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For example, the transcendental etudes by Liszt are labeled "S. 139." What does this mean? If it's related to the piece's release date, what's the difference between it and opus # (e.g the Chopin op. 10 etudes)?

https://musescore.com/user/2749876/scores/2603256

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It's an abbreviation for "Searle", as in Humphrey Searle, who created the catalogue of Liszt's works.

Opus numbers at that time often meant the order in which the pieces were published. Searle's catalog was intended to reflect the order of composition.

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  • I thought that they were originally given the S. numbers when they were published... The opus thing makes sense, considering that I know of several "op. posth," which were (obviously) published after the composer's death. Commented Jan 27 at 2:37
  • @Liszt-and-the-Galops Catalogue, publishing, "composition" (including revisions) and opus numbering orders rarely match; cataloguing is often quite posthumous to original publishing, especially for major composers that are subject of further discoveries. For instance, the opus is usually chosen by the composer (normally, when the composition actually takes some definite form), but that doesn't even always match the chronological order of publishing/execution/finalization: the typical case is Symphony numbering, not to mention situations of major revisions that have become common practice. Commented Jan 27 at 3:37

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