Generic work title is typically just the type of work with a number. Typical example would be “Violin Concerto no. 2”. Same work could be referred to as “Concerto for Violin no. 2” or “Concerto no. 2 for Violin and Orchestra”. There’s endless amount of variations in multiple languages but nothing changes the fact that it’s still the 2nd concerto for violin.
Generic work titles aren’t names. These are typically never used in their original format. If you look at concert programs, discographies, library databases and releases you typically don’t see them in original format (as on original manuscript). Thousands of letters have survived having composers themselves referring to their works as “5th Symphony” instead of “V. Symphony for Large Orchestra” as seen on manuscript. If letter is written in different language they also use translated aliases. Published score is typically having the title in different format as on original manuscript. If the format would be that important why would composers allow changing it and still continue publishing with the same company? Why the title often changes when the publisher changes? Same work could have the title in 6 formats. French publisher uses French titles, German publisher German titles, etc. Repeating myself: these aren’t names but generic titles.
Generic titles are typically standardized. Wikipedia, IMSLP and most of the databases have some naming conventions for them. Libraries typically standarize these by using local languages. For example all Finnish libraries standardize Mahler works by following this document. Like in Finland libraries typically keep names in their original language and translate generic titles.
There’s lately been some edits replacing English work titles with titles in composer’s native language. As long as MB system doesn’t fully support aliases (Swedish titles shown in Swedish version of MB, etc.) we are just making everything harder for our users. Default UI is in English so most of the editors enter this type of data in English. This data is also used by other services. For example BBC uses our work data. I hope they are somehow prepared for sudden language changes in generic titles.
If the title is in standardized form (like “Symphony no. 6”) you can easily search for it when you know what to search for. “Sechstre Symphonie für grosses Orchester” isn’t something you typically search for. Sure we support aliases but people have just been replacing the titles without adding any aliases. I give some value for original format and could consider adding a new alias type for it but see little benefit of forcing to use it as an primary title.
Like all the other services we should keep names in their original format (& language) but I propose that we would decide to use English for generic titles. Maybe some standardized format. There’s no benefit of entering titles in multiple languages when it doesn’t add any extra value.
There’s clear problems when using composer’s native language for generic titles. Why would we use German for the title if composer himself might have used English for it? Because he natively talks German? It’s actually harder to find composers who only used their native language for titles than the ones who didn’t. Even harder if we include modern composers. Before proposing a guideline for work titles I would like to see some feedback.