Beethoven Works : String Quartets naming inconsistency

After reading Naming guidelines of classical music works

Beethoven String Quartets do not follow the same naming pattern as can be seen for no.4, 5 and 6. Also, there is only one nickname and there are more like ‘Rasumovsky’ or ‘Serioso’

String Quartet no. 1 in F major, op. 18 no. 1
String Quartet no. 2 in G major, op. 18 no. 2
String Quartet no. 3 in D major, op. 18 no. 3
Quartet for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello no. 4 in C minor, op. 18 no. 4
Quartet for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello no. 5 in A major, op. 18 no. 5
Quartet for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello no. 6 in B-flat major, op. 18 no. 6
String Quartet no. 7 in F major, op. 59 no. 1
String Quartet no. 8 in E minor, op. 59 no. 2 
String Quartet no. 9 in C major, op. 59 no. 3
String Quartet no. 10 in E-flat major, op. 74 "Harp"
String Quartet no. 11 in F minor, op. 95
String Quartet no. 12 in E-flat major, op. 127
String Quartet no. 14 in C-sharp minor, op. 131
String Quartet no. 13 in B-flat major, op. 130
String Quartet no. 15 in A minor, op. 132 
String Quartet no. 16 in F major, op. 135

Is there a valid musicological reason for it ? Or is this a case for maintenance/cleanup?

For reference , this release has them all The Complete String Quartets by Tokyo String Quartet

I’d like to see some kind of work naming standardization, too, but it is likely unavoidable to have a muddle. Albums don’t use consistent naming. There might not even be an official standard name? And with work titles coming from various languages, then translated into English…?

I notice the same muddle with recording titles. When people add albums, there is a check box that allows the recording to be renamed the same as the track title. In my first year on MB, I used to check the box, not realizing that track titles, recording titles and work titles are actually separate entities in the MB database. Now that I have sorted it out, I am much more cautious about renaming recordings, as I know that many tracks from many different albums can point to the same recording.

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In my original post there is a link to the discussion about work in Classical Music, so the proposed guideline is emerging and I believe work should be named in original language and following original published names by the Composer, and lacking that various web sources including IMSLP (my fav).

So it is a muddle, but major works like the above SQ should not be a problem. I’m a new user and do not have the courage to do such deep impact maintenance.

Am I right to assume that edit on Work will cascade to all recordings ? If yes, that’s massive.

No, renaming of works will not (and should not) cascade to all recordings.

The naming of tracks on a recording should follow what is written in the release booklet/back cover.
For example,for a release of a recording for an English market, the tracks of the release may be with the work names translated in English, while the release for the French market may be with the work names translated in French. Both release would be in MB under the same release group, and the tracks names of each release should reflect what is written on each release.

Works exist independently from releases (and in case of classical music, predate any release by a few centuries), they should be named in their own way.

These string quartets are a good example of what needs to be cleaned up … and of the difficulty that we will have defining naming rules.

If we look at the original music score for Op. 18, the original title is in French:

SIX / QUATUORS / pour / Deux Violons, Alto, et Violoncelle / composés et dediés / A Son Altesse Monseigneur le Prince / Regnant de Lobkowitz &.&. / par / LOUIS VAN BEETHOVEN / [l.:] Oeuvre 18. [M.:] [1 hs. in 2 geändert]=er Livraison [r.:] f 3, / à Vienne / chez T. Mollo et Comp. / [l.:] 159. [M.:] Leipzig au Comptoir d’Industrie / à Franckfort chez Gayl et Hedler

At that time, French was the court language in most of Europe, and many music score were published with a title in French. Even Beethoven first name was translated in French …

When you look at each individual work within the music score, the name was in Italian, “Quartetto”, as Italian was language dominant in music.

Later when the score was republished, the names were translated in as many different languages.

By cascading I did not mean the names of the individual tracks, my fault, I meant the Work Name as it displays on pages and queries. Once the Work is edited (and voted), will it affect all places where is referenced ?

