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Have you ever wondered how many works have been written by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart or Debussy….? Here is the composer who has written the most
Have you ever wondered how many works Bach wrote? And from Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy…? Who is the composer who has written the most? And what exactly do the acronyms next to the titles refer to? Our article, in addition to letting you know the number of works by some of the most famous composers, will help you decipher the different acronyms that you find next to the titles of the songs listed in your CDs, videos, concert programs: from the most famous BWV , at the indications Hob, WoO, K, D, L, RV ...

Johann Sebastian Bach
(Eisenach 1685 - Leipzig 1750)

The catalog of Bach's works known to date includes 1128 compositions.

The abbreviation BWV followed by a number is used to identify the compositions;

BWV stands for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis ('Catalog of Bach's works‘).

The corpus of Bachian works known today is decidedly vast, but it is estimated that much of what Bach wrote has been lost. According to the opinion of some authoritative scholars, the amount of lost works would be much higher than those preserved.

Bach's compositions are usually identified by the well-known acronym BWV followed by a number. This is theacronym for B.achWerkeV.erzeichnis ('Catalog of Bach's works'), the catalog compiled by the German musicologist Wolfgang Schmieder (1901 - 1990) and commonly used by musicians and scholars from all over the world.

The cataloging system makes it possible to refer with certainty, using the relative opera number, to a precise composition by Johann Sebastian Bach among the more than one thousand hundred registered.

Unlike other catalogs, organized chronologically, the Bach Werke Verzeichnis is ordered by type: for example, the vocal compositions are inserted first, in turn divided into Cantatas, Motetti, Masses, etc., then the works for organ, for harpsichord and etc. A low BWV number therefore is not necessarily related to an early work.

Antonio Vivaldi
(Venice 1678 - Vienna 1741)

The corpus of known Vivaldi works includes over 800 compositions.

The acronym most used to identify them is RV followed by a number;

derives from Ryom Verzeicnis (Ryom catalog, named after the musicologist Peter Ryom).

Vivaldi's compositions currently repertory are 816, but the list is certainly incomplete; of several operatic works, for example, we know the title, but not the music.

The vast catalog of the 'red priest' known to date includes instrumental and vocal compositions, sacred and secular music. There are about 600 concertos and sonatas - of which almost half are written for one or more violins, the remainder for the most diverse instruments: cello, bassoon, oboe, flute, lute, mandolins and others - about a hundred cantatas and profane arias , sacred vocal music such as masses, hymns, oratories. His work as an opera composer is also fundamental, forgotten for a long time and still being rediscovered.

As for other composers of the time, the cataloging of the corpus proved to be complex, particularly as regards chronology. Of the various catalogs compiled since the beginning of the last century, that of the Danish musicologist Peter Ryom, known as Ryom Verzeichnis, abbreviated RV 'Ryom catalog ' (not Repertoire Vivaldiano as we sometimes read) published in 2007, is currently the reference one. This is a catalog ordered by type and key, for example the sonatas for an instrument and bc are listed first, then those with several instruments, the concerts, etc. As in the case of Bach, opera numbers do not imply a chronological succession.

Georg Friedrich Händel
(Halle 1685 - London 1759)

Handel's cataloged work numbers are 612. 

They are identified by the abbreviation HWV followed by a number.

The abbreviation stands for Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis ('Catalog of Handel's works‘)

The first lists of Handel's compositions were drawn up by John Mainwaring (London 1760), the composer's first biographer, and by the famous music historian Charles Burney (London 1785).

The catalog commonly used today is the Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis (or Verzeichnis der Werke Georg Friedrich Händels, 'Catalog of Handel's works') published in Germany by Bernd Baselt between 1978 and 1986. It is abbreviated to HWV, and like other catalogs it is sorted by song types.

The catalog edited by Baselt collects all the works of Händel, and includes exhaustive information, for example relating to manuscript sources, editions and reprints of the period, etc.

The indexed works are 612, with some numbers including different versions of the same piece.

Georg Philipp Telemann
(Magdeburg 1681 - Hamburg 1767)

Telemann's compositions are about 3600.

They are identified by the initials TWV followed by two numbers;

TWV stands for Telemann Werke Verzeichnis ('Catalog of Telemann's works')


We owe one of the most extensive musical catalogs to the great German Baroque composer Georg Philippe Telemann. The incredible amount of compositions has been cataloged by Werner Menke and Martin Ruhnke in the Telemann Werke Verzeichnis ('Catalog of Telemann's works'), abbreviated TWV.

This too is a catalog sorted by musical typology. The compositions are identified by the initials TWV followed by a cardinal number that indicates the type, for example Sacred Oratories (TWV 6), Cantatas profane (TWV 20), and by a number assigned to the single composition.

The catalog includes over 3600 compositions in all, and is one of the largest known.

famous music historian Charles Burney (London 1785).

The catalog commonly used today is the Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis (or Verzeichnis der Werke Georg Friedrich Händels, 'Catalog of Handel's works') published in Germany by Bernd Baselt between 1978 and 1986. It is abbreviated to HWV, and like other catalogs it is sorted by song types.

The catalog edited by Baselt collects all the works of Händel, and includes exhaustive information, for example relating to manuscript sources, editions and reprints of the period, etc.

The indexed works are 612, with some numbers including different versions of the same piece.

Franz Joseph Haydn
(Rohrau 1732 - Vienna 1809)

Haydn's cataloged works are more than 750.

The compositions are marked with the initials Hob. followed by a Roman ordinal number and an Arabic number.

The acronym Hob. refers to the Hoboken Catalog (named after the musicologist Anthony van Hoboken).

We know over 750 compositions by Haydn. The catalog was edited by the Dutch musicologist Anthony van Hoboken, and was published in the years 1957 - 1978 in three volumes with the title J.Haydn, Thematisch-bibliographisches Werkverzeichnis ('J. Haydn, Thematic-bibliographic list of works'). The three volumes are dedicated respectively to Instrumental music (vol. 1), at Vocal music (vol. 2), ai Indexes, additions and corrections (vol. 3).

The Catalog Hoboken (or Hoboken Verzeichnis), abbreviated Hob., is ordered according to a typological criterion, that is, groups the compositions according to the musical genre; each group is marked with a Roman numeral, for example I the Symphonies, III the Quartets for strings, IX the Dances and so on. Within each group, the individual compositions are identified by an Arabic number. Thus the Symphony n. 45 in F sharp minor, the celebrated Symphony of farewells is marked as Hob: I: 45, the Quartet no.5 in G Major of opera 33 (the so-called 'Quartets Russians') has the initials Hob. III: 41 (III indicates the third group of compositions which includes all Quartets, 41 is the number assigned to the piece).

Anthony von Hoboken's work constitutes the first cataloging of Haydn's compositions and is the basis of all subsequent studies on his compositions. Although partially surpassed by the most recent musicological research, it is still of great practical importance, given that almost all recordings and concert programs use its numbering.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(Salzburg 1756 - Vienna 1791)

Mozart's works are 626.

They are indicated with the initials K or KV from Köchel Verzeichnis (Köchel catalog, named after the musicologist Ludwig von Köchel)

followed by a number.

A first list of Mozart's compositions had been drawn up by his father Leopold as early as 1768, while the composer himself kept a register - unfortunately incomplete - starting from 1784.

It was Ludwig von Köchel, musicologist and natural science scholar, who embarked on the first complete cataloging of Mozart's works. Published in 1862, the catalog lists 626 numbered works, as well as an appendix including fragments, dubious or lost works. This is the known K.öchel V.erzeichnis, the Köchel Catalog from which the acronym derives KV or simply K. (common in Italy and in Anglo-Saxon usage) in charge of the number that marks all Mozart's compositions. The catalog is organized in chronological order.

Five other editions of the Köchel catalog were made later. The two most significant revisions are those made by the third edition (Alfred Einstein, 1936), and by the sixth and last one in 1964 (Giegling, Weinmann, Sievers). However, the numerous chronological shifts and other changes made have not entered into use outside the narrow circle of academic studies, while Köchel's original numbering is normally used in concert practice and discography.

Ludwig van Beethoven
(Bonn 1770 - Vienna 1827)

There are at least 366 opera numbers in the Beethoven catalog; the single compositions are over 650.

The first part of the catalog is identified by a progressive work number (op. 1 - op. 138),

the second by the initials WoO followed by a number (from Werke ohne Opuszahl, compositions without an opera number).

Even in Beethoven's case it is not easy to ascertain the exact number of compositions. The catalog is divided into two parts: the first includes the pieces with an opera number given by Beethoven himself or by his publishers, byop. 1 to op. 138; the second the compositions that were collected and classified by musicologists after Beethoven's death, with the initials WoO, short for 'Werke ohne Opuszahl (Compositions without opera number).

The main systematization is due to Georg Kinsky, a work completed by Hans Halm and published in 1955.

The Kinsky / Halm catalog which adds another 205 compositions to the 138 numbered works WoOhas been the reference compendium for a long time. Other compilations and updates were added later, including that of the Italian musicologist Giovanni Biamonti, which also includes sketches and fragments for a total of over 800 numbers.

The most recent revision of the Beethoven catalog (Dorfmüller, Gertsch, Ronge, Haberkamp 1999–2014), in addition to the original 138 issues, includes another 228 works, plus an appendix of fragmentary or dubious works.

The works certain composed from Beethoven I am therefore at least 366. However, many opus numbers include several single compositions, for example op. 18 consists of six string quartets, op. 27 of two piano sonatas, etc.  Counting all the compositions individually, the total is over 650.

Franz Schubert
(Vienna 1797 - 1828)

The compositions left to us by Schubert are almost a thousand.

They are identified by the letter D followed by a number; the 'D' stands for Deutsch Catalog

(named after the musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch).

Schubert's works have been cataloged by the Austrian musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch, who rubs well 998 compositions, of which about 600 Lieder. A very remarkable corpus, especially considering Schubert's short life.

The Deutsch Catalog is a thematic catalog in chronological order, first published in 1951 in English (full title:  Schubert: Thematic Catalog of all his Works in Chronological Order, compiled by OE Deutsch, in collaboration with Donald R. Wakeling).

Since its publication, the numbers of the Deutsch Catalog (abbreviated to D. or D..) are used for the unique identification of Schubert's compositions. The notation is composed of the letter D followed by a number, for example the Symphony n. 8 Unfinished bears the catalog number D 759, while the famous lieder cycle 'Winterreise ' (Winter trip) is identified with the number D 911.

Claude Debussy
(Saint-Germain-en-Laye 1862 - Paris 1918)

Debussy's compositions are 150.

They are generally identified by the letter 'L' followed by a number; the 'L' indicates the Lesure Catalog

(named after the musicologist François Lesure).

Debussy gave no numbering to his works, with the exception of the indication Op. 10 which he assigned to his Quartet for strings. The cataloging is due to the musicologist François Lesure, who published it in 1977; in 2001 he published a new edition listing 150 works (excluding youth exercises and fragmentary compositions). The catalog is structured in chronological order.

Following the Lesure Catalog Claude Debussy's compositions are commonly identified by the letter 'L' followed by a number.

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