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Music: Music

Subject support from Library Services for staff and students in Music


Finding printed music using FindIt

Searching for musical works in catalogues and other places can sometimes be difficult if the work has no distinctive title. For example, title Idomeneo is reasonably likely to find entries for Mozart's opera, but looking for one of his symphonies, sonatas or concertos is less straightforward.

Many databases, including the library catalogue, use a system of "uniform titles" to specify the work. For example, a score or CD of Beethoven's 3rd symphony may carry the title in one of many styles, e.g.

  • Symphonies, no.3, op.55, E flat major
  • Eroica,
  • Symphony No.3,
  • Third symphony,
  • Complete symphonies, Symphony III,
  • or any foreign form of name, such as Dritte Symphonie

Therefore a uniform title will usually be assigned in any well-indexed catalogue. On the Library Catalogue the uniform title takes the form: Genre (English plural), Number, Opus/Catalogue number, Key eg

  • Symphonies, no.3, op.55, E flat major
  • Concertos, piano, orchestra, no.23, K.488, A major

Therefore the best way to find a piece of music is to type the composer's name in the Author search box, and a combination of 2 or 3 elements in the keyword box, eg

  • symphonies 3 and Beethoven
  • concertos 488 and Mozart

 In the Advanced search option you can select 'scores' as a 'material type' to eliminate CDs and monographs from your search results.


Finding printed music in collected editions

What are collected editions?

Collected editions are sets of musical works, usually published in a number of volumes. In general there are two types of collected edition: 1) the complete works of an individual composer, and 2) works of various composers, usually brought together by time period, geographical region or genre. Examples of 1) are Liszt Neue Ausgabe samtlicher Werke (New edition of the complete works) and Le opere complete di Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Examples of 2) are Musica Britannica and Denkmaler der Tonkunst in Osterrich (works composed in a particular geographical area) and Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era (works composed during a particular time period).

You will generally find that complete works only exist for relatively well known composers. For lesser composers you will usually only find their works in a collected edition such as those described in 2) above.

Collected editions are put together by specialists who examine manuscripts and early printed sources in an effort to determine a definitive version of a work that most accurately represents the composer’s intentions. They are usually published over a number of years, and some run to over 100 volumes. Collected editions tend to be used as a source for study rather than performance.

Why would I need to use collected editions?

You will find that the Library does not always have individual scores of some of the works that you need to study. However, these works may be contained within a collected edition - either in the complete works of the composer in question, or in a series such as Denkmaler deutscher Tonkunst. In other words, the only place you may be able to find some works is within a collected edition. A ‘scholarly’ or ‘critical’ edition is useful if you need to study of original versions of older music as it presents the most authoritative authentic version of the work, with editorial material clearly distinguished from the original

Where are they kept in the Library?

The collected editions are shelved on the Third Floor.  Collections such as Musica Britannica all have a shelf mark beginning with M 2. Collected editions of an individual composer’s works have a shelf mark beginning with M 3 (e.g. the collected works of Buxtehude, Dietrich Buxtehudes Werke has the shelf mark Music M 3.B84).

Can I search and find individual works within collected editions in FindIt?

No. We catalogue individual volumes of collected editions themed by period/geographical area/genre (e.g. Recent researches in the music of the Baroque era) and, in many cases, individual volumes of composer collected editions. So you will be able to find the general shelf mark for, e.g. the collected works of Bach, but the not the details of what is in each individual volume. Some older collected editions don’t even have catalogue records individual volumes.

So how do I find individual works within collected editions?

There are two books you can use to try and establish which collected edition a work is contained within:

You can use a book by Anna Heyer called Historical sets, collected editions and monuments of music: a guide to their contents. The shelf mark for this is ML 113.H. This has two volumes. Use volume 1 if you think there is likely to be a collected edition containing the complete works of a composer. Use Volume 2 if you this is not the case.

Volume 1 consists of a list of composers names. Listed for each composer is the title of the collected editions of their work, followed by the contents of each volume. Note that for some composers there is more than one edition of their complete works. (Also note that the Library will usually only have one edition of a composers complete works, so make sure that we have the collected edition in question by doing a search for the overall title.) So if you looked up Mozart, you could find out which volume of his collected works contains the Symphony no.15 by browsing through the list. Some pieces may not be listed specifically, but more generally, e.g. Heyer may just say that Volume 7 of a particular collected edition contains cantatas (without listing the individual titles of the cantatas). Volume 1 does lists the contents of collected editions such as Musica Britannica, but it would take a long time to browse through this. If you think a piece is likely to be in a collected edition such as Musica Britannica or Denkmaler der Tonkunst in Osterrich, you should use Volume 2 instead.

Volume 2 is also a list of composers’ names. This time each of their works or types of works is listed alongside an indication of which collected edition you will find that work in. Use volume 2 if you are not sure which collected edition to look in for a work. Volume 2 is generally more useful for less well known composers, as you can quickly match a specific piece to a specific collected edition.

In some cases you will find that a piece is contained within more than one collected edition. However, the Library does not have all of the collected editions available, so remember to search for the overall title to make sure that we have it.

Finally the book by Anna Heyer was published in 1980, so volumes of collected editions published since then will not be mentioned. An alternative book is one by Hill and Stephens called Collected editions, historical series and sets and monuments of music: a bibliography (ML 113.H). This is not as comprehensive as the Heyer book, but it is more up to date, and will include more recently published volumes of collected editions.

You can also use Grove Music Online, part of Oxford Music Online to locate works within collected editions. To do this, look up the composer by surname. For most composers there is a works list at the end of the dictionary entry. If the complete works of a composer have been published, the entry will often give the details of the collected edition followed by a list of the works. Alongside each work is a section indicating which volume of the collected edition the work is in. In some cases there will be more than one set of complete works, so each set is given an abbreviation (e.g. in the case of Schubert, NS and NAS - if the entry was 2 ; iv 3 this would mean that in the NS edition the work was in vol. 2 and in the NAS edition it was in vol. iv.3.

If the complete works of a composer have not been published, Grove usually indicates which collected editions a composer’s works can be found in. Again, collected editions are given an abbreviation and the volume numbers are indicated.

If the composer is not prolific or well know there may be no work list in Groves. If this is the case you will have to use the Heyer book instead.

In the case of the collected works of a specific composer, you will often find that there is an index at the front of each volume which gives a general indication of what types of work are in which volume. You can then find the work you want without looking up either of the books mentioned above. However, it’s a good idea to use these books, as otherwise it may take you much longer to find what you are looking for!

Does the Library have the collected edition I need?

Once you know a collected edition exists you can use FindIt to check if we have it - just search by composer's name and the overall title of the collected edition you need, e.g. Brahms Samtliche Werke.

Text for collected editions by Morag Greig, University of Glasgow Library. Revised and reproduced by permission.


The major online resource available through FindIt@Bham is the Naxos Music Library:

The following websites might help.

The AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM)
Discography, sound files and information relating to the history of recordings  and methods for analysing recordings.

British Library Archival Sound Recordings
Classical, Jazz, popular, ethnic and world music

CDs and Vinyl

The Library holds a large collection of CDs which can be borrowed, or listened to in the Media Room in the second floor. These are all catalogued in FindIt. CDs which have been borrowed in the last five years are in the Media Room, those not borrowed recently are in the  Research Reserve. Apart from a small number of vinyl records which are in the Media Room the majority are kept in the Research Reserve and are not catalogued on FindIt. There is a card catalogue for the vinyl outside the door to the Rersearch Reserve and a turntable in the Allport Room..