Top Five Commonly Mispronounced Classical Composers

Hailing from an extended family of classical musicians, I had a slightly uncharacteristic childhood. Though my parents were mostly ignorant of Elvis, the Rolling Stones, and James Brown—not to mention the great names of the decade of disco—they did make sure their kids were well versed in ye olde crusty classical composers.

A favorite of Mom and Dad’s was tuning into the local classical radio station to play “NAME THAT COMPOSER!” After years of stumbling through their drills, I have developed an ear for these composers’ music—and their unintuitive foreign surnames. Now you can learn from my mistakes and impress Grandma and Grandpa at the next Tanglewood outing with these pneumonic tips.

5. Frédéric Chopin

‘Chopin’ rhymes with ‘sho’ can’. See, this is easy already.

4. Claude Debussy


The French have made this one tricky. Foolproof tip: imagine lounging in Paris avec un béret et un café au lait. Scrunch the lips, raise the eyebrows, turn down the sides of mouth, and say “DE-byoo-see.” Try to look mildly scornful at the same time.

3. Johann Pachelbel

A very hard one. The ‘ch’ is aspirated, as in ‘loch,’ but a lot stronger. It helps to have some phlegm in your gullet. If you can’t do that, approximate by rhyming ‘Pachelbel’ with ‘Taco Bell’. Whatever you do, try not to spit. (Sorry Johann, you may have rolled over a few times in your grave over that one.)

2. Hector Berlioz

‘Barley oats’? ‘Burly Oz’? Actually, it’s more like ‘barely-Os’. Good thing Hector didn’t go into the Cheerios business.

1.5. Marcel Bitsch

Do not attempt.

1.0. Georg Friedrich Fuchs

Definitely do not attempt. The same goes for Johann Joseph Fux. Well, only if you’re on a first name basis.

—Alyssa A. Botelho is an incoming Campus Arts Editor. Her favorite composer is Brahms, which isn’t awkward to say at all.