User:Symphonick/CSG Work Titles

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Status: This page describes an active style guideline proposal and is not official.

Proposal number: RFC-CSG Works part II: Titles
Champion: symphonick
Current status: on hold

JIRA ticket STYLE-232


  1. Try to establish the original title in the original language and use this in the title field.
  2. All other titles should be in aliases.
  3. One catalogue number can be added to the title field, but no other information, except for 4)
  4. See untitled works when there is no explicit title or any lyrics to quote.


The work title field should only contain the title given by the composer, in the language the work was originally written. This is not necessarily the composer's preferred language, also consider if the work was written with a specific performance or audience (country) in mind. See the respective CSG-language pages for how to format language-specific details.
One catalogue number can be added to this title (as a workaround until catalogues can have specific fields).
Untitled works, where the composer has only titled the work with a form or a character/tempo (concerto, symphony, allegro etc) have special guidelines, see separate section below.

It is recommended to use printed scores as sources for titles. For example IMSLP have downloadable scans of old music, often early editions and autographs (common places for an original title to be found).
If that is not available, just use the best source you can find. Titles can be corrected later.

Titled works variants


Score overview

In the score the title is usually found at the top of the first page of the score, in a large typeface (see below). But in some cases, the full title is only printed on the front page, and the title printed in the actual score is a shorter version.

works score1 beta.png

Note that this is just one example of how a score could look like.

Catalogue numbers

Ideally catalogue should be put in specific fields, but since catalogue numbers are an important part of identifying a work, as a workaround one catalogue number can be appended to the title. If more than one catalogue is used for a work, try to find the most commonly used catalogue.
Exact formatting depends on the specific catalogue, e.g. certain catalogues have a dot before the number etc.


  • Winterreise, D 911 by F. Schubert
  • Falstaff, op. 68 by E. Elgar
  • Missa in Angustiis, Hob. XXII:11 by J. Haydn
  • Die Zauberflöte, K. 620 by W.A. Mozart

Part works catalogue

Usually only main works have a catalogue, but note that collections of standalone works (which looks like a main work with parts in MusicBrainz), is treated like standalone works in this regard.


  • Mazurka, op. 17 no. 4

Part numbers

Only part numbers given by the composer may be used in the title field. Do not add your own numbering of parts.


  • Gloria (Mozart: Krönungsmesse)
  • But who may abide (Händel: The Messiah)
  • No. 3. Denn die Herrlichkeit Gottes des Herrn (Händel: The Messiah, "Mozart" arrangement, KV 572)
  • ? No. 4. Recitativo accompagnato ed Aria
    • So spricht der Herr
    • Doch wer mag ertragen den Tag seiner Ankunft

Part ordering

Unfortunately there is currently no ordering system available in MusicBrainz. Until a solution is in place, the disambiguation field can be used if necessary; e.g. "Allegro (1st mvt)" vs. "Allegro (3rd mvt).

Other titles

Titles not by the composer should be in separate aliases. This includes:

  • "Modern" titles, when the original title by the composer is rarely used
  • Nicknames, such as "Moonlight Sonata" (more common with untitled works)
  • Translated titles, such as "The Firebird" and "Christmas Oratorio". Only use existing translations, do not enter your own.
  • Works that have both a title by the composer and a generic version of the title (that can contain ordering numbers not in the original title)

As there can be only one primary alias per language; try to find the standard title for your specific language. More titles can be entered as secondary aliases.
Using the disambiguation field can be problematic since these titles are often local, while the disambiguation field is global. E.g. a French nickname is usually translated, if it exists at all in English.


  • Méditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de S. Bach. by Bach/Gounod alias (all languages): Ave Maria
  • Passio Domini Nostri J.C. Secundum Evangelistam Matthaeum by J.S. Bach German alias: Matthäus-Passion
  • Москва, Черемушки, Op. 105 by D. Schostakovich, English alias: Moscow, Cheryomushki, Op. 105
  • Sonata quasi una fantasia, Op. 27 No. 1 by Beethoven English alias: Piano Sonata No. 13 in Eb-flat major, Op. 27 No. 1
  • Sonata quasi una fantasia, Op. 27 No. 2 by Beethoven English search hint alias: Moonlight Sonata
  • Konzert in C, K. 467 by W.A. Mozart English search hint alias: Elvira Madigan
  • Всенощное бдение, op. 37 by S. Rachmaninoff English search hint alias: Vespers

It is expected that eventually, both a title (alias) in the user's preferred language AND the default work title can be shown in the UI.

