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

General principles

The title for a classical work in MusicBrainz should be the same as the title for works in any other genre:
The canonical title of the work, expressed in the language it was originally written.

The classical works guideline deals with how to establish an original language, what to do with works without an actual "title", and other details that are specific for classical works.


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.

See "language" below regarding translations.

Publishing companies (Bärenreiter, Henle etc) sometimes list works on their websites. IMSLP have downloadable scores of older editions (often first editions - see below about archaic titles)

Note Note: Wikipedia and similar online sources are not considered reliable in this context.

Canonical titles

In general, we do not alter the title given by the composer, but in some cases, the original title is never used. A recent edition will likely have the title you want, but if in doubt, use the "modern" title in the composer's language. E.g. use "Matthäus-Passion" instead of the original "Passio Domini Nostri J.C. Secundum Evangelistam Matthaeum", "Tannhäuser" instead of "Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg" and "Don Giovanni", not "Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni".


At the time of writing, MusicBrainz does not support sub-titles. If you believe a sub-title is useful for searching, put it in a secondary alias. Otherwise use the annotation. Ex. title: Nixon in China, subtitle: Foxtrot for orchestra; and title: 1812, subtitle: Торжественная увертюра


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 "work type as title" 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.

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.
Note Note: 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.


Remember that nicknames are local. They are not by the composer, and can therefore only be used in aliases (and in an annotation).

Note Note: There is a possibility that there will be a specific field for nicknames eventually.

Catalogue numbers

Catalogue numbers are separated from titles and should be put in the specific fields or advanced attributes
Since catalogue numbers are an important part of identifying a work, as a temporary workaround one catalogue number can be added to the title. If more than one catalogue is used for a work, try to find the most commonly used catalogue.

Multi-part works

One work can contain several layers of parts, though usually not more than three; e.g. Opera - Act - Part or Cantata - Part - Part.

Note Note: Part work titles should not inherit the title of the parent work, like the old track titles in MusicBrainz.

Part ordering

Part numbers are not a part of the title, use the specific field.
Unfortunately there 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)".

Work type

The type of work (e.g. aria, sonata, trio) is stored in the work type field, not inside the title.

Work type as title

Works that only have a work type / form as identifier (e.g. Sonata, Quartetto), here called "generic" or "untitled" works, are excepted from the above rule. They should be listed in the composer's preferred language. Usually only the first sub-section of a work should be listed, but exceptions can be made when a work is divided into different sections by the composer, e.g. Menuet - Trio.

Note Note: All forms are not translated in every language, e.g. Mazurka.


Instrumentation should be specified with advanced attributes or a specific field.
Until this is available, certain generic works need information about solo instruments in the title, mostly concertos and sonatas. Be aware that 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.

Tempo / Character

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

Tempo as title

Tempo can be used as title when the work has no title except tempo or character; e.g. Allegro, Slow. This is common for movements of generic works, like sonatas and concertos. Note that you should not translate tempi (possibly transliterate). If you believe a translated alias is needed as search help, that alias should not be official.

Only use the first tempo in the title field, do not list tempo changes inside the work. A second tempo can be used if it describes a major section, 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.

Key / Modus

Should be put in the "key" field.
Until this field is available, use the annotation for keys. Also see below.

Keys in generic titled works

(see Work type as title above) For certain generic-titled works, the key is an important identifier and should be added to the title. Examples of such works include symphonies, sonatas, preludes, fugues. Try to follow convention; ex. you can have a standalone "Minuet in g", but you would never list keys for minuets inside say, a symphony.
This is a temporary workaround; when a key field is available, keys should be removed from all titles.


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.

Dramatic roles

Roles (e.g. Evangelista, Carmen) should be listed in a specific field.
Until this field is available, the annotation can be used.

Excerpt / pseudo works

Also called "convenience works". When an excerpt of a larger work can be considered part of the standard repertoire, ex. Bridal chorus from Lohengrin, you can create a work for this excerpt. Try to find the most commonly used title, in the same language as the lyrics.

Another situation that makes convenience works necessary is when different editions of the same work have different sub-parts. Examples include some certain piano sonatas by Beethoven; one edition has two movements where another edition has three. Use the disambiguation comment to explain the situation as clearly as possible.

Do not create more than one excerpt work for the same section. No matter if the boundaries are not exactly the same, or if the excerpt is preceded with a recitative or not.

Note Note: This is not about "excerpts" as in edited audio. Do not connect performances of the larger work (ex. opera act) to an excerpt work.


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