Citation of Recordings of Musical Works

By Daniel McAdam.

The discussion that follows is primarily intended to assist those engaged in writing about, citing, or otherwise listing recordings of works of music that may be regarded as "classical" in the general sense. 

Generally speaking, a citation of a recording should include the following, in the order given:

  1. Composer;
  2. Title of recording, in italics;
  3. Performer;
  4. Label and label number;
  5. Date of issue of recording, enclosed in parentheses, and;
  6. Medium. 

Example:  Béla Bartók, Concerto for Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis, Apex 8573884312 (1998) CD.

Example:  Franz Schubert, Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 114, "The Trout"/String Quartet in A Minor, op. 29, Royal Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble/Jonathan Carney, Ronan O'Hora - Piano, Tring TRP016 (1994) CD.

Note that the date given is the year in which the CD was released, not the date of recording, or performance.

When listing works, a similar format is followed, except that the composer's name is last-name-first.


Obviously, if one is only listing CD's, and indicates that this is a list of CD's, then the medium is not required unless there is some distinctive factor involved, such as SACD. 

When encoding information into an electronic medium, such as a compact disc, which will later be read by a computer program, such as iTunes, each track should include at a minimum the following information:

  1. Composer, last name first, followed by year of birth and year of death in parentheses; thus, for example, Bartók, Béla (1881-1945);
  2. Artist;
    1. If the artist is an individual, then his or her name is formatted similar to that of the composer's; thus, Segovia, Andrés (1893-1987);
    2. If an ensemble, the article is dropped; thus, Borodin Quartet, not The Borodin Quartet;
    3. If an ensemble with a conductor, the conductor's name follows; thus, Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Jukka-Pekka Saraste, or Royal Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble / Jonathan Carney;
  3. Name of music; thus, Elegy, op. 58.  The name of the composer should not be listed here, and so it is incorrect to list something as, for example, Elgar: Elegy, op. 58;
  4. Album name; thus, English String Festival, or Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 114, "The Trout" / String Quartet in A Minor, op. 29.

(Note: If you utilize iTunes, and find something incorrectly listed (not uncommon), you can correct it; for a discussion of this, please see Classical Music and the iPod.)

I've pondered a good deal over the question of whether the abbreviation for "opus" should be capitalized or not, and somewhat begrudgingly find myself in agreement with those who do not capitalize; thus, something should be op. 114, and not Op. 114. 

When giving numbered works, such as symphonies, it is correct to use the number as the official title; the "nickname" of the piece may be given in quotation marks.

Example:  Symphony No. 9 "Choral," and not Symphony 9. 

One could write a small book (I won't) about the "correct" or "accepted" spelling of composers' names.  It comes down to the alphabet one uses, and the language.  Even then, there are differences.  Britons, for example, often tend to write Rachmaninov, whereas Americans are much more likely to use Rachmaninoff.  These are difficult issues to resolve. Should Chopin's first name be given as Frederic or Fryderyk?  My best advice here - not always followed on this website, but we are working on it - is to at least be internally consistent.  Make your choice, and stick to it.



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