No really. How?

And while we’re on the topic, what other composers have odd names that merit a refresher course from the more learned folks out there? There may be two valid ways of pronouncing a name, like Lutoslawski, so what’s your favorite?

42 Responses to “How do you pronounce Ferneyhough?”
  1. david toub says:

    Really, I have no idea (?FER-nee-how?)

    On the same subject, Ligeti is surprisingly pronounced LIH-ge-ti (not Li-GET-ty as I used to mispronounce it. And I’m Hungarian, no less, and still blew it)

    Reish (not like the Third Reich. Oy!)

    Is there more than one way to say Lu-toe-SLAV-skee?

    And while we’re on the subject, my name gets screwed up more times than I can shake a stick. Someone recently called me ”toob” twice on the same radio broadcast, as opposed to the usual (incorrect) “taub.“ As best I am aware, it’s Toe-b. Truth be told, it’s the bane of my existence. Even had my wife wanted to take my last name, I never would have allowed it. If I had my druthers, my kids’ last names would be hers, not mine. I probably should have changed it to something more palatable years ago.

  2. Steve Layton says:

    I think “Fur-nee-hoe” is closer, but what do I know? When I was a wee teen, I somehow got it into my head (for some short space of time, thank god) that my favorite Russian composer’s name must be “shos-TAHK-a-vich”… :-)

    Americans usually obliterate any of the finer (though still technically essential) qualities of most non-U.S. names (Just think about how most of us say “Debussy”, “Chavez”, “Takemitsu”, etc…). Then again, my French pals always turn me into “Stay-VEHN Lay-TOHN”.

  3. David – Loo-toe-SWAF-skee. It’s got that funny Polish “L” with the bar across it. My grandmother was born in Poland, but the only time I ever heard it spoken in my house was when my great uncle had a small stroke at dinner and started apologizing for spilling his milk in Polish.

    One of the great moments of my youth was when Lutoslawski came to a Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra rehearsal where we were preparing a performance of his Three Postludes for Orchestra. I had no idea who he was at the time, but was very impressed that there was somebody from Poland coming to hang out in Cleveland who wasn’t jumping off of an ore freighter to defect.

    Re: Shostakovich, I went to school with an ‘international’ student from Toronto, who pronounced it just that way shos-TAK-o-vich.

  4. Daniel G. says:

    A Polish fellow student in grad school said Lu-to-swav-ski. That’s what I was thinking of…

  5. Kyle Gann says:

    I always (as I was once told to) said FERney-who, including in his presence. And I never heard Conlon make a distinction between NANcarrow and NanCARrow. Either seemed fine with him. Mikel Rouse is pronounced just like Michael – he changed the spelling himself in third grade. The S in Guy KluCEVsek’s name is silent. I occasionally have to insist that my last name rhymes with plan, not Don. I remember when the-artist-formerly-known-as-Steve “Rike” got into his Jewish roots in 1980 and we all had to learn to say Steve Reish instead. I still don’t know why.

  6. everette minchew says:

    For Ferneyhough I have always thought it was Ferney-hoe, but I did a couple online searches and came across a british page that gave multiple pronounciations for the name: Ferney-who, Ferney-hoe, Ferney-how. If I remember it correctly it said it depended on the region of the country the person was from.

    The name that has always confused me is Gubaidulina. I found this website which gives pronunciations for many musicians and composers.

    It gives the pronuciation as Goo-ba-Doo-lee-na. So I took that to be true. Then I had a conversation with a saxophonist from the Rascher Saxophone Quartet, and Ms. Gubaidulina has written two or three works for them and he said it is pronounced

  7. Daniel G. says:

    The “bye” version is correct, though the website you gave is a very good resource. It may not have a lot of recent composers, but it’s a good starting point especially for pronunciation rules.

    Toe-b, huh. Well I was wrong! By the way I’m Gill-um, not Gil-li-um. The secong “i” is silent. Shhh

  8. david toub says:

    Oh hell, I probably made things worse. It’s all one word: toeb. I could see how someone could think it’s toby based on how I wrote it. Like I said, it’s the bane of my existence.

    From the way Russian is generally pronounced, I would have assumed it was gu-bai-DU-lee-na, but a lot of words in Russian violate the usual pronunciation rules.