Other information from the score

The information from the categories below should not be added to the title field for titled works (use the annotation if necessary), but can be useful when dealing with untitled works.


Ex. "for flute and piano", "for strings" etc.

Tempo / character

Ex. allegro, moderato, slow.

Key / Modus

Ex. "G-Dur", "en Si bemol", "A-flat major" etc. See the CSG-language pages for details.


The subtitle line(s) in the score and on the title page can contain a variety of information related to the music. Usually you will find a description of the instrumentation, but pretty much anything can be added here by the composer or by the editor.

Examples of what can be printed as subtitle:

  • Foxtrot for orchestra (from Nixon in China)
  • Торжественная увертюра (1812)
  • in G minor, S. 1001 (J.S. Bach: Violin Sonata)
  • Komponiert 1851 (Schumann: Violin sonata)
  • Épisode de la vie d'un Artiste ... en cinq parties (Berlioz: Symphony Fantastique)
  • mit Schluss-Chor über Schillers Ode: "An die Freude" für grosses Orchester, 4 Solo- und 4 Chor-Stimmen, componirt und seiner Majestaet dem König von Preussen Friedrich Wilhelm III. in liebster Ehrfurcht zugeeignet von Ludwig van Beethoven"

For untitled works, subtitles can occasionally be used as printed or with only a slight modification (ex. "Sonate für Arpeggione und Pianoforte"). Other times, it can be taken as an indication of what perhaps should be included in the title (e.g. key and catalogue for the Bach example above) and in what language the original title should be.


Ex. "Dem Grafen Ferdinand von Waldstein gewidmet". Sometimes found above the title, sometimes below, or just on the front page.

Vocal music


For a lot of (especially older) vocal music (and instrumental music based on vocal music, e.g. chorale preludes), there is no explicit title. Instead the title is (a part of) the first line in the lyrics.
Try to find the most common length of the quote, if it is not available in the score.

Note Note: Do not put quotation marks around quotes.

Titles made from quotes is treated like any other titled work in MusicBrainz; nothing else is allowed in the title field except part numbers and one catalogue number.


Quotes and multiple sections


Works with translated lyrics (as opposed to works with only a translated title) should have the specific translation as default language.

Dramatic roles

Roles (e.g. Evangelista, Carmen)

Excerpt works

(See for an explanation)
Try to find the most commonly used title, in the same language as the lyrics. A quote from the lyrics is usually better than a descriptive title, e.g. use "Treulich geführt" rather than "Brautchor aus Lohengrin".

Note Note: For primary aliases a descriptive title (e.g. "Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin" in English) may be preferred.

Untitled works

Instrumental music and some vocal music from before the 20th century often has no actual title. Instead these works are referred to using their form and/or instrumentation (ex. sonata, quartet, mass, symphony, cello concerto), sometimes with key. Untitled works should be listed in the language in which the work was originally titled by the composer.

Note Note: This is only for untitled works, otherwise the type of work (e.g. aria, sonata, trio) is stored in the work type field, not in the title.

Generic titles by the composer

If a composer has titled a work using (among other words) the form, this work is not untitled, even if the work also can be described using form/instrumentation/key.
An "untitled" version of the title can be added as an alias.


  • Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art, BWV 831 by J.S. Bach
  • Sonata quasi una fantasia, Op. 27 No. 2 by Beethoven
  • 10 Märsche, um den Sieg zu verfehlen by Mauricio Kagel

Untitled vocal works

Only main works of vocal music can be "untitled". When a vocal work has no distinct title, a quote from the lyrics will be used, see quotes above.


  • Mass
  • Requiem
  • No. 4. Recitativo accompagnato ed Aria

Standard untitled works formats

  • Form(s)
  • Part number. Form
  • Form key
  • Form instrumentation
  • Form instrumentation key
  • Form instrumentation number key

All the above combinations can also have one catalogue number.

