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: RFC

JIRA ticket STYLE-232


works score1 beta.png


The work title field in MusicBrainz should only contain the title given by the composer, sometimes along with a catalogue number, unless you are dealing with a so-called untitled work, see below.

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



It is recommended to use a reliable printed source for titles, such as a recent urtext edition. If that is not available, just use the best source you can find. Titles can be corrected later.

  • Publishing companies (Bärenreiter, Henle etc) sometimes list titles on their websites.
  • IMSLP have downloadable scans of old music, mostly early editions or user-generated scores.

Note Note: Wikipedia and similar online sources cannot be considered reliable in this context.

Archaic titles

If the original title by the composer is rarely used, put the "modern" title in the disambiguation comment field. Examples:

  • Méditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de S. Bach. ("Bach/Gounod Ave Maria")
  • Passio Domini Nostri J.C. Secundum Evangelistam Matthaeum ("Matthäus-Passion")

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 (e.g. Sonate a-Moll)

If and what to append to the basic form 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) when it is not needed for disambiguation and it is how you usually would refer to this work.
For instance, if a composer only wrote one concerto for a specific instrument, ex. cello, the key is unnecessary. The concerto would likely be known simply as that composer's cello concerto.
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 usually referred to as the "prelude from the G-major suite", as an example.

Note Note: This is for untitled works only, otherwise the type of work (e.g. aria, sonata, trio) is stored in the work type field, never inside the title.


Generic titles by the composer

If a composer has titled a work using (among other words) a "generic" term, this is regarded as an actual title and should not be altered, even if the work also can be described using form/instrumentation/key.


  • Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art, BWV 831
  • Sonata quasi una fantasia, Op. 27 No. 2


As stated before, the title should be expressed in the language the work was originally written. If a work is available with translated titles and it is unclear which is the original, use the language of the first performance (if the work was written with a specific performance or audience in mind). If this fails, use the composer's preferred language, usually found in the autograph or first edition.

See the respective CSG-language pages for how to format language-specific details. Also see below for untitled / generic titled works.

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

Language for untitled works

Untitled works should be listed in the language in which the work was originally titled by the composer.

Translated titles

Translated titles, such as "The Firebird" and "Christmas Oratorio" should be entered as aliases. As there can be only one primary alias per language; try to find the standard translation for your specific language. More translations can be entered as secondary aliases.

Note Note: Only use existing translations, do not enter your own.
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.


Nicknames (such as "Moonlight Sonata") are not by the composer. Nicknames can be used only in secondary aliases and in annotations, never in the title field.
Since nicknames are local, they can be problematic in the disambiguation field (which is global).



The line below the title can in rare cases contain a subtitle, but usually you will find a description of the instrumentation, form, or even key and/or opus. Most of the time, this line is added by the editor.

Subtitles should not be appended to the title, but the information can sometimes be of use for untitled works.
If you believe a sub-title is useful for searching, put it in a secondary alias. Otherwise you can use an annotation.

Examples of what can be printed below the title:

  • Foxtrot for orchestra (from Nixon in China)
  • Торжественная увертюра (1812)
  • in G minor, S. 1001 (Bach's Violin Sonata)
  • Komponiert 1851 (Violin sonata by Schumann)

An example of an actual subtitle would be "Symphony Fantastique: Épisode de la vie d'un Artiste ... en cinq parties" by Berlioz.


Sometimes found above the title, sometimes below, or just on the front page. Dedications can be put in annotations.


Instrumentation can be added to the annotation.

Instrumentation for untitled works

Certain untitled works need basic information about instrumentation, mostly concertos and sonatas.

Note Note: Direct translations of instrumentation is not always an option. E.g. a literal translation of "Quartet for Strings" will not work for every language, perhaps the form "String quartet" is more appropriate.


  • Violinkonzert e-Moll op. 64

Tempo / character

Musicbrainz has currently no field for storing the tempo of a work. The annotation can be used for this purpose.

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 different sections by the composer, e.g. Menuet - Trio. Or for instance in Beethoven's piano sonatas, when there is a short introduction in a slower tempo than the main part of the movement. These type of works are usually referred to with both tempi outside MusicBrainz too.

Note Note: The final part of multi-part works is often listed with both "Finale" and tempo, e.g. "Finale: Allegro". This formatting should not be used anywhere else; tempo information is separate from titles and does not belong in the title field.
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).

Untitled works without tempo marking

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

Key / Modus

There is no field for keys in MusicBrainz currently. Keys should not be added to work titles, but can be stored in annotations.

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.


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.


Catalogue of parts

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).

Vocal music


Especially in older vocal music, the title can be made up of (a part of) the first line in the lyrics. Do not use quotation marks, and try to find a good source for the length of the quote if not available in the score.


Quotes and multiple sections

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.

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 [#Multi-part works| Multi-part works] above.


Title Worktype Lyrics Language
Carmen Opera French
Москва, Черемушки, Op. 105 Opera Russian
Jeu de cartes Ballet No linguistic content
Overture Overture No linguistic content
1812, op. 49 Overture No linguistic content
Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art, BWV 831 Suite No linguistic content
Ouverture Overture No linguistic content
Ouverture g-Moll, BWV 822 Suite No linguistic content
Erster Aufzug "Act" Attention.png no worktype available - use "Opera" and "Ballet"? German
III. Aria II Aria ?? No linguistic content
Il mio tesoro intanto Aria Italian
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 Cantata German
  • Excerpt work
    Type "Pseudo" ??
  • oratorio recitativo
  • Wie unglücklich bin ich nit, K. 147 (125g)
  • translated song
  • "fantasia super:"
  • Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr', BWV 771
  • ballet scene
    Type "Ballet" ??
  • symphony
  • symphony movement
  • maybe symphony excerpt
  • sonata movement