MLA News

Official News from the Music Library Association

Naxos Works: A Treat

Naxos Works Database (NWD) serves as an index to information about nearly 70,000 works (mostly orchestral and chamber, but there’s quite a wide range covered) and brief biographies of more than 4,000 composers. It was launched last year and Naxos is continuing to add a few hundred pieces every month, so this number is continually growing. In fact, you might even say that Naxos Works is never done!

The structure of the database suggests two main uses, though I’m sure enterprising users will come up with more: researching a known piece, and finding a piece that fits into a certain set of criteria. The general search should suffice for most of the former, though the advanced search does allow the user to search by composer, arranged, lyricist, title, publisher, and many other criteria in the case of particular arrangements. There is currently a bug in the system that causes issues when searching for both a composer and a lyricist or arranger, but when I presented this information to the Naxos staff, they very promptly reassured me that their developers are already on the case.

Someone looking for more information on Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 as arranged for orchestra by Schoenberg would land on a page that looks like this:


Some pieces have more extensive notes and metadata fields than others, but most include instrumentation, year composed, duration, and publisher, if known.

Those seeking an as yet unknown piece meeting a certain set of criteria can turn to the advanced search, which allows users to search a variety of fields, including composer country, duration, year composed, period, category (i.e. ballet, chamber, choral, concertos, etc.), and featured instrument.

Someone looking for a short (0-10 min.) chamber piece featuring accordion could set up a search accordingly:

Advanced search

And discover, amidst the sea of Piazzolla, that there is an accordion and guitar arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations:


As an added bonus, you also get a series of charming composer caricatures on the homepage (one can only hope they continue to add these as well as new database content!). Click on any of the caricatures or a composer name in the database to get to a biographical sketch, like this one on Charles Ives:


In spite of some gaps in coverage and bugs that should be shortly resolved, Naxos Works Database is a valuable reference tool for librarians, performers, conductors, and musicologists and I look forward to watching its continued growth.


Lindy Smith, Reference Archivist

Bowling Green State University Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives