Opus (work)

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Opus (plural Opera , abbreviation Op. Or Op. ) Is the Latin name for a work of art , especially a composer . For many composers from the Baroque to the Romantic period , counting their works with the help of the opus numbers assigned at the time is still in use today.

The work of another creative artist or a (art) craftsman, for example an organ builder, can also be referred to as an opus (see also opus magnum ). It can also mean the complete works of a person. Small works are sometimes referred to with the diminutive opusculum or opuskulum .


  • The Latin word opus (abbreviation op. , Plural opera ) corresponds in German to the foreign word opus (neuter, abbreviation Op. , Plural opera ).
  • The tender is usually accompanied by capitalization: a huge opus . This mostly also applies if a work number follows: Beethoven's opus 61 (more rarely: Beethoven's opus 61 ).
  • The abbreviation is mainly case sensitive: Beethoven's op. 61 (more rarely: Beethoven's op. 61 ).
  • Usually it is just an additional information that is added afterwards. Then the rule is lower case: Beethoven's Violin Concerto op.61.
  • Exception: on CD covers and sheet music , opus numbers are part of the title. The capitalization Op. used (especially in English and / or at the beginning of the line).

More abbreviations in music

  • opp. stands for the plural opera and is occasionally used when mentioning several opus numbers.
  • o. op. or WoO means “without opus” or “work without opus number” (from Latin: op. deest = missing).
  • op. post (h). stands for opus post (h) umum and refers to a work that was published posthumously (after the composer's death).

Abbreviation in scientific texts

  • op. cit. stands for opus citatum and is used in references . It means "in the quoted work" (what is meant is: "in the work already mentioned above") and corresponds to the German a. a. O. (= at the specified location).


Continuous opus numbers were initially introduced by music publishers to denote the works of a composer that had appeared in print. Since the Romantic era , composers numbered their works regardless of whether they were printed or not. In the modern era , many composers (e.g. Alban Berg ) gave up opus counts that they had begun, and they have become unusual in contemporary music. Depending on the order in which they were published, opus numbers often do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the order or the time of their creation. After the death of a composer, publishers often published early or youthful works found in the estate by counting the numbers, so that Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's piano sonata in G minor from 1821 has the opus number 105, while the last work authorized for printing, the Six Children's Pieces from 1847, as op. 72 is widespread. Even during their lifetime publishers occasionally used high numbers of opuses in order to pretend particularly new or mature works; so received Dvořák symphony. 5 higher than the later Symphonien Nos. 6 and 7 with Opus numeral 76.

Arcangelo Corelli and Georg Friedrich Händel were among the first composers whose chamber music works are still named with their original opus numbers . The custom of combining several works of the same instrumentation in one edition and giving them an opus number dates from this period: twelve or six in the Baroque period , then usually six works before Ludwig van Beethoven before the classical period . Beethoven published up to three works under a opus number ( Klaviertrios op. 1 , op Klaviersonaten. 2 , op Streichtrios. 9 , op Klaviersonaten 10th , op Violinsonaten 12th etc. - the six op string 18th are a significant exception), but already his string trio in E flat major from 1792 appeared as an individual work with its own opus number. Later even the shortest pieces (such as the single song op. 32) were published with their own number, which must not necessarily have been in accordance with Beethoven's will, but could have been an arbitrary act of his publisher.

Also Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart published their string quartets under opus numbers, while written for specific occasions orchestral works , fairs , operas , etc. later appeared in print and now by subsequently developed Werkverzeichnisse (z. B. Köchelverzeichnis are) opened. Certain genres such as variations or occasional cantatas were also not given an opus number if the composer considered them to be too light. Beethoven was the first to bring such a high proportion of his production to publishers that his complete works are still identified today using the original opus numbers - with the exception of the posthumously cataloged works without an opus number (WoO) , to which most of his variations belong.


  • Axel Beer : Music between composer, publisher and audience. The general conditions for making music in Germany in the first third of the 19th century. Schneider, Tutzing 2000, ISBN 3-7952-1027-5 .

Individual evidence

  1. OPUS, n. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 13 : N, O, P, Q - (VII). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1889, Sp. 1313 ( woerterbuchnetz.de ).
  2. See for example the works of Friedrich Goll
  3. ^ Opusculum . Duden.de ; accessed on September 27, 2016
  4. ^ Opus . In: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon . 6th edition. Volume 15, Bibliographical Institute, Leipzig / Vienna 1908, p.  88 .
  5. ^ Georg Kinsky, Hans Halm: The work of Beethoven. Thematic-bibliographical index of all his completed compositions. Henle, Munich / Duisburg 1955, DNB 452411246 . See Beethoven's music without Opus number - WoO at lvbeethoven.com (English)