This indeed is an issue and a very common problem, in this case it’s just not readable and usable for metadata. Would an edit of these Works following IMSLP be appropriate keeping in mind style guide that you summarised ?

Indeed, the change will be visible whenever it is referenced, including when referenced by recording. So, any change and its consequences are to be carefully reviewed.

Unfortunately IMSLP titles are too often in English, regardless of the original language of the work.

We need to differentiate the name of the collection, which would typically be transcribed as “Six quatuors pour deux violons, alto et violoncelle” (full titles from that period need to be shortened to what is considered today a title) and the names of the works, each quartet being name “Quartetto”.
This could work.

Beethoven is a complex case as he has published works or performed with his name in German, French and Italian. The three languages have also been used to name his works during his lifetime.
This is a case where I would default to his native language, German, much more consistent with modern usage.

It is still very tempting to use English as the default and at the same time provide an alias at least in German. The overwhelming user base of MB (assumption on my part) uses Latin script and will not have issues interpreting from “String Quartet” to “Streichquartet” or “Quartetto”, and if they do (wonder how common is that, I live in English speaking country although I’m not native English speaker) the alias can be used. The same can not be said in the opposite direction, English is the lingua franca of today.

Yes it would be tempting, but this is clearly against more general guidelines on naming, which is to respect the original language of the artist/recording/work.

I would rather push for improvements to aliases, and how they can be used to provide translation to user UIs or in Picard.

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So in this particular case, would you advise to add English aliases and Edit Work to German language standard ?

Works naming rules are still an open discussion topic.
But indeed I would name works in German (or their original performance/publishing language), and use aliases for English, French, …

I would definitely not use English to name works of a composer such as Beethoven.

Picard can be set-up to use by default the aliases translating names into the user preferred language.

The main impact is on the MB website, where as far as I am aware, this usage of aliases to translate names is not available.

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I had a quick look at the possible German Work names and there is very little agreement of what that should be. German Wikipedia uses very different naming standard than Deutsche National Bibliothek.


Das Streichquartett Nr. 16 F-Dur op. 135

is somehow more familiar than DNB

Quartette, Violine (2), Viola, Violoncello, op. 135 (F-Dur)

Any changes to the non-alias Work Name are significant and I’m not up to doing that, I just don’t know enough, for example don’t know what German form should be. However, I could add IMSLP aliases under English language without touching main Work.
I’m interested mostly because of Picard and beets and my own scripts, so the Web UI is not the greatest concern for me. At the same time, I realise that this will not benefit all, as it should.

Am I on a wrong path here ?

No you are right to proceed with caution.
Adding an English alias when there is none (or when the main work name is in English) should be OK.

Naming these works raise the same issues in German as in other languages:
“String quartet” or “Quartett for two violin, viola and cello”
“Streichquartett” or “Quartett für zwei Violinen, Viola und Violoncello”
“Quartette” is the plural for “Quartett” in German.

So the two names that you have found represent the two main options to name these works.

I would follow the naming found on

So I would use “Sechs Quartette für zwei Violinen, Viola und Violoncello (F-Dur, G-Dur, D-Dur, c-Moll, A-Dur, B-Dur) op. 18” for the work collection (Op. 18) and simply “Quartett in F-Dur, op. 18 no. 1” for example. This would follow the original music score naming.
But this needs to be discussed properly, this is not the only possible approach to naming these works.


I understand the need for a primary locale alias to follow the canonical naming convention of works using the guideline. At the same time, I would like to see the works also listed by the common usage within locale. I don’t think that majority of end users in English think in terms of Opuses, I suspect that most thinks about these works in terms like this

String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op. 18, No. 1

If this is true, is there a case for a new alias type within a locale for common representation of work names ? I’m not sure if adding yet another non primary alias is recommended.

If this idea has merit, we would need a standardised alias name across locales, English “common” comes to mind.

Perhaps “vulgaris” is a better choice ? :slight_smile: