Composers artist-name guidelines

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[Topic renamed as discussion broadened from original topic]
[Original title: Chopin’s name in MB]

I was wondering whether Chopin’s name in MB (Fryderyk Chopin) is in line with the style guidelines:

The guidelines were written for performing artists, but there are no specific guidelines for composer, so I would assume that the same guidelines are applicable.

While Chopin legal name was indeed Fryderyk Chopin, he has spent most of his life in France, and has therefore been performing and known as a composer as “Frédéric Chopin”.
Even while he was in Warsaw, his first work (the Rondo in C minor Op. 1) published in Warsaw has a French title, and used the French version of Chopin’s name.

Full original title of Rondo in C minor Op. 1

The same occurs for other work published in Vienna before his move to Paris.

So unless we take for composers a different approach from other artists, I believe that Chopin’s name in MB should be “Frédéric Chopin”.


Reminds me of the argument over “Felix Mendelssohn” vs “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy”

Looking at Chopin’s history reveals many merges from “Frédéric Chopin” (the newest merge was 2019) and a few name change attempts:

Indeed, this is why I thought that it would be useful to discuss this here to clarify interpretation of guidelines before attempting any edit …

I also tried to provide the guideline rationale, and the historic facts which support the changes according to the guidelines.

This is a really good question! I only have two Chopin albums on my server, but I do have a bunch of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky albums. Talk about crazy naming. I don’t think any of the actual albums have the same names, but I did use MB to standardize the naming for the server and my databases. I use the French version of Chopin, BTW.

Generally it’s difficult to use the guidelines for a guy whose country didn’t exist (de facto…) when he performed. He has two legal names, which makes it even worse. From a polish POV it’s really tough to “lose” such a great artist and I know many many many people that think he’s french and only french.
The only argument I can think of is his citizenship and that he was a Pole from birth to death.

Actually Chopin received the French citizenship in 1835.

We also need to put this in the historical context.
At that time, French was used throughout Europe as the lingua franca, the diplomatic language, the official language of Russian, German and Scandinavian Courts. However while European aristocracy and elite were speaking French, less than a quarter of French people were able to speak French, as regional languages and dialects were spoken throughout the country.

So Chopin using a French name at that time, can be compared to today’s artists and bands taking on English names even though this is not their native language.


FWIW, I’ve noticed that in the last decade or so more labels have started to put Fryderyk rather than Frédéric on their albums, probably trying to make his Polishness more visible.

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Isn’t this case very similar to “Georg Friedrich Händel” vs. “George Frideric Handel”? In both cases composer moved to another country, naturalised and changed his legal name. If “George Frideric Handel” is used on MusicBrainz, it would be consistent to use “Frédéric Chopin”.

Careful there, Poland has been known to spin sh*tstorms over lesser matters ;D

Take away Chopin’s polishness on a leftfield, technical music database and you’ll have all Polish newspapers blasting about it and the govt filing a lawsuit in Hague’s ICJ :stuck_out_tongue:

jk, of course

Considering the XIXth century relations between Poland and France, one could argue that the vast majority of the most important artistic figures in Poland were half French (as Paris was the central point to Polish artistic refugeehood/diaspora).

“Ferencz Liszt” vs. “Franz Liszt” comes to mind as well. This case may be even more tricky: a boy born in Hungary in a German-speaking family, in a time period when Hungary had very close relationship with Austria. I am not sure what his legal name was, and how to define a legal name in such case. Taking into account he was born in 1811, maybe whatever was written in the baptismal record?

Sorry, I didn’t intend to raise a sh*tstorm … :blush:

In order to move forward, I propose that we first confirm the applicable guidelines for composer names. To do so, we could use the vote feature.
Once we have clarified that, it will be easier to determine whether some of these names have to be reviewed.

  • Same guideline as for other artists “Generally, use the name the artist mainly performs under as the artist name.” which translate for a composer as “Use the name mainly used by the composer to publish his work (during his lifetime)
  • Use the legal name of the composer
  • Use the name most commonly used today to designate the composer
  • Other (please detail in a reply below)

0 voters

I always think that every single artist should be treated as a separate entity of a kind (a stage persona, a nom de plume, you name it), rather than a stack of vital records from a civil register. Ie. the way the artist chooses to present themself in a creative manner should take precedence over any personal records.

