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Composer Name Variations–What To Use?

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  • Composer Name Variations–What To Use?

    In the few years I've been around, I've seen MANY alternate spellings of names. While indexing some of my music books lately, I was reminded how many different variants exist on some names.

    This leads to my question: What is the "correct" spelling of a composer's name to use in a concert program? I'm OCD, and want it correct. Do I go by Groves Encyclopedia of Music, or some other means of obtaining a correct spelling?

    I've listed a few of the names below. What other names can you think of, and what should be the correct spelling? I've bolded the names I believe to be correct.

    Michael

    P.S. Don't get me started on the use of accents in a name, or mis-pronunciations of composer's names!

    Handel
    Händel

    Tschaikovsky
    Tschaikowsky
    Tchaikovsky
    Tchaikowsky

    Mussorgsky
    Moussorgsky

    Edvard Elgar
    Edward Elgar
    Edouard Elgar

    Mendelssohn
    Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

    Ludwig Beethoven
    Ludwig van Beethoven
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

  • #2
    Wikipedia has a few paragraphs on the spelling of Mussorgsky which should get you to a spelling you can live with: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modest_Mussorgsky

    As for Beethoven, since his name was Ludwig van Beethoven, I'd go with that.

    Likewise, since Elgar's name was Edward, use that.

    As for Mendelssohn, see surname": under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Mendelssohn

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    • #3
      Oh, you haven't lived until you realize five minutes before publication deadline that you don't know what the correct version of Orlande de Lassus (also Roland de Lassus, Orlando di Lasso, Orlandus Lassus, Orlande de Lattre or Roland de Lattre) should be. I actually forgot what I ended up using.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think for musicians/composers whose name is originally written in another alphabet (e.g. Cyrillic, Korean...), there's no "this is the one and only way of spelling". In Germany, Чайко́вский is written Tschaikowsky, or sometimes Tschaikowski, and there are half a dozen more variations. Here are some examples: http://www.tschaikowsky-gesellschaft...hreibweise.htm

        For Händel, you could write Händel for works he wrote while he was still on the continent, and Handel for everything he wrote after moving to the British Isles. As far as I know, he became British citizen in the 1720s, so this might be an indication for the spelling. However, over here, I think most people always use the umlaut: Händel.

        Felix was born Mendelssohn and got the additional (Christian) name Bartholdy in 1816 when he was baptised. The family had used the name since 1810 or so.

        Comment


        • #5
          This topic certainly brings a lot of history into it--very interesting. Andijah brings up the important issue that original language usage is perhaps the only truly "correct" way to spell names that have been brought into non-native languages.

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          • #6
            I would say, use the spelling that is appropriate to your program and audience. Use a spelling that enables your audience to understand what you are writing, rather than employ an academically correct spelling for the sake of being "correct". If you are playing for a primarily Russian speaking listener write Чайко́вский, if you are playing for a primarily English speaking listener, it may be better to write Tchaikovsky. If you are going to use a spelling that would seem foreign to your specific audience, you may want to include alternate spellings, or take the opportunity to educate your audience on the variations of spelling.

            The correct spelling, IMO, is that there is no singular definitive spelling for certain names. Just appreciate the fact that you have a choice, and that choice does not always have to be the same one.

            Comment


            • #7
              Now y'all know why I ask the question!

              The question comes up for me because in the past, I have generally used the spelling in the music book I'm using. However, I'm discovering that not all publishers are as careful as others. If I do more than one piece by the same composer, my question is whether to use the same spelling for both, or to vary the spelling.

              You have given us something to think about when planning programs. I especially like the audience education piece! It might seem far-fetched to provide a program in Russian, but my wife and I have actually performed a concert in a Russian church in NYC. Fortunately, they didn't need the program in Russian!

              Thank you for the links–they are very educational. Great resources so far!

              Michael
              Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
              • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
              • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
              • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

              Comment


              • #8
                As with so many things in life, there is no single correct answer. Some variations in names are due to the language of the source where they are found, as Andijah pointed out. However whatever variant is selected should be consistent. It would really look strange to see George Frederick Händel or Georg Friederich Handel, since both are mixtures of German and English spellings.

