastersingers of Nuremberg

    Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
      [Zauberflote. Vocal score]
      Die Zauberflote : Klavierauszug

    Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
      [Zauberflote. Vocal score. Italian & German]
      Die Zauberflote ... mit Ubersetzung ins Italienische

    Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
      [Zauberflote. Libretto. English]
      The magic flute : libretto


Complete works, miscellaneous collections, complete collections of a specific type, and selective collections of a specific type are unique identified through uniform titles.
    Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
      [Works]
      Samtliche Werke

    Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
      [Selections]
      Opus 23, opus 24, opus 18, and opus 30

    Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897.
      [Piano music. Selections]
      Selected piano works of Johannes Brahms.

If you would like more information on uniform titles and how to use them in searching the Library Catalog for music materials, contact the Music Librarian.