As such I’m 100% in favour of going by the same guideline as applied to non-classical artists here on MB.

“whatever was written in the baptismal record” may have been in Latin …

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I’ve renamed the topic, as the discussion moved well beyond Chopin’s name.
It seems that we have a marked preference for the first option.
It would be good to have a few more votes.
I’ll put a note in the Autoeditor topic to make sure all concerned have seen the topic.
Opinion from @reosarevok and @Freso would be great too.
Thanks for all who voted and provided comments!

It has been a bit more than a week, and it seems that the preference for the first option is confirmed.

Before closing the poll, I thought that it would be useful to review practical examples of using this guidelines:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach: here there is no doubt or ambiguity. I have not found any work published by Bach during his lifetime published under another name
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: here I was surprised to find quite a number of works published under “Luiggi van Beethoven”, “Ludovico van Beethoven” or “Louis van Beethoven”, including in scores otherwise titled in German and published in Germany. In some case, “L. van Beethoven” was used, a more neutral version of his name. Fortunately, we also have other written documents which shows that Beethoven performed or published as “Ludwig van Beethoven”. I’ve not made a detailed review, but it seems that works published later in his life were also using “Ludwig van Beethoven”. So even though this case is more complex, the guideline align with common practice and we may stay with “Ludwig van Beethoven”
  • Jean‐Marie Leclair: almost all his works were published using the name “M. Leclair l’aîné” (“Mr Leclair the elder”). This style was required as he had a younger brother also named “Jean-Marie” (le cadet / the younger). I believe that here the case is clear that he should be named “Jean-Marie Leclair l’aîné”, a change which should attract little controversy.
  • Fryderyk Chopin: the composer with which we started the discussion. Here we have a clear situation where his artist name was “Frédéric Chopin”.
  • Felix Mendelssohn: this composer was mentioned earlier in this topic. Going through the digital library of his foundation, it seems clear that all his work were published using the name “Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy”. This should therefore be his name in MB database, even though the second part of his name has been dropped from common usage nowadays.

I’ll had further examples later on …

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I’m glad that we can avoid the shitstorm of renaming Beethoven “Luiggi van Beethoven”


Shht! Don’t give anyone any ideas!

I’d like to add that, apart from what we use for the main artist name, adding artist aliases should be encouraged and I think aliases should be made more prominent in general.


Here are a few other examples:

  • Franz Liszt: as far as I can tell, most of his work were published either under “Franz Liszt” or “F. Liszt”, however I have not found an online library with all his original published works. His works were titled eithe in German or French. The current MB name is therefore perfectly fine
  • Пётр Ильич Чайковский: Tchaikovsky is a more complex case, where his name was used both in Russian and Latin alphabets (spelled as “Tchaikovsky”). Some first editions published in Russian had his name in both alphabets (e.g. Mazeppa, The Oprichnik). However, I haven’t seen any partition with his full name “Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky”, only “P. Tchaikovsky”. So for me it indicates that he didn’t use his middle name as artist name. I would therefore change his MB artist name to “Пётр Чайковский” or “П. Чайковский”, and set principal aliases in latin languages as “Pyotr Tchaikovsky” or “P. Tchaikovsky”, which is the latin transliteration of his name that he used. The other latin versions of his name should be secondary aliases. It is to be noted that quite a number of first editions of his scores published in Moscow were published in French, without any cyrillic version of this name (e.g. Manfred)
  • Erik Satie: MB artist name is correct. Satie used “Erik” with a K instead of “Éric” with a C and accented E from his legal name “Éric Alfred Leslie Satie

To be continued …

Feel free to suggest composers to use as test cases


I’d like to see more editors stating their views on naming.

(Algwyn, I see your approach as reasonable and better than the other identified options.)

One way that might get more views expressed would be to change a name or two and then see if other editors are roused.

At worst the names could be changed back with a minute’s work.

I really like the common sense that @Algwyn has used in his proposal.

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