Arrangers as track artists in classical releases

Hi! A while ago I came across this edit removing arrangers from track artists in a classical release. @finalsummer does of course have a point - the current track artist guideline has no mention of arrangers at all, and just says “The Track Artist field should contain just the composer; not the performer(s)”.

It’s my understanding that a fair amount of editors do add arrangers to the track artist when they are given a similar prominence on the tracklist as the composer is (so, in cases like “Mussorgsky, orch. Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition” or “Bach, arr. Busoni: Chaconne in D minor”). I think that makes a lot of sense, but we really should codify it as a guideline of some sort if we want to do it :slight_smile: So some questions here:

  1. Should we list arrangers as part of the track artist? And if so:
    a) Should we list arrangers if they’re listed on the release at all?
    b) Should we list arrangers only if they’re listed at a similar level of importance as the composers?

  2. If we decide to list them, should we normalize how arrangers are listed, or should we just try and follow whatever the release does?
    a) Do we keep “Bach arr. Busoni”, “Bach / Busoni”, etc just as-is?
    b) Do we consistently use “Bach / Busoni”? (that’s what I’ve been doing, personally)
    c) Do we consistently use a more descriptive option such as “Bach arr./orch./trans./ Busoni”? This seems like a valid option too and I know some editors prefer it - my only worry with it is it’s quite language-dependent.

In any case, I’d like to see proper discussion about how to best do this :slight_smile:


The classical track guideline says “If there is more than one composer involved on the track, try to find out how the work is usually credited.” That implies that individual releases tracklisting isn’t important, but rather how the work is viewed at large. I don’t have any reservations about following either, but that should probably be revised.

I’m under the opinion that arrangers should not be listed as track artists, which most editors seem to follow. If they should be listed, I would use the same standardized[1] comma list way of crediting them as multiple composers, i.e. Bach, Busoni. I really don’t like using custom separators like arr./orch. etc, the punctuation should preferably be language independent. A slash is fine too, I guess.

[1] Is this actually standardized? There’s no mention of separating punctuation in the track artist guideline and I think this should also be clarified. It has “François Rebel, François Francœur” as the only example of multiple artists, so I have always used this.

I have two CDs with Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and the orchestrator is credited somewhat differently:
In this example, the orchestrator seems to be ETI for the composition title:

While in this example the orchestrator, in my view, is credited along with the composer:

I never really thought about how to include the orchestrator/arranger until this thread came up. I suppose my initial reaction would be to hold to what I feel is MB’s overarching guideline of “as presented,” so the first example would be "Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)" by Modest Mussorgsky and the second would be "Pictures at an Exhibition" by "Mussorgsky (orch. Maurice Ravel)"

My second reaction disagrees with that, but only because of what I know about the work. “Pictures” was composed by Mussorgsky for the piano. It wasn’t until 40+ years after his death that Ravel orchestrated it. So it isn’t really a collaboration between the two artists in my mind, but two versions of the work. It seems to me that the orchestration is more relevant to identifying the version of the work than to the artist credit, which leads me to think it should be documented that way. But that’s unlikely to be true in all cases.

My general idea is to avoid ever having the artists in the title because the artist fields are where artists belong (same reasoning why we moved featured artists off the title to the artist field, even when they are printed as part of the title on the releases).


Yes, IMO. If the printed tracklist includes the arranger in any way, we should follow that. The track artist on a classical release would be the artist(s) responsible for the work, so I’ve just assumed that’s what the style guide says… seems obvious.

Shortening “arranged for tuba and harpsichord by Bob Butt” to “arr. Butt” would probably be a good thing.

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Expanding on the work. Ravel arrangement of Pictures is not a new composition/work. It’s an arrangement how to play it, although very popular one. As such, don’t we have a clear way to assign an arrangement entity to a work/composition ? Once an arrangement is linked to a recording as work, we have the info we need. How to use this info is another matter. For example, I populate my track titles using linked work, this resolves the inconsistent spelling by labels and editors.

My track titles concatenate a composer and work from the catalogue series, don’t have an arranger yet but perhaps will add that. Something like that

Mussorgsky - Pictures movement name (arr. Ravel)

I much prefer a neat Album and Recording titles in MB that specify what is played and not how it is played. Don’t like (live) (arranged by such and such for oboe) (remastered) etc. Those are separate attributes of a recording, not a title of a recording.

This got brought up again because I was cleaning up some releases and I removed the track artist for a few arranged works on one of them (among dozen other fixes). I think the track artist page should be more clear about this, but even if the current one is interpreted as including arrangers, there’s absolutely nothing in it specifying any punctuation other than a comma separator.

It’s quite short right now, but I’m surprised this thread has leaned for including arrangers, as this is not common practice for classical, likely because how the guidelines are written. Let’s use an example, the first Promenade from Ravel’s orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition. The vast majority of track credits linked to these just credit Mussorgsky as the track artist, at least 80% from the recordings I checked. Some of the recordings have Ravel in the track title as well.

There’s a few points I want to raise about how to handle these.

  1. Using abbreviations would not be a good solution. You would have to decide on a few possible solutions, none of which are particularly good.

a) Use the literal separator written. This can in some cases be [composer]/[arranger], [composer] arr.[arranger], [composer] orchestrated by [arranger], [arranger] piano arrangement of [composer]. This will look ugly and you will not have arranger information unless it’s explicitly credited on release.

b) Use literal separators from a list of standardized ones. You would have to decide if more specific ones are to be used, like if the release lists arr. but it’s an orchestration so orch. will give more information. You would also have to make the list in several languages, or decide on using English abbreviations for all languages.

Both of these involve a lot of work.

