Music Appreciation Names: Top classical composers picks
by Linda Rosenkrantz
Did you know that September happens to be Classical Music Month? Well neither did I, until just recently. This new knowledge inspired me to do a Nameberry Picks list of some of the most interesting classical composers’ first names. And no, turns out they’re not all Franz or Hans or Johann—there are a variety of unusual choices –unfortunately, most of them male.
Alban Maria Berg was an Austrian composer associated with Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone technique and the composer of the opera Lulu. Rarely heard in the US, the saint’s name Alban –one of the more unusual paths to Al–is currently Number 132 in France. With a variant spelling, Alben Barkley (born Willie Alben) was US Veep under Harry Truman.
Yes, middle names count—especially this one of Mozart’s that became the title of a movie that won a best picture Academy Award in 1985. In 2010, tennis champ showed that this classical Latin appellation was still wearable when he named his son Amadeus Benedict.
Artemy Vedel was one of the most eminent Ukrainian composers of the eighteenth century. Unknown in this country, the name Artemy is related to Artemis,and is that of several Russian Orthodox saints. With its artsy feel, this could make a unique unisex choice.
Corona Elisabeth Wilhelmine Schröter was a seventeenth century German singer and composer who set texts by Schiller and Goethe to music. But you’re right—though Corona has a nice regal sound, it’s probably too connected at this time with the beer brand—might be better to stick with Elisabeth or Wilhelmine.
Florian Gassman was an early Bohemian (geographically that is) musician who composed an opera every year for the carnival season in Venice. A venerated saint’s name and a Harry Potter one as well,though popular in Germany and Austria, Florian has never caught on here—perhaps a bit too floral for a boy. But it could conceivably profit from the growing popularity of Flora, Florence and Caspian.
Leo? Janacek, baptized Leo, was a Czech composer of operas, oratorios and chamber works. With the current interest in Latinate names ending in “s”, could Leos possibly join the pride of popular leonine names?
Modest Mussorgsky was an innovative Russian composer of the Romantic Period whose most familiar works are the opera Boris Godunov, the tone poem Night on Bald Mountain and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition. Could Modest be a new Virtue name—or is it too just self-effacing?
Muzio Clementi was a multi-tasking composer, pianist, conductor—and manufacturer of pianos—who had a decided influence on Beethoven. Could the name Muzio possibly be more musical?
Ned Rorem is a contemporary composer of operas, symphonies, chamber and choral works. But what, you may ask, is a name like Ned doing among all these more exotic choices? It’s just because Ned is so simple and unpretentious and—in my opinion—the best nickname for Edward.
Olivier Messiaen was one of the major composers of the twentieth century, whose music absorbed influences from many exotic cultures. The French Olivier is a more distinctive variation on the popular Oliver, while at the same time saluting one of the greatest actors of our era.
Ottorini Respighi was the Italian composer most famous for his lush tone poems The Pines of Rome and The Fountains of Rome. Otto is a palindrome name that is edging its way back into style; here’s a path towards elongating and romanticizing it.
Yes, Herr Mozart ranks two spots on the list. When Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen bestowed this name on their son in 1991, the media name police had a field day. But time is a great healer, and now with animal names commonly accepted, and Wolf Blitzer seen as a benign bearer of its nickname, Wolfgang is sounding as cool as–well– Ludwig.
Sadly, two of the most attractive men’s names in this category would be perceived as too feminine here—that of the French romantic composer Camille (The Carnival of the Animals) Saint-Saëns, and the name of the eighteenth century musician Hyacinthe Jadin.
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on September 11th, 2013 at 10:19 pm
Love Amadeus and Mozart, although probably wouldn’t have the guts to use them as firsts. Coltrane is another musician name that sounds really cool.
on September 11th, 2013 at 10:28 pm
Amadeus is just great…but my favorite classical composer name is Nikita (Nikita Koshkin).
on September 11th, 2013 at 10:39 pm
I also love Amadeus!
on September 11th, 2013 at 11:29 pm
Although I play a lot of classical piano music, I think many composers names are too clunky and odd. Names I might consider include:
Clair – aka Clair de lune (my favourite piano piece)
Claude – Debussy
Sebastian – Bach’s middle
Felix – Mendelssohn
Nikolai – Rimsky-Korsakov (Flight of the Bumblebee)
Clara – wife of Robert Schumann, also a composer and pianist
But I’d probably prefer other music word names, or names related to pieces:
Sunshine Kid Said
on September 12th, 2013 at 4:26 am
I think Artemy became a new favorite!
on September 12th, 2013 at 6:20 am
My favorite classical composers are Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and Antonin Dvorak.
There weren’t many famous examples of female composer back in the day but two good ones are: Clara Schumann who was married to composer Robert Schumann and a very close friend of Brahms and Fanny Mendelssohn-Bartholdy/Hensel, she was the sister of the famous Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Given their names aren’t as exciting as Morzart’s but they are definitely worth noting).
on September 12th, 2013 at 7:41 am
I absolutely love Florian.
on September 12th, 2013 at 7:47 am
For reference purposes, Artemis comes from the Book of Acts (chapter 19), and is a false god. I believe it refers to a Greek moon goddess, also known as Diana.
“But I’d probably prefer other music word names, or names related to pieces”
You could also add Lyric, Harper, Piper, Melody, and Carol.
