This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Today's column may come across as a lecture or, even worse, notes for a thesis.
Alternately, it could be a case of teaching your grandmother to suck duck eggs, as my dear old mum had a wont to say. That is, explaining the bleeding obvious to someone who already knows it (and that explanation could be another case of that granny-duck egg thing, and I'd better stop now before I get into a screaming loop, as we used to say in the computer biz. They probably still do.)
Anyway, it's all about those letters and numbers often attached to the end of titles of classical compositions. They are really just a way to catalogue the works of a particular composer.
If works were published during a composer's lifetime, they were assigned opus numbers. Several compositions could have the same opus number if they were related and published simultaneously.
Haydn would often have several string quartets on the go and, for example, they may be assigned opus 5, no. 1, opus 5, no. 2 and so on.
However, these can be a bit problematic these days as new works (okay, previously unknown works) get discovered now and then and they have to be slotted into the system somehow.
If nothing else, the topic affords me a chance to play some great music.
I'll start with the most famous of these, the gentleman after whom I named the column, LUDWIG VON KÖCHEL.
Ludwig was a scientist, both a botanist and mineralogist. He was shocked by the complete disorder of MOZART's works; he was a huge fan of Wolfie.
He studied the chronology of the compositions and helped in the publishing of the first complete edition and not so incidentally, assigned Köchel numbers (K 550 etc).
In some German and Austrian editions these are KV numbers. The V stands for Verzeichmis which just means list.
There have been a few modifications over time, most notably in 1937 by Alfred Einstein (no relation to the more famous person with the same surname). There was another in 1964 and others since. However, Köchel numbers are still the standard.
This is one of them, K 370 – the first movement of the Oboe Quintet in F major.
After the Köchel catalogue, the next most famous would be the BWV numbers attached to works by JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH. BWV stands for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis or, in English, Bach Works Catalogue.
WOLFGANG SCHMEIDER assigned these numbers in 1950 in a catalogue called (deep breath) Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke von Johann Sebastian Bach.
That really just means a catalogue of Bach's works. These weren't chronological; the music is arranged by themes – choral works, organ works, cantatas and so on. So, you can't tell when a particular piece was written just by checking the BWV number.
Here is what sounds like a mature work to me, BWV 1055 – the first movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in A major.
Daddy Bach's youngest son, JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH was also a composer, as were several of his older brothers. To my mind, J.C. was the pick of the next generation. He's often called the London Bach as that's where he spent the last half of his life.
J.C.'s numbers are called Terry numbers (really), after CHARLES STANFORD TERRY who was an authority on dad's works as well but he missed out on being the numberer on those.
Having said that (because I really like the idea of Terry numbers), there's a later catalogue of his works by ERNEST WARBURTON who contributed W numbers. Ernie was not only a musicologist but also worked for the BBC where he was instrumental in reviving obscure operas by Puccini and Wagner.
His catalogue of J.C.'s works are split into categories such that keyboard works are WA plus a number, chamber pieces are WB plus a number and so on.
I've chosen WC41, otherwise known as the third movement from his Symphonie Concertante for flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns & bassoon in E flat major.
In case you're interested, J.C.'s brothers have the following numbering system:
• Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach has Wq for Alfred Wotquenne.
• Wilhelm Friedemann Bach has F for Martin Falck
• Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach has HW for Hannsdieter Wohlforth
There are a couple of other brothers as well whose music I'm unfamiliar with and I've not noticed any of their CDs about the place. They also don't figure on any lists I've seen, so they don't make it today.
FRANZ SCHUBERT's opus numbers are all over the place. He published a few things in his lifetime but even then the opus numbers are problematic.
The person who came along and fixed that is OTTO DEUTSCH. Otto was a lecturer at the University of Vienna in the early part of the 20th century but went to Cambridge when the Nazis took over his country.
He returned to Vienna after the war. He was the one who put together Schubert's works and Franz's compositions have Deutsch numbers, published in 1951. They are usually just abbreviated to D. Otto also produced fine works on Mozart and Handel.
Schubert's Deutsch number today is D 384, or to put into layman's terms, the first movement of the Sonata in D major, D 384 (Op.137, No.1) for piano and violin.
There were a couple of Haydns of note, the main one being JOSEPH HAYDN. His cataloguing is due to ANTHONY VAN HOBOKEN and his works are generally given Hob numbers.
Incidentally, Tony has nothing to do with the city in New Jersey that bears his name. He was from Rotterdam in the Netherlands and his work was mostly in the first half of the 20th century. He was also an authority on J.S. Bach (yet another one) and Brahms.
Like J.C. Bach, the Hoboken numbers are a bit more complicated than the rest; it's not just a matter of 1, 2, 3… etc.
Because Jo wrote so many things, the numbers are split into categories signified by a Roman numeral. Symphonies get I; overtures, for some reason unknown to me, get Ia; divertimenti get II; string quartets get III and so on.
Then there's a number attached to the end. Got all that? No? Well, it doesn't really matter.
Here is Hob III-6, or the first movement of the Cassation in C, an interesting piece for lute, violin, viola and cello. Just about a string quartet under a different name and lumped in with them, a form of music about which Jo knew a hell of a lot.
A cassation is just a fancy word for a short or minor work.
Jo's brother Michael Haydn was also a composer and he has Perger numbers to identify his compositions.
This column was prompted a couple of days ago when I was lying in bed early one morning listening to the radio and a piece of music by DOMENICO SCARLATTI was introduced with a Kirkpatrick number.
"Hullo," I thought. "That's a new one."
I already knew about those above but this one prompted me to do a bit of research (and write this column). I found that this was RALPH KIRKPATRICK who was also a harpsichordist of some renown.
He studied at Harvard, in Paris, played in Berlin and Leipzig, taught in Salzburg and was a professor at Yale. He did a lot of other things as well. I can't imagine how he had the time.
His numberings are often referring to as K numbers but that's a bit confusing considering the vastly more famous Mozart K system. That's probably why the folks on the radio used Kirkpatrick instead.
There was a previous attempt on Domenico's works by Alessandro Longo (L numbers), but Ralph's catalogue won out in the end.
Although the track I've chosen was written for harpsichord, this is a piano interpretation. To my ears it rather sounds as if it could have been in the mix with Eric Satie or Claude Debussy. Of course, Dom did it two hundred years earlier.
Here is the Sonata in D Minor, Kirkpatrick 32.
Domenico's father, Alessandro Scarlatti, also a composer, doesn't seem to have numbers attached to his works as far as I can tell, nor does his brother Pietro Scarlatti, yet another composer. They possibly do but I haven't found them on any of the lists I've checked.
One of the lesser, but still very interesting, composers of the eighteenth century is IGNACE PLEYEL. Some say his first name was Ignaz; I'll leave it up to you.
Iggy was born in Austria but overlapped with Papa Haydn quite a bit, even collaborating with him on some compositions. There was a good living to be made in France so he moved there.
Alas, come the revolution and the new powers that be banned music in churches and in concert halls so Iggy cut his losses and went to London.
He was also quite the business man and published a considerable number of Haydn's works amongst many others. Somehow he found time to write more than 40 symphonies, 70 string quartets and many other works.
RITA BENTON is the person responsible for cataloguing Iggy's works. They are referred to as B or Ben numbers.
The piece of music I decided to play didn't have a Benton number on the CD (nor did any of the others). So I went to the list for Iggy and it wasn't there either.
After considerable messing around, including contacting the fine folks in the music department at the University of Iowa who are the keepers of the Benton musical library (isn't email a wonderful thing?), we pretty much established that this is B 219, or in other words, the first movement of the Sextet in E flat major for 2 clarinets, 2 horns, and 2 bassoons.
Pretty much all of the famous compositions of BEETHOVEN have opus numbers as they were published during his lifetime.
There are some compositions, minor ones or those he tossed aside and a few that were discovered after his death that weren't so attributed. These have WoO numbers. That stands for Werke ohne Opuszahl or, more prosaically, works without opus numbers. These are from a German catalogue prepared in 1955 by HANS HALM and GEORG KINSKY.
Ludwig isn't the only composer who has had WoO numbers assigned. Brahms and Schumann also have them, as well as some other lesser known composers.
There are other catalogues for Ludwig; these were attempts at his complete output. They are by the aforementioned George Kinsky (K numbers - yet another K) and, considerably earlier, Giovanni Biamonti (Bia numbers).
I've chosen a WoO work, WoO 36. It is the second movement from the Piano Quartet in C major No. 3.
With ANTONIO VIVALDI things get a bit confusing (or a bit more confusing, perhaps). You can have his works by Ryom numbers, Rinaldi and Pincherle numbers, Fanna numbers, Ricordi numbers or by their original opus numbers.
There are CE numbers as well. The CE numbers are just Fanna numbers in disguise and they stand for Complete Edition. These numbers displaced the previous standard of Pincherle numbers as many previously unknown works were later discovered.
About the same time as Marc Pincherle was doing his thing in Paris, Mario Rinaldi was attempting the same exercise in Rome. Neither of these became the standard for Tony's works. The Ricordi mentioned above was a publishing house where Gian Malipiero was also trying to catalogue these compositions.
However, Vivaldi's works these days are identified today by RV numbers, the numbers assigned by Danish musicologist PETER RYOM who did his thing in the 1970s, and RV stands for Ryom-Verzeichnis or Ryom Catalogue.
Here is RV 85, the first movement of the Trio Sonata in G Minor for Violin, Lute and Bass Continuo.
Although known to us as ANTONIO ROSETTI, he was born Anton Rösler in Bohemia where it seems he may have received some musical training by the Jesuits.
Tony took up the Italian version of his name in his early twenties. Several of his compositions were greatly admired by Mozart, particularly his horn concertos which were a model for Wolfie's compositions for the same instrument.
Rosetti's works are usually given with catalogue numbers by STERLING MURRAY so they get an M (or RWV, and I don't know what that refers to).
They can also appear in a catalogue by OSKAR KAUL and to save us from yet another K numbering system, they receive his full name, well, his surname.
The track I've decided to use is numbered Murray C73. I have no idea what the C is doing there but it may refer to the type of composition as several others have. Anyway, this is the first movement of his Bassoon Concerto in B Flat.