A Catalogue of 18th-Century Symphonies could have appeared years earlier if cataloguers of music had realized the inadequacy of general titles such as “Symphony in D Major” to identify a given work. Librarians are not to be blamed, since as conservators they must be conservative, and that has meant a continuation of book traditions, in which the title in most cases does offer positive identification. In recent years, some libraries have gradually added musical incipits—an ideal but costly process. In the meantime, researchers must request and personally examine every source to find out just which symphony it is. As a practical alternative, an alphabetic incipit using the first dozen or so note names in the first violin part will positively identify almost any symphony in a card file, at a saving of thousands of hours for researchers and shelf attendants. It is hoped that future cataloguing decisions will take note of this simple and inexpensive alphabetic solution. Revisions of The British Union-Catalogue of Early Music and the RISM Einzeldrücke vor 1800 offer admirable opportunities in this regard.
Publication of the Catalogue in “hard copy” is planned in three stages. The first is the present Thematic Identifier, containing 16,558 incipits of note names (see explanations below) arranged alphabetically by keys and then within these keys. The listing includes separate entries for slow introductions and the following fast movements, as well as many secondary entries for variants produced by appoggiaturas added or missing, omitted ties, and incorrect key identifications. In addition, layers of alteration have been contributed over more than two hundred years by war, modernization, copyists, printers, forgers, purchasers and performers, librarians and archivists, secretaries and shelf attendants, indexers, and musicologists. Bookbinders and well-intentioned curators often trim ragged edges or replace soiled covers, thereby destroying forever much precious evidence of owners, borrowers, editors, prices, plate numbers, performance records, and watermarks; and stains of weather, ink, food, and drink may obscure small but potentially important bits of evidence for dating and authentication. For all these reasons, the Thematic Identifier should be regarded as a primary finding tool that opens initial pathways of investigation and gives early warning of serious complications in attribution, the central problem of symphonic studies.
The second stage will consist of one or two volumes entitled Composers’ Worklists, this time with incipits in full musical notation, but still arranged alphabetically, a distinct and useful simplification for the search process.
Finally, to offer more flexibility for additions, corrections, and coordinated updating, the entire contents of the database will be made available on microfiches or compact disks.
In principle the Catalogue includes all discoverable symphonies and similar works used in concert c. 1720 to c. 1810. For example, opera overtures found in sources intended for concert performance have been included; and for composers of such double-function works, other overtures have been included even if not specifically connected with concert performance, in the hope of providing further identifications of anonymous works. French overtures (Largo opening; dotted rhythms) have generally been excluded, as have chamber works in nonsymphonic meters (3/8) or in conspicuously soloistic or heavily ornamented style. However, some quartets and larger combinations that begin in a formal symphonic manner (e.g., ) have been included, based on considerable evidence of cross-overs between chamber and symphonic repertories. Furthermore, in general I have tried to include rather than exclude borderline cases, since they may open up valuable leads in questions of authentication for other works.
The Catalogue uses the following bibliographic conventions:
(1) Composers with the same last name have been distinguished by identification numbers assigned with the aid of Cutter-Sanborn Three-Figure Author Table: Swanson-Swift Revision (Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1976), for example:
“B112 Bach” refers to a Bach source without given name.
“B114 Bach” refers to C. P. E. Bach.
“B116 Bach” refers to J. C. Bach.
“H409 Haydn” refers to a Haydn source without given name.
“H411 Haydn” refers to Joseph Haydn.
“H413 Haydn” refers to Michael Haydn.
(2) RISM sigla have been used only for reporting locations of anonymous works. A full table explaining these sigla will appear in connection with the source locations in later volumes.
(3) Variants in incipit notes or unusual (?mis)spellings of composers’ names reflect the situation in the sources, since particular melodic variants or ingenious counterspellings may yield valuable clues to the specialist regarding dating and transmission.
In the present volume, within each key, the alphabetic location of a symphony is determined by the note names at the beginning of the first violin part (the conventional incipit used for identification since about 1730). A rising chromatic listing of keys from A-flat to G-natural is convenient for learning and comparison. Using the alphabet as central principle also dictates placing minor keys after the parallel rather than the relative major, e.g., A major followed by A minor (represented here by A-). (Note that in German, “parallel” means “parallel signature,” not “parallel note name.”)
Other key arrangements, such as those beginning with C and proceeding according to the circle of fifths (C, G, D, A, etc.) or by increasing number of accidentals (C, G, F, D, B-flat, etc.), are much harder to check and nightmarish to revise. Also, alphabetic listings can be used by persons who know note names but are inexperienced in technical matters such as the circle of fifths.
After the line number, each entry contains the key and incipit, followed by the composer’s identification number (for internal reference) and last name. This system creates a self-revising order that avoids the constant need for repositioning in listings by number, opus, date, or tonality. Unfortunately many symphonies contain strings of repeated notes, such as tremolos, which take up space without offering an identifiable profile. The longest to date is 64 notes on one pitch, nearly a whole line in itself. Obviously numbers are required to conserve space, yet if one mixes alphabetical and numerical systems, some conflicts in order result. In large catalogues these conflicts become critical because entries that are successive according to one principle may be pages apart according to another logic. For example, following alphabetical order first, we produce a numerical problem (3 coming after 4):
On the other hand, following first the numerical order causes an alphabetical problem (C:CCCC coming after C:CCCD):
In practice, however, repeated notes occur so commonly that the numerical organization coming first proves to be the more practical solution. The use of the Thematic Identifier thus involves the following steps:
(1) Reduce the first violin incipit to numbers and letters without regard to octaves or barlines (symbols for accidentals: $ = flat, # = sharp, and N = natural).
(2) Locate the symphony within its key by first following the numerical order and then the alphabetical order. In the samples below, C-:CGEED (=1CG2ED) numerically precedes C-:2CE, even though alphabetically E precedes G.
If you encounter difficulty in locating the incipit, examine the ten lines above and below the expected location. Several possibilities of variation in an incipit may change this location, such as copyist’s mistakes, appoggiaturas added or omitted, or in a short incipit, failure to show the full numerical repetition at the end—2D could be a page away from 3D. Transpositions are very rare, but if a symphony cannot be located in its proper place, it may be lurking mistakenly in the same relative position of a neighboring key (B-flat instead of B) or a relative major or minor (A minor instead of C major).
One of the most rewarding aspects of the Thematic Identifier, attainable in no other way, is the “resurrection” of anonymous manuscripts by identification of their composers. These involve not only local composers but important international figures for whom an additional source may furnish vital clues for editing and performance, as well as evidence of the distribution of popular works. In a complementary function, the Thematic Identifier calls attention to the true identities of symphonies falsely attributed to famous composers. For example, the present volume shows that a “false” Haydn symphony listed by H. C. Robbins Landon (Symphonies of Joseph Haydn, App. II, no. 69) should probably be attributed to Weigert (compare lines 1049 and 1050). These several functions of the Thematic Identifier create the first comprehensive foundation for a general study of the great symphonic repertory of the Enlightenment.
In the coming years I shall be grateful for corrections and additions and happy to receive questions regarding particular works. Please address them to 15 Edgehill Drive, Darien, Connecticut 06820, U.S.A.