  1. Using a slash to denote arrangers might not be a particularly good idea.

I am aware that it’s commonly done, but the slash is also used as a separator to specify a track containing tracks by multiple artists. I added a release with a track containing two separate works by two different composers, and I just used a comma separator. It would be nice to differentiate a work with multiple composers and a recording of multiple works by multiple composers. I would instead suggest [composer] ([arranger]) which is less ambigious than the slash.

  1. Arrangers are not explicitly credited on a lot of releases, but composers always are.

You would then have to decide if arrangers should be credited if given a prominent credit on a release, or just credited if they can be identified in some way.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, there’s this part in the track guidelines which I would say advises against using the release to decide what artists should be credited on a particular track: “If there is more than one composer involved on the track, try to find out how the work is usually credited.”

  1. Removing arrangers is less work than adding them.

If you were to remove arrangers, you could just edit specific artist credits to get rid of a lot of credits easily. If you were to add them, you would have to find out if it’s appropriate to credit them (assuming that one of the artwork-based solutions applies) and then edit a lot of releases. The majority of arranged works are not credited like this, so a lot of work would have to be put in to reformat classical releases, most of which are already messy to begin with.

  1. All the arrangement information is already on work or recording level.

No data about who arranged what will be lost if the guidelines say that you shouldn’t have arrangers in the track artist field, assuming proper relationships exist.

My suggestion is to update the classical track page with:

  1. Comma as a standardized separator for multiple composers on one work.

  2. Slash as a standardized separator for multiple composers on different works.

  3. Explicitly noting that arrangers should not be in the track artist credit.

I (also?) think it makes sense to use arrangers in the track artist credit in some cases, so I wouldn’t want to forbid them from being there.

It’s actually common practice among some record companies (e.g., Lantis and Square Enix for sure) to specify or include the arranger as the track artist on their anime/game soundtrack digital releases, where they clearly had to manually pick the artist because of a mix of instrumental tracks and (vocal) songs.

Soundtrack Style is fundamentally broken and not identical to Classical Style, but still.

Bringing up non-classical stuff here is kinda off-topic. No proposed changes here will affect anything outside of classical, nor is this thread likely to get many clicks from people who don’t edit classical releases.

Another curious example, this release of Mahler’s 10th symphony has both credits for the original performing version by Deryck Cooke and the piano arrangers. Are you supposed to use commas after the common slash separator to denote several arrangers?

  • Gustav Mahler / Deryck Cooke, Ronald Stevenson
  • Gustav Mahler / Deryck Cooke / Ronald Stevenson
  • Gustav Mahler performing edition by Deryck Cooke transcribed for piano solo by Ronald Stevenson
  • Gustav Mahler ed. Deryck Cooke, trans. Ronald Stevenson
  • Gustav Mahler arr. Deryck Cooke, Ronald Stevenson

The possibilities are seemingly endless. While I’m admittedly I might be biased since I’m opposed to this for multiple reasons I’ve elaborated on enough already, I can’t imagine any of the non-simple solutions working out well since there’s so many possible variations that all convey the same information.

Keep in mind than in the end, most of the meaningful information should still be entered as relationships. The whole classical track artist thing is mostly meant for ease of tagging and site-navigating. So I guess the main questions are: “what would classical tagging people prefer in their relationships” and “what makes it easier to navigate MusicBrainz”.

FWIW, personally I don’t care too much about what separator is used, other than (ideally) having some sort of separation between composer and arranger that makes it look a bit different than two co-composers.

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I drafted a new version of the track artist guidelines, with additions in bold. It would be nice if people who want arrangers to be included could do something similar so a poll with clear alternatives could be made.

The Track Artist field should contain just the composer; not the performer(s). Use special artist [unknown] if you cannot find out who the composer is (the name of the composer is often printed directly above the track or group of tracks on classical releases).

  • Use the most detailed tracklist available (e.g. inside booklet on a CD release)
  • If there is more than one composer involved on the track, try to find out how the work is usually credited. Separate multiple composers with a comma.
  • If a track contains separate works by multiple composers, use a spaced slash to separate them.
  • Do not include arrangers in the track artist.


Usually in MusicBrainz the Track Artist field should contain the Artist as credited for that track. However, classical releases do not have a single track-specific “artist” like pop releases commonly do. A classical track has (usually) one composer, and any number of performers.

Partita V in G major, BWV 829: IV. Sarabande Johann Sebastian Bach

Cello Concerto, op. 85 / Enigma Variations Sir Edward Elgar

Scheherazade, op. 35: The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (since the release is in the Latin script, we transliterate the name to match it)

Zélindor, roi des Sylphes: Scène 3. Passepied François Rebel, François Francœur

Vers la flamme / Eclips Alexander Skryabin / Klaas de Vries (two works by separate composers, so a slash is used)

Fuga (Ricercata) Nr. 2 aus dem »Musikalischen Opfer« J. S. Bach (only composers should be credited, even though the release credits an arranger as part of the credit, it should be discarded)

Rather than “discarded,” I’d say “added as a Relationship.”

While researching the guidelines in relation to a different issue, I found that the Works guideline has a section on “Arrangement Works” which would seem to be relevant.

Using the example I brought up earlier of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” this guideline seems to open the door for multiple works of “Pictures…,” and indeed MB has dozens, if not hundreds of works entitled “Pictures at an Exhibition,” by Mussorgsky and various arrangers/orchestrators. That kind of dilutes the usefulness of the concept of a “work,” doesn’t it?

“Pictures at an Exhibition” works search results


IMO it absolutely doesn’t, given all of them are linked as arrangements of the original works. A few of them probably aren’t right now, which should be improved, but :slight_smile:

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