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Joined: Sep 2010
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I've always been confused about how to identify a piece by different composers in terms of sequence.

Q: Why do Mozart's sonatas haven't got a number or opus assigned, but Beethoven's sonatas do.

Q: Why do Beethoven's works have both a number an an opus number assigned? Why Piano Sonata in C minor, Opus 10, No. 1? Why not just number them in chronological order by when they are composed and just use Piano Sonata No. 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.?

Q: Why are Mozart's sonatas catalogued by the letter(s) K or KV? What does the letter K for KV stand for?

Q: Why do some earlier Chopin pieces have a higher opus numbers than the later ones?

So today I've decided to find out. Here's an interesting read:

Wikipedia - Opus

After reading the article, I've decided not to be bothered with these numbers and not to assume anything that the numbers imply. So as long I identify that a piece is composed in the early, middle or late of a composer's life that will do.

What are your thoughts? Do these numberings help you in music learning at all?



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No, the op numbers don't help in my music learning and I have trouble remembering any numbers. What op numbers are good for is organizing and finding the composers' pieces in iTunes when there are thousands, because many pieces don't even have any proper name to use smile

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The opus numbers work in the same way as digital piano model numbers. They are not always in chronological order !


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Opus numbers are purely a means to identify works by some composers, no more & no less. Beethoven's piano sonatas are no longer identified by "No.xy" anymore, because new editions now have 34 'sonatas' (including two early sonatas) rather than the 32 that used to be commonly numbered; and in any case, the Op.49 sonatas are very early works and Luddy never wanted them to be part of his sonata cycle. So, do you deduct the Op.49 and include the other two to get back to 32, or include all of them, like in the new Associated Board edition? Or adhere to the composer's wishes, and only assign the numbers to the pieces he himself deemed to be proper piano sonatas - i.e. 30 of them?

Composers often assign opus numbers starting with pieces they deemed 'mature', or 'good' enough to be given such numbers (thereby leaving a good number of other pieces in limbo - like Beethoven's works without opus numbers (WoO) - e.g. the very famous WoO 59 grin ), or their publishers may assign opus numbers based on the order of publication. Which is why Chopin's piano concertos (among others) got "misnumbered" (his Op.21 is earlier than his Op.11).

As for Mozart, Köchel's numbering system has come into widespread use, trying to include everything Wolfie ever wrote - because he wrote a lot of stuff as a child (& also copied a lot of other people's stuff), plus other pieces he just dashed off and wouldn't have deigned them with opus numbers (if he'd used them). But his piano sonatas are numbered, just that they aren't often used (like No.16 in C, K545).

Similarly, Kirkpatrick's numbering for Scarlatti has largely replaced Longo; and Deutsche's for Schubert has largely replaced the opus numbers (which only had the published works).

BTW, many contemporary composers don't bother with opus numbers for their works - they just give them unique names, like Laterna Magica, or Mavis in Vegas grin.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Tubbie - I'm so glad you asked this! While I knew that Mozart had his own categorization system, I always felt a little dumb for not knowing what all those other numbers referred to!


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hey


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