Linda says: “It’s just because Ned is so simple and unpretentious and—in my opinion—the best nickname for Edward.” I agree! Maybe you and Pam can do a study sometime of how certain vintage nicknames evolved. I read somewhere that Ned is a contraction of “mine Ed,” and Nollie, for Oliver, stems from “mine Ollie,” and Nabby (Abigail) from “mine Abby.” Also, I recall that because the pool of names was much smaller, some names like Mary or Elizabeth, necessitated creativity in nicknaming.
on September 12th, 2013 at 8:03 am
Oh, and Nell/Nelly/Nellie (Eleanor) from mine Ellie.
on September 12th, 2013 at 8:23 am
I have Amadeus on my middle names list and I love Leos.
on September 12th, 2013 at 8:32 am
“You could also add Lyric, Harper, Piper, Melody, and Carol.” And I forgot the hippie Harmony.
“Linda says: “It’s just because Ned is so simple and unpretentious and—in my opinion—the best nickname for Edward.” I agree! Maybe you and Pam can do a study sometime of how certain vintage nicknames evolved. I read somewhere that Ned is a contraction of “mine Ed,” and Nollie, for Oliver, stems from “mine Ollie,” and Nabby (Abigail) from “mine Abby.” Also, I recall that because the pool of names was much smaller, some names like Mary or Elizabeth, necessitated creativity in nicknaming.”
Also, Nancy/Nan (Ann) from “mine Ann.”
Corona reminds me too much of a cigar brand. Florian seems too feminine for the American male.
on September 12th, 2013 at 8:37 am
How about Cosima, Wagner’s wife?
on September 12th, 2013 at 11:06 am
So funny, my husband and I were just talking about Wolfgang. We have a very strong and long German last name, so we thought it would sound a little too intense.
on September 12th, 2013 at 12:19 pm
Also Wolfgang Novogratz was born in 1997- the oldest child of HGTV’s Homes By Novogratz.
on September 12th, 2013 at 1:03 pm
Um, where are the ladies??
Hildegard (von Bingen)
Maria Anna (Mozart)
…to name a few
on September 12th, 2013 at 1:40 pm
Favourites from the list…
And Wolfgang as a middle name choice : )
on September 12th, 2013 at 2:51 pm
Love musical names! My first daughter will most likely be Aria, and I’m considering Iris for her middle name after my favorite song, but since Aria Iris sounds a little choppy I’ll probably save it for another daughter 🙂
on September 12th, 2013 at 5:45 pm
Ahhhh huge classical music fan and musician here…I really wanted to name our firstborn Johann/Johan (Bach) but my husband thought it was too strange for our current time in history in the Western USA. Then I tried in vain to persuade him of Felix (Mendelssohn), Robert, Clara (Schumann) though, to be fair, I was the one who changed my mind on Clara. I also love Elijah because I love the fact that I can sing along with Mendelssohn’s Oratorio. Which, no doubt, would embarrass any young boy. 🙂
on September 12th, 2013 at 10:04 pm
Och, this blog makes me so happy! I’ve taken piano off and on since I was five, and I’ve been learning a piece by Muzio Clementi, actually! I have Camille on my list for Saint Saens (I remember in about fifth grade, my recital piece was a mash-up of one of his compositions paired with a church hymn), and I really want to get Amadeus on my list for Mozart (who is my favorite composer, spoiled and conceited though he was!). I also love Clara, for Clara Schumann. I’m not terribly familiar with her work, but I’ve come across something by her husband, recently (The Wild Horseman. Och, I love it!), and I like the tie. There are a ton of Sebastian composers, as well. 🙂
I have taken inspiration from the title of compositions, as well–I love Coppelia for the opera (I have a piece that I’d been learning from it and och, so hauntingly beautiful!
on September 12th, 2013 at 10:06 pm
Nadia Boulanger would be a lovely namesake, as well! I also thought Berlioz was a pretty kick-butt name, but I’m not sure who would really want to wear that. He could go by Leo/Lio if he wanted, though. 😛
on September 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm
Another dreadfully obscure Harry Potter! How stupid do you have to be to fall for this? It makes me really mad to see Nameberry continually drag out obscure characters I’ve never heard of only to be told they’re “Harry Potter” names.
On a different note, what’s wrong with Hans and Franz and Johann? They’re not exactly common names. Why don’t they deserve a post? I had to google to find out Artemy Vedel was a man. If Artemy is a male name in the Ukraine why should encourage it for girls here? I had the same reaction to Ara last week. I think if you use a name from a culture not your own you should at least try to respect it.
This post is hot mess of what is wrong with nameberry. It uses culture as superficially to promote names without really having any respect for culture.
@Capturedcastle the names you mentioned are either too normal or too German for this post!
on September 14th, 2013 at 8:40 pm
@EmilyVA I think your comments are little unnecessary and harsh.
The entire point of this site is the exploration and appreciation of names from all cultures. Discovering unusual names with inspirational or whimsical references is half the fun! It doesn’t mean you have to name your child them! I’m not really sure what you think we’re ‘falling for’.
Since you had no idea whether Artemy was a boy a girl, it kind of proves the point that Linda was making, translated into another country names can be interpretted differently. And there is nothing wrong or disrespectful about that. It’s just a name.
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