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The Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue) is the numbering system identifying compositions by
Johann Sebastian Bach. The prefix BWV, followed by the work's number now is the shorthand identification for Bach's compositions. The works are grouped thematically, not chronologically. Wolfgang Schmiederassigned the BWV numbers in 1950, to indicate the work's placement in the Bach works catalogue titled "Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke von Johann Sebastian Bach" (Thematic-systematic catalogue of musical works of Johann Sebastian Bach). The BWV numbers are universally used and accepted as the standard numbering of Bach's works; for example, "Mass in B minor" is BWV 232. Works believed incomplete or of doubtful authenticity at the time of cataloguing were listed in the BWV Anhang (BWV appendix), and are identified by BWV Anh number. The BWV catalogue is occasionally updated, with newly discovered works added at its end, though spurious works do not have their numbers removed.
The BWV numbers are occasionally found in older publications as, e.g. S. 232, and referred to as Schmieder Numbers, though Schmieder opposed this nomenclature and usage, not wishing his name overtly linked to the works (as a point of modesty).
Unlike chronologically arranged catalogues for other classical composers, Schmieder's Bach catalogue is arranged by genre. It is a thematical catalogue: choral works first, then organ works, then other keyboard works, and so on; hence, a low BWV number does not necessarily indicate an early work.
Schmieder chose thematical arrangement instead of chronological for several reasons, of which, probably, the two most important were:
*Many of Bach's works have uncertain composition dates. Even if the score is dated, it could mean nothing more than the date it was copied, or re-arranged, et cetera. Nonetheless, since Schmieder's original publication of the BWV catalogue, music scholars have established many more probable and certain composition dates than were imaginable in the 1950s (c.f. below).
Bach Gesellschafthad been publishing Bach's works since 1851; these existing publications grouped Bach's works by " genre" (or musical form), so listing according to this established practice was less confusing.
Works found after the list's first compilation generally are added to the end of the list, so, for example, the Neumeister organ chorales have numbers around BWV 1100, rather than in the catalogue's organ section numbers, BWV 600. Works found to be spurious or doubtful, such as the little preludes and fugues for organ, BWV 553-560, have not had their BWV numbers removed.
Other cataloguing systems for Bach's compositions
Opus number and publication date
Ordering the complete list of Bach's compositions by
Opus numberor by publicationdate were both out of the question: Bach didn't use Opus numbers, and few of his works were published in his lifetime.
Philippe (and Gérard) Zwang published an alternate system for numbering the cantatas (BWV 1-215 + 248-249), taking a "chronology" into account [http://infopuq.uquebec.ca/~uss1010/catal/bacjs/corrbwvz.html] .
This list was published in 1982 as "Guide pratique des cantates de Bach" in Paris, ISBN 2-221-00749-2.The
1990edition of the BWV is ISBN 3-7651-0255-5.
Buxtehude-Werke-Verzeichnis- a catalogue of Buxtehude's compositions.
Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis- a catalogue of Handel's compositions.
Köchel-Verzeichnis- a catalogue of Mozart's compositions.
*Deutsch-Verzeichnis - a catalogue of Schubert's compositions.
*Ryom-Verzeichnis - a catalogue of
* [http://www.bachcentral.com/BachCentral/acrobat/acrobat.html BWV catalogue (downloadable)]
* [http://infopuq.uquebec.ca/~uss1010/catal/bacjs/bacjs.html BWV catalogue in French]
* [http://www.documentamusica.de Wolf's Thematic Index of the Works of the Great Composers]
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