                Because Orlande de Lassus was one of the most famous and influential musicians of 16th century, his music was disseminated throughout Europe. Different countries spelled his name differently. This is similar to what happened to immigrants to the United States who passed through Ellis Island. Names were often arbitrarily changed to something more familiar to the clerks who processed them.

                Spelling was not standardized until relatively recent times. It was not until the 19th century that it occurred in the United States. Until then, there were often several spelling variants of the same word. Dictionaries were created not only to define words, but to standardize spelling.

                I think the suggestion in Michael's original post is a good way to go. Grove is an excellent standard for the English speaking world. Using something as a standard assures consistency and makes the task more manageable.
                Last edited by voet; 07-30-2020, 10:17 AM.
                Bill

                My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

                Comment


                • myorgan
                  myorgan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Bill,

                  Great points and guidance. Thank you!

                  Michael

              • #9
                Though I had never thought it possible, the Utah State University had a Russian singer visit and her husband came also--an accomplished pianist, so he performed Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on piano at a concert. This is one of my favorite piano compositions. I thoroughly enjoyed the free concert. So you never know what audience and performers you might encounter in life.

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                • #10
                  I'd add Rachmaninoff and Prokofief to the list as well. I know of a few different spellings for their first and last names. As I've been going digital with my sheet music, I have picked the spelling that I'm most familiar with and used that so my database only has one entry per composer/artist. If the music itself has a different spelling, I might add that spelling to a keyword field so I can find that song with the spelling used on it.
                  Sam
                  Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
                  Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    I believe American President Andrew Jackson said something to the effect, "It is a ... poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word." Toss in names from different languages and all you can do is pick a source for standardization and hope it has all the names you'll ever need.

                    Grove's is a good resource, but for English (American) you might look at the Library of Congress spellings as they have one of the largest collections of materials in the world for which a standard subject/name had to be created.

                    Here's an entry for Tchaikovsky (note the book title spelling and scroll down to the LC subject spelling): https://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/holdin...1&bibId=417410

                    Bad news for both above resources is the occasional "revisions" to subject/name spelling, but the good news is that most of us won't live long enough to be too bothered by the changes ; )

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Originally posted by JeffW View Post
                      Grove's is a good resource, but for English (American) you might look at the Library of Congress spellings as they have one of the largest collections of materials in the world for which a standard subject/name had to be created.

                      Here's an entry for Tchaikovsky (note the book title spelling and scroll down to the LC subject spelling): https://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/holdin...1&bibId=417410
                      Great idea, Jeff! I never thought of the LOC. However, I find their website difficult to navigate when searching for something.
                      Originally posted by toodles
                      So you never know what audience and performers you might encounter in life.
                      Toodles, so true! A couple of years ago I attended a country church in Kansas. During Sunday School they asked what I did for a living and I told them I was a retired music teacher. During the service I listened to a teenager who knew only 3 chords at one tempo play for the service on piano. She did her best, though–I have to give her that. There was a perfectly good Allen there, but no one played it. Oh, well!

                      Michael
                      Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                      • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                      • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                      • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        When I was in high school I would use Russian composer last names for my passwords. The fact that they are long and have multiple possible spellings made it so that even if I told a friend my password I didn't have to worry about any of them logging in as me (they usually gave up after a few failed attempts if they even tried).
                        Sam
                        Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
                        Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

                        Comment


                        • myorgan
                          myorgan commented
                          Editing a comment
                          For important passwords in a work situation, I often use an organ stop in another language and use variants. It makes it difficult to guess a word from a nomenclature most don't ever experience, guess the language, and guess the variation of the word.

                          When I was at the prison, I had passwords that survived my entire tenure there without ever being compromised–almost 2 decades.

                          Michael

                        • voet
                          voet commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Michael wrote, "When I was at the prison, I had passwords that survived my entire tenure there without ever being compromised–almost 2 decades."

                          So they let you out for good password behavior?

                        • myorgan
                          myorgan commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Yep, I did my time!

                          Actually, I was tech coordinator there for the student network–an interesting job! I also taught music, computer, and other subjects as needed until I retired.

                          Michael
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