J.S. Bach - Canonical names of works

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No, I was referring to translated works such as St Matthew Passion sung in English. I agree that a translated title used for search purposes should be an alias. Need to be careful where the works are sung though as a translated title normally refers to a translated work. I would probably not add an alias for sung works.

My remark was in response to the guideline, as I have come across multiple English translations of the st Matthew passion each giving rise to 60 works, and wondering whether this was the best way to do it. :pensive: However, I appreciate that consistency with other translated works is also important.

To return to the main question which needs to be resolved:

Should Bach’s works in MB be amended to follow the nomenclature in Bach Digital, even if this removes a relevant generic name from the title or removes the major/minor (Dur/Moll) from the key signature in the name? For example:

  1. Removal of generic name (and complete removal of key)
  2. A instead of A-Dur (bearing in mind that the key has been added as an attribute)

My view is that, while the Bach Digital source is useful in determining work names, it should not be followed slavishly. In particular, MB style guidelines should always be followed where they conflict with other sources (of which there are many - what’s to stop someone next week saying - “we should just follow wikipedia” or whatever?) and information which is correct and useful (e.g. choralvorspiel) should not be arbitrarily removed. In any case, even Bach Digital is inconsistent in its nomenclature, for example:

  • Sonate G-Dur, BWV 1027 has both the generic name and full key signature in the title. Obviously, removing them would just leave the BWV number as there is no non-generic title.

Maybe the best way of resolving this is to do a poll (as I saw recently for Wagner). I’ve not tried this before, but here goes:

  • Use Bach Digital name for all Bach works
  • Use Bach Digital name amended to include generic title and full key signature where relevant
  • Use a name from Bach Digital or another source (e.g. Wikipedia) which most closely follows style guidelines and is useful for users
  • Do not amend existing MB names unless they do not fit style guidelines and there is a clearly better alternative (which may be from Bach Digital or somewhere else).

0 voters

Votes please (and in particular from @Algwyn, @reosarevok, @ProfChris, @Jim_DeLaHunt) - fairly quickly please as some of the edits only have a couple of days left. Also comment where you think I have not summarised the options correctly or you need to add something.

What’s the hurry? If an edit fails for lack of a second, someone can make it again, later, after the discussion reaches a conclusion. If the edit succeeds, and we later think it was a mistake, we can edit it back again.

There are a lot of edits. Depending on the answer to the poll, it might be preferable and easier for the editor to cancel some of the edits.

The issue is that unless I am mistaken, there are no MB style guidelines which detail how classical work should be named.

There are some styling guidelines, but only in the “English” section, which do not apply to J.S. Bach works, since all its work should be names in German.

Even if we translate these guidelines for German, they do not specify that the work title should include a “Generic name” or the key of the work.

This is because of this lack of detailed guidelines to determine what would be the “right” title for a work that I have proposed to use Bach Digital.

Therefore your option in the vote “Do not amend existing MB names unless they do not fit style guidelines […]” means that the only case where we would amend a title is when it is not in the original language of the work.

OK, I’ll have one more go at explaining my view before I vote on various edits.

  1. While the Bach Digital looks like a very good and useful resource, it is not the only one and is not even fully consistent in its naming conventions (e.g. includes the generic name “Sonata”, but not the generic name “Chorale” and is inconsistent in how keys are shown [g-Moll vs. g or not at all]). I do not think that MB naming should be amended on a wholesale basis to comply with some external naming scheme - at least not without a great deal of agreement.
  2. In particular, I do not think that it is right to make wholesale edits of large parts of a major composer’s catalogue where there is nothing wrong with the current names, particularly if information is removed in the process.
    Just to take one example: Choralvorspiel, BWV 614 “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist” is a perfectly good name in compliance with style guidelines. Wikipedia has “Chorale prelude Das alte Jahr vergangen ist ( Orgelbüchlein No. 16)” (positioning of BWV number not specified as it is a separate column) but I think the German “Choralvorspiel” is more approriate in a German work than “Choral Prelude”. Bach Digital has “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist (Orgelbüchlein) (Choralbearbeitung)” (again - positioning of BWV number not specified as it is a separate column) Your edit just changes it to “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, BWV 614” - no Choralvorspiel, Orgelbüchlein or Choralbearbeitung. This is one of many similar edits. I think this is a large amount of work that makes MusicBrainz less helpful, not more.
  3. Given the very large number of edits that have been carried out in a similar way, I think it would be much better if they were cancelled rather than expecting others to go through them one by one and vote on each.
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I have cancelled most of the edits that you find doubtful.
What remains are edits which add or correct information already in MB, which I find justified for reasons explained in my notes. If I have missed a few, I let you vote them down.


Thanks - I’ll try and look through them this evening. I should have mentioned that quite a lot of the edits were definite improvements. :smiley:
Mixture of votes and notes added plus some auto-edit approvals. Thanks for all your hard work on this!


Many thanks for your review work and comments.

I’ve followed your suggestions on edits that you voted down, or cancelled the edits.

Main difference is related to the naming of the Trio Sonaten.
My understanding is that this name was not given to these works during Bach lifetime, as witness the autograph manuscript of these works which is considered as the original publication.

However you are right that the name Trio Sonaten is the one under which they are known.
But this “common name” should be an alias. So I’ve added these aliases, and also the collection which constitutes this “Six Trio Sonatas”.

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On that basis, you would presumably remove “Moonlight” from Sonata for Piano no. 14 in C-sharp minor, op. 27 no. 2 “Moonlight”

Indeed, I would remove “Moonlight” as this nickname has been added after the death of Beethoven, and is controversial due to its romantic nature, which was not Beethoven original intention.

However it is important to keep it in the aliases as it is the name under which it is known.
I would use as canonical name:

Sonata quasi una Fantasia (Piano Sonata no. 14 in do diesis minore), op. 27 no. 2

Reasons are:

  • even though Beethoven was German, the work was published with an Italian title, as Italian was the language of music at that time
  • having the number of the sonata in the Piano sonata collection is useful as there is no generally used “catalogue raisonné” of Beethoven work. Putting this in the name between parenthesis is from my point of view a stronger version of disambiguation notice.

From a practical point of view, we have to abridge the original names of most baroque or classical works. The naming style of that time lead to names which are way too long, as it often included in a long sentence, descriptive information, dedication, name of the author.

The actual original title of “Moonshine” is:

Sonata quasi una Fantasia per il Clavicembalo o Piano=forte composta e dedicata alla Damigella Contessa Giulietta Guicciardi da Luigi van Beethoven Opera 27 No. 2. In Vienna presso Gio. Cappi Sulla Piazza di St. Michele No. 5

“Sonata quasi una Fantasia” is capitalized, and in larger print that the remaining of the title, and therefore can be considered as the main part of this original title.

The current name should be an alias, as it is not in the original language, and it includes a nickname which is a romantic attribution to this classical work.

There are many other situation where the name most commonly used is not the name under which the entity is recorded. Chopin is recorded as “Fryderyk Chopin”, and not as “Frédéric Chopin” which is the name under which most of his work has been published, and has been his given name and his legal name, once he got the French nationality.

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New thread to disuss the possiblity of direct dialogue with Bach Digital curators

I would certainly agree that the omission of these words from the title is an important error. I reserve judgement on the the other suggestions - I’d really like to hear the views of @reosarevok and other classical editors on the important topic of naming conventions for works. It would be great to get some general agreement and some more specific style guidelines so that overall consistency and usability is improved and so that editors don’t have to spend ages agonising over the right choice of words.

The topic has been quiet for some time.

In the meantime, I have started to think about work naming style guidelines. As this is a more general discussion, I have started a new thread on that topic.