Thematic catalogs are an essential music research tool, helping to identify details pertaining to a composer's works, including specifics about their creation, first performances, and source materials.
Many musical works cannot be identified by title only. For example: Joseph Haydn wrote 15 different works called Symphony in D. Thematic catalogs are helpful because they include "musical incipits," short passages of musical notation from the beginning of each piece or movement. This is similar to using first lines to identify poems with the title "A Sonnet".
A thematic catalog ideally contains for each work:
We routinely see and hear compositions identified by their thematic catalog numbers. The names of the catalog compilers, and their abbreviated forms, quickly become familiar: Hoboken (Hob.) for Haydn, Köchel (K.) for Mozart, Deutsch (D.) for Schubert, Ryom (RV) for Vivaldi, and Schmieder (BWV) for J.S. Bach. Others are less familiar: Baselt (HWV) for Handel.
Many thematic catalogs and related reference resources are classed in ML134, ordered by composer last name. This is a great place to begin discovering information about a certain composer or specific works.
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