How many times you heard a famous piece of classical music and you didn’t dare to pronounce the name of the composer? How about the opera you love so much? Can you pronounce the name of the genius who wrote it? Here is a list of the most famous composers of all time and the pronunciation of their names.
Ludwig van Beethoven
The German composer and pianist, baptised in 1770, December 17, is one of the most important and influential composers of all time. He wrote 9 symphonies, various concertos for piano, for violin, piano sonatas, and string quartets. That’s the reason why you have to pronounce his name correctly.
Click and listen Ludwig van Beethoven
The Italian opera composer, born November 3, in 1801, was one of the most important musicians in Italy and his name is one of the easiest to pronounce. He wrote 10 operas: the most famous are La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker), I puritani (The Puritans) and Norma. The delicious Italian dish, pasta alla norma (a pasta dish from Sicily with fried eggplants and tomato sauce), was named after the famous Sicilian composer. The Bellini cocktail as well, invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the Harry's Bar in Venice, was named after him.
Click and listen Vincenzo Bellini
Hector Berlioz, the French composer born in 1803, December 11, wrote Symphonie fantastique (Fantastical Symphony) and Grande messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz, not that easy to pronounce it correctly, gave a big contribution to the modern orchestra: he wrote Grand traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration modernes, a technical study on musical instruments and orchestration.
Click and listen Hector Berlioz
Georges Bizet, born Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, was born in Paris in 1838, October 25. The pronunciation of his name can be tricky due to the final “t”. He died early, at 37, but the cause of his sudden death was never clear: it could have been a heart attack or a depression which led him to kill himself. His most important work is Carmen, based on a novella by French dramatist Prosper Mérimée.
Click and listen Georges Bizet
The Italian composer, Gaetano Donizetti, born in 1797, November 29, was from Bergamo in Lombardy. He was a very important exponent of the bel canto, literally translated in English beautiful singing. He wrote his first opera, Il Pigmalione (Pygmalion), when he was 19. Years later he wrote Lucia di Lammermoor. His last name may sound difficult to pronounce to English speaking world.
Click and listen Gaetano Donizetti
The Czech composer, born September 8, 1841, started playing violin at the age of 6. He wrote nine symphonies, ten operas, chamber music and piano music. He was famous worldwide. Antonín Dvořák is the composer with the most difficult name to pronounce.
Click and listen Antonín Dvořák
The German composer Joseph Haydn, born in March 31, 1732, was a famous symphonist and he was also the inventor of the string quartet. He was a music teacher as well: his most renowned pupil was Ludwig van Beethoven. His name is still one of the most mispronounced ones: the majority of people think that his last name is of British descent.
Click and listen Joseph Haydn
The hungarian composer, born in 1811, October 22, 1811, was also a conductor, a pianist, and teacher. He became a virtuoso pianist after attending to a concert by Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini. Liszt wanted to be as good with his piano as Paganini was with his violin... and he made it!
Click and listen Franz Liszt
Jacques Offenbach, born in 1819, June 20, in Germany, spent almost all his life in France and his given name Jacob became Jacques. His last name is now pronounced in French. Offenbach wrote about 100 operettas, a genre of light opera, and an unfinished opera The Tales of Hoffmann.
Click and listen Jacques Offenbach
Giacomo Puccini, born Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was one of the most prolific and celebrated composers of all time. Born in Tuscany in 1858, December 22, Puccini composed the most famous operas: Manon Lescaut, La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot. Why so many operas dedicated to women? Because Puccini was an unrepentant womanizer.
Click and listen Giacomo Puccini
The Italian composer, with a given name tough to pronounce, was born in 1792, February 29. He was a very prolific composer: he wrote 39 operas. The most famous are Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), La Cenerentola and Guglielmo Tell (William Tell). He was nicknamed The Italian Mozart.
Click and listen Gioachino Rossini
Franz Peter Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer born in January 31, 1797. He had syphilis and he died very young, at 31, but he left a huge legacy. His most important symphonies are Die schöne Müllerin (The beautiful girl from the mill), Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey), and the Great C Major Symphony.
Click and listen Franz Peter Schubert
Richard Strauss, the most important Romantic German composer and conductor, was born in 1864, June 11. He wrote operas, symphonic poems, but what we all know is his famous Frühlingsstimmen, an orchestral waltz written in 1882.
Click and listen Richard Strauss