Composers artist-name guidelines

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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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I think it’s true for Russians in general that they don’t use their second name (unless there’s a possible confusion with someone else). It would be nice to have some confirmation on this by a native Russian speaker though.

I generally agree with you, except for the aliases for languages using the Latin alphabet. Russian (and in fact most non-Latin scripts) are transliterated differently depending on the language, because one of the reasons for transliterating something is allowing speakers of the language to pronounce the word or name right. Maybe a “generic transliteration in Latin script” language could be added for this case, or there could be two separate attributes for aliases: one for script and one for language.

You’re right, this was a hasty generalisation.
“Tchaikovsky” should be the latin transliteration only for languages where this transliteration is acceptable. This would include English, German, French, Italian (based on Wikipedia pages). However it seems that for Spanish the transliteration would be Chaikovski, Portugues Tchaikovski.

Actually there is a different transliteration for each of these languages: Tchaïkovski or Tchaïkovsky for French (notice the diaeresis), Tschaikowski for German, Čajkovskij for Italian (what is that caron doing in Italian?!) etc. Of course various labels have their own preferences and may use the English transliteration even for releases in another language.

Indeed, what I meant is that when there are several possible transliteration, we should default to “Tchaïkovsky” or the closest transliteration (e.g. Tschaikowsky in German, Tchaikovsky in Italian, etc.)
And it seems that the diaresis was used originally, e.g. Manfred or Mazeppa

As a native speaker, I object :slight_smile:

Russian names consists of 3 parts: personal name, patronymic and family name. A patronymic is different from a middle name used in English: it is not a second personal name, but is a part of a name derived from father’s name.

Using a patronymic is a matter of respect and politeness. Addressing somebody just by a personal name is considered to be impolite, with exceptions such as close friends, family members etc. Using a patronymic as a part of a name is a standard, official, default way of addressing a person; a Wikipedia article gives more details. In the modern Russian rules are relaxing a bit, and for modern composers and performers it may be appropriate to skip the patronymic, but not for a XIX century composer. Using just “Пётр Чайковский” sounds weird for me as a native speaker, even if his works were published under a name “П. Чайковский” in his lifetime.

Most Russian classical composers and performers exist with full name (that is, with the patronymic) in the MB database: Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Glinka just to give a few examples. Tchaikovsky shall be “Пётр Ильич Чайковский”.