Other combinations are possible but unusual.

What to append to the basic form (if anything) depends entirely on the context. Try to follow convention, the title field should not be used to put in general information (like keys and instrumentation) if it is not how you usually would refer to this work.

E.g. a prelude by J.S. Bach is often referred to by key (ex. "Prelude in d-minor"), while a prelude from an instrumental suite is simply the "prelude from the G-major suite". You would never add anything to the form in the latter case (in a suite, multiple works in the same form usually have numbers after the form, e.g. Menuet I, Menuet II).



Untitled stage music

Most stage music works have titles, but there are some common untitled works: overtures, acts, parts and (in ballets) scenes (can also be titled).
Establishing the original language is the only formatting that can be done with these works. Normally, no other information should be added. E.g. overtures are identified as "the overture from opera X" and so on.


Instrumentation for untitled works

Certain untitled works need basic information about instrumentation, mostly concertos and sonatas. How the instrumentation should be formatted depends on the conventions for the language in question, see the CSG-language pages. E.g. a literal translation of "Quartet for Strings" will not work for every language, perhaps the form "String quartet" is more appropriate. It could also differ between different forms & ensemble constellations for the same language.

The title field should use the original instrumentation, e.g. "pianoforte". Aliases can have "modern" instruments.


  • Violinkonzert e-Moll op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn
  • Sonate pour violoncelle
  • Sonate pour violoncelle et piano
  • Koncert for klaver og orkester, Op. 16 by Edvard Grieg


  • Adagio for Strings by S. Barber

Form/instrumentation order number

If a composer has written multiple works of the same form and instrumentation, they often get numbered chronologically. The order number goes after the instrumentation. Formatting is language-dependent.


Keys in untitled works

For certain generic-titled works, the key is used as an identifier and should be added to the title. This is a workaround until there is a specific field for keys, in which case keys will be removed from all titles.

Try to follow convention; ex. you can have a standalone "Minuet in g", but you would never list keys for minuets inside a symphony.
Untitled symphonies, sonatas, masses and concertos very often have the key as identifier for the main work. In general, only main works have keys.

Keys in untitled works should be standardized into "modern" formatting including tonality (major/minor) where applicable. See the respective CSG-language pages for details.


Tempo / character for untitled works

It is common for untitled works to have only tempo or character as title; ex. Allegro, Slow. This is most common for sub-parts of pre-20th century concertos, sonatas and symphonies.

Only use the first tempo in the title field, do not list tempo changes inside the work. A second tempo can be used if a work is divided into two major different sections by the composer, e.g. Menuet - Trio. Or when there is a short introduction in another (slower) tempo than the main part of the work. These type of works are usually referred to with both tempi outside MusicBrainz too.

Some parts of a multi-part work can have a form/type (e.g. Finale, Scherzo), while other parts are untitled, and has the character/tempo as title (e.g. Allegro). In that case, choose form/type instead of character. Do not mix form with character in the title field. The character can be entered as a search hint alias.


  • Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso by Beethoven (from the 9th symphony)
  • I. Allegro molto ed appassionato by E. Grieg (from Violin Sonata no. 3)
  • I. Largo e maestoso - Allegro non troppo from "Scheherazade" by Rimsky-Korsakov

Note Note: You should not translate a tempo marking (possibly transliterate). If you believe it is helpful, you can enter a translated tempo as a search hint (secondary alias).
Note Note: Expand shorthand notation, e.g. "Allo." to "Allegro".

Untitled works without tempo marking

If a part work is without tempo marking, use [untitled] in the title field.

Old practices

  • You should not manually concatenate main work and part work titles like the old track titles in MusicBrainz before NGS. Note that you must always link the sub-part to the main work, otherwise it would be impossible to know where a work with a generic title (ex. "Allegro") belongs.
  • Do not add ordering numbers to part works (common in the old track titles). See [#Part numbers| Part numbers] above.
  • Part numbers should be in the format the composer used (previously part numbers had to be Roman Numerals)
  • Let nicknames get separate aliases, do not add a nickname to another title.