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8 Work titles in text

8.6 Musical works

8.6.1 General principles

The styling of musical work titles is peculiarly difficult because of the diversity of forms in which some titles may be cited, issues related to language, and longstanding special conventions. The most comprehensive source for the correct titles of musical works is The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London, 2001), available as part of Oxford Music Online.

8.6.2 Popular music and traditional songs

Song titles in English are set in roman type with quotation marks, capitalized according to the style adopted for titles in general:

‘Three Blind Mice’

‘Brown-Eyed Girl’

This is irrespective of whether the title forms a sentence with a finite verb:

‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’
‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’

In contrast, traditional ballads and songs, which draw their titles directly from the first line, may follow the rules for poetry. Here, only the first and proper nouns are capitalized:

‘Come away, death’

‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor?’

The names of albums, CDs, and collections are given in italic, with no quotation marks:

A Love Supreme

Forever Changes

Younger Than Yesterday

In the Land of Grey and Pink

This results in the combination of, for example, ‘Born to Run’, from Born to Run (roman in quotation marks for song, italic for album).

8.6.3 True titles

A distinction is usually made between works with ‘true’ titles and those with generic names. The boundary between the two types of title is not always clear, but, as with all other difficult style decisions, sense and context provide guidance, and consistency of treatment within any one publication is more important than adherence to a particular code of rules.

True titles are set in italic type with maximal or minimal capital initials according to the prevailing style of the publication:

Britten’s The Burning Fiery Furnace

Elgar’s The Apostles

Tippett’s A Child of our Time

Foreign-language titles are usually retained (and styled according to the practice outlined in 8.8 below). By convention, however, English publications always refer to some well-known works by English titles, especially when the original title is in a lesser-known language:

Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique

Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin

Liszt’s Années de pelerinage

but
Berg’s Lyric Suite
Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
Operas and other dramatic works may be named in the original language or in English according to any sensible and consistent system—for example, in the original language if the reference is to a performance in that language, in English if the reference is to a performance in translation. A translated title may be given if the reader may not otherwise recognize the work:
Mozart’s The Magic Flute
Janáček’s Z mrtvého domu (‘From the house of the dead’)

Some works, however, are by convention always named in the original language:

Puccini’s La Bohème

Weber’s Der Freischütz

The titles of individual songs, arias, anthems, and movements are styled in roman in quotation marks, as are nicknames (that is, those not provided by the composer):
‘Skye Boat Song’
‘Dove sono’ from The Marriage of Figaro
the sacred madrigal ‘When David heard that Absalom was dead’
the ‘Rigaudon’ from Le Tombeau de Couperin
the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony
the ‘Enigma Variations’

It is customary to use minimal capital initials for titles derived from the words of a song (see 8.6.2).

8.6.4 Generic names

Titles derived from the names of musical forms are set in roman type with initial capitals. Identifying numbers in a series of works of the same form, opus numbers, and catalogue numbers are all given in Arabic numerals; the abbreviations ‘op.’ and ‘no.’ may be capitalized or not, while the capital abbreviations that preface catalogue numbers are often set in small capitals without a full point and closed up to the numeral (though Oxford style is to use full capitals and a full point and to space off the numeral). The names of keys may use musical symbols # and ♭ or the words ‘sharp’ and ‘flat’. Note the capitalization, punctuation, and spacing in the examples below:

Bach’s Mass in B minor or B Minor Mass
Brahms’s Symphony no. 4/Fourth Symphony
Handel’s Concerto Grosso in G major, op. 3, no. 3
Mozart’s Piano Trio, k496
Beethoven’s String Quartet in C sharp minor, op. 131 or … C# minor, op. 131

Tempo marks used as the titles of movements are also set in roman type with initial capitals, as are the sections of the mass and other services:

the Adagio from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony
the Credo from the Missa solemnis
the Te Deum from Purcell’s Morning Service in D

8.6.5 Hybrid names

Certain titles are conventionally styled in a mixture of roman and italic type. They include works that are named by genre and title such as certain overtures and masses:

the Overture Portsmouth Point

the Mass L’Homme armé

Note, however, that in other styles the generic word is treated as a descriptor:

the march Pomp and Circumstance, no. 1

the Firebird suite

Instrumentation that follows the title of a work may be given descriptively in roman with lower-case initials, or as part of the title. A number of twentieth-century works, however, include their instrumentation as an inseparable part of the title.

Three Pieces for cello and piano
but

Serenade for Strings

Concerto for Orchestra

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