Need Help Pronouncing Classical Performers Names?

By Paul Blizel

Can you pronounce Sviatoslav Richter’s first name?

I can’t.  I am embarrassed to say that I have been referring to my favorite classical pianist as “S. Richter” since I first discovered him.  I have tried, honest to god, to figure out how to say his name. But applying our normal phonics rules to his name leaves me with a tongue twister of a name and I am sure that isn’t right. I think it comes down to the differences between the Russian alphabet and ours-leaving me to refer to him as “S”.

But good news boys and girls!  I stumbled on a website dedicated to helping radio announcers pronounce the names of classical performers and composers. To think that I believed those announcers were bright well educated fellows who had a wealth of experience and were properly schooled on the names of the artists. I guess the only thing they had on me was access to a website. Well, no more! The cat is out of the bag and from now on I will enjoy discussing zhah sih-bay-lyoos (Jean Sibelius) and mar-ta ar-ger-isch (Martha Argerich) with you.

Take a look at the list. You will be amazed by how many names you have been getting wrong all of these years. I don’t know if I feel smart or dumb right now…

By the way, Richter’s name is pronounced  sfyah-to-slahv rikh-ter.

Classical Music Pronunciation Guide