Difference between revisions of "Open Opus Style Guide"

From Open Opus
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Line 193: Line 193:
  Version edited by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  Version edited by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
If the edition is, in fact, a completion, use the term "completed by":
If the edition is, in fact, a completion of an unfinished work, use the term "completed by":
  Requiem in D minor, K.626
  Requiem in D minor, K.626

Revision as of 02:12, 9 November 2019

Perhaps the most important decision on any database is about styling: how to name and categorize the information we collect. That's why Open Opus has, since its creation, a Style Guide. It's based primarily on the Classical Metadata Style Guide by the Music Business Association, which is used by most streaming services and online retailers. We also took in consideration many points from the Wikipedia naming conventions for classical music.

Naming conventions

The Open Opus databases has two title fields for compositions: title and subtitle. The title is the main field and should contain all relevant information about the work, such as numbering, catalogue, key and nickname. The subtitle field is optional and is reserved for additional information such as instrumentation, version and edition, only when necessary.


Name no. # in K major, op. # no. #, C.#, CC.#, “Nickname”


Symphony in Three Movements 
Academic Festival Overture, op. 80
Symphony no. 3 in F major, op. 90
Symphony no. 41 in C major, K.551, "Jupiter"
Piano Trio no. 5 in D major, op. 70 no. 1, "Ghost"


  • "Major" is always explicit (e.g. "Symphony no. 38 in D major" and not "Symphony no. 38 in D"), except when the key has become part of the piece "trademark" title (e.g. Gershwin's "Concerto in F")
  • "Flat" and "sharp" are always fully written (e.g. "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, op. 83" and not "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B♭ major, op. 83")
  • Don't include key information in titled works (e.g. "Tragic Overture, op. 81" and not "Tragic Overture in D minor, op. 81")
  • Sacred music: only masses and requiems should receive key information (e.g. "Mass in C major, op. 86"); more strongly titled works such as "Te Deum", "Stabat Mater" don't need keys in their titles


  • The word "opus" is always written in lowercase and abbreviated: "op."
  • There is a space between the word "op." and its numbering (e.g. "op. 101")
  • There is either a dot or a space between the catalogue abbreviation ("K", "BWV" etc) and its numbering (e.g. "K.551", "BWV 1024")
  • Small pieces sets (etudes, variations, preludes etc) should not begin with a number (e.g. "Preludes, op. 28" and not "24 Preludes, op. 28"). Exception: when the numbering has become part of the piece "trademark" title (e.g. "Four Last Songs", "Five Orchestral Pieces")


The subtitle is primarily reserved to describe, when needed, instrumentation and genre, in the format:

Genre, for soloist, soloist, chorus and orchestra


Genre should be explicit when the work has a title that doesn't disclosure the genre by itself.

Examples of mandatory subtitles:

Siegfried Idyll, WWV 103
Symphonic poem
Le nozze di Figaro, K.492
Egmont, op. 84
Incidental music

Examples of titled works that don't require the genre in subtitle:

Symphonie fantastique, op. 14
Quatuor pour la fin du temps
Four Last Songs, TrV 296
Academic Festival Overture, op. 80


Instrumentation should be explicit only when it's clearly different from the standard. Usually, pieces in the following genres don't require explicit instrumentation:

  • Sonata
  • Symphony
  • Symphonic poem
  • Concerto
  • Quartet (and Trio, Quintet etc)
  • Opera
  • Cantata
  • Mass (and Requiem etc)
  • Song (and song cycle)


  • Works with unusual instrumentation
  • Titled chamber works
  • Sinfonias concertantes (or double, triple concertos)
  • Orchestral songs


Quatuor pour la fin du temps
For violin, cello, clarinet and piano
Musique de Chambre no. 1, H.376, "Les fêtes nocturnes"
For violin, viola, cello, clarinet, harp and piano
Sinfonia concertante in E flat major, K.364
For violin, viola and orchestra
Triple Concerto in C major, op. 56
For violin, cello, piano and orchestra
Four Last Songs, TrV 296
For soprano and orchestra

Versions and arrangements

Versions, editions and arrangements are not considered different works. This kind of information should be part of the recording, not part of the composition. Therefore, it's registered not on Open Opus but on the player itself (Concertmaster, Concertino), in the following format:

Version for instrument (abbreviated verb by Complete Name)

Version verbs

  • Solo: “transcribed by”, abbreviated “tr.”
  • Chamber: “arranged by”, abbreviated “arr.”
  • Orchestra: “orchestrated by”, abbreviated “orch.”


Symphony no. 3 in E flat major, op. 55, "Eroica"
Version for piano (tr. Franz Liszt)
Serenade no. 1 in D major, op. 11
Version for nonet (arr. Alan Boustead)
Piano Quartet no. 1 in G minor, op. 25
Version for orchestra (orch. Arnold Schoenberg)


  • Don't omit the word "version" - it tells immediately that it's different to the original
  • Don’t use “piano duo” - it’s ambiguous! Use the more precise terms “2 pianos” and “piano 4 hands”
  • Alternative versions by the original composer may omit authorship (but you can make it explicit if there is a third party arrangement more famous than the original work; e.g. Gershwin's "Rhapsody in blue")
  • Versions published with different opus numbers are considered different works and version information should be included in the composition subtitle. It may or may not refer to the original work, if needed


Variations on a Theme by Haydn, op. 56b
Version for 2 pianos
Piano Concerto in D major, op. 61a
Version for piano and orchestra of the Violin Concerto

Parts and collections

Suites and overtures which haven't received distinct opus numbers aren't considered compositions by their own. Therefore, this "partial" status should be explicit in the subtitle, in the format:

Part/Collection from the genre (arr. Complete Name)


The Firebird
Suite from the ballet
The Magic Flute, K.620
Overture from the opera
Lohengrin, WWV 75
Prelude to the 3rd act of the opera
Egmont, op. 84 
Overture from the incidental music
Porgy and Bess
Medley from the opera (arr. Robert Russell Bennett)


  • Collections by the original composer may omit authorship
  • Sometimes collections have different instrumentations than the original works. Make them explicit using the word "version"


L'Histoire du soldat
Suite from the play, version for clarinet, violin and piano


For some works it's important to differ recordings by which edition they use (e.g. Bruckner symphonies). That distinction does not happen on Open Opus (different editions aren't different works), but on the players (Concertino, Concertmaster).

Year [first] version (ed. Complete Name)


Symphony no. 4 in E flat major, WAB 104
1874 first version (ed. Leopold Nowak)
Symphony no. 4 in D minor, op. 120
1851 version

If the edition was made by a third party, use the following pattern:

Version edited by Complete Name
Symphony no. 1 in B flat major, op. 38, "Spring"
Version edited by Gustav Mahler
Night on Bald Mountain
Version edited by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

If the edition is, in fact, a completion of an unfinished work, use the term "completed by":

Requiem in D minor, K.626
Version completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr

If an arrangement by a third party is more famous than the original work, please consider using the terms "original version" to emphasise it:

Night on Bald Mountain
Original version


Vocal works recorded in languages different than the original: make the user aware of this difference.

Language version of the genre'


Der fliegende Holländer, WWV 63
English language version of the opera
Elijah, op. 70
German language version of the oratorio
L'Histoire du soldat
English language version of the theatre piece