  9. Daniel G. says:

    toeb. one syllable. well, i guess my relatives from south carolina and alabama would say toe-b…but that’s a different matter all together.

  10. Sparky P. says:

    I heard a performance on BBC3 a ahile back and heard his name pronounced as “ferney-hoe” (almost a diga-dum rhythm). And the composer of six string quartets and the Concerto for Orchestra is BAR-tok (being Hungarian, the stress is always always always on the initial syllable). Come to think of I in quick pronounce SHOStakovitch and ROSTRopovitch and for affects shoSTAHkovitch and rrroSTRAHpovitch.

  11. Sparky P. says:

    Come to think of it, it might have been closer to “fairney-hoe”, but definitely not “farknee-huff”. Or, possibly paraphase Graham Chapman, “It’s spelled Ferneyhough, but it’s actually pronounced “Throat-warbler mangrove.”

  12. david toub says:

    Uh, Sparky, as a Hungarian myself, Bartok has an accent on the last syllable. Without the accent mark, it would indeed by BARtok, but like Spanish, when there’s a deviation, one places an accent mark to point out the accentuation, and Bartok has an accent mark on the last syllable.

  13. Anthony Cornicello says:

    Okay, this comes directly from Schirmer’s, who is her publisher in the US:

    Fer-ney-ho is correct, from what I know.

    And, while we’re at it, it’s Cor-ni-CHE-lo. I can always tell when a telemarketer calls, since I get everything from Corn-i-sel-lo (okay, not that horrible) to Corn-i-ci-el-lo (hmm, where did that extra syllable come from?) to just plain giving up (do you really expect me to buy your product if you totally blow my last name and don’t even care?)

    Sparky strikes again, with the Graham Chapman quote!

  14. Jay Batzner says:

    Okay, how about Ligeti? I’ve always said LIG-a-tee and not li-GET-ee. I’ve always hated the way it sounds when it rhymes with spaghetti…

  15. Rodney Lister says:

    The last name of the knight who is currently Master of the Queen’s Music is pronounced like that of the last name of the knight who is a famous conductor—Davis (not Davies, like it looks).

  16. david toub says:

    Jay, it’s LIG a tee. I used to blow it and say LiGETi.

  17. Sparky P. says:

    Thanks, David on the Bartok.

    And that’s why, with his death last year (although it was said long before his passing), the ‘headlines’ said, “Ligeti split”.

  18. Kyle, are you saying Reich used to pronounce it one way and then changed it, or that he simply became more sensitive to mispronunciation?

    Some others:

    Darius Milhaud is pronounced me-OH. I think he pronounced the first name as DAR- rather than DARE- but I’m not certain.

    And Kyle’s last name rhymes with bang on a CAN.

    And I’m pretty sure Lenny goes by BernSTYNE rather than BernSTEEN.

    And, most importantly, let’s all try to remember that Richard Wagner pronounces is VAUGner. You’re welcome.

  19. Just so you all know, I’m Samuel Free Zen.

  20. Tom says:

    Any tips on pronouncing “John Adams”? Is it like the former president?

  21. Kyle Gann says:

    Galen, the word went around that Steve, ne Rike, decided to change it to Reish. He’d been universally called Rike for the seven previous years I knew about him.

    My friend Geroge Tsontakis had an idea for a concert that provides a handy mnemonic: Kyle Gann, Hillary Tann, Shulamit Ran, and Bang on a Can.

  22. Daniel G. says:

    Mr. Free-Zen, I’ve been wondering about your name for a while.

    And speaking of Tsontakis, the “t” is silent, no?

    At a concert I attended a conductor walked out on stage before a work by Milhaud, and with every bit of snobbery said that it should be pronounced “mee-Loh.” I about fell out of my chair laughing, because my teacher studied with “Me-Oh” or “Me-Yoh” (however you want to write it phonetically).

    I thought Ran was “rahn” like “yawn.” Which is why i started this thread…

  23. Conventional wisdom dictates that nobody will attend such a concert of only new music, so you should consider enticing the masses with something by Ludwig van.

  24. Kyle Gann says:

    You’re right, actually, that Shulamit does pronounce it Rahn. But George does get that initial T into Tsontakis.

  25. And Hilary Tann spells her first name with only one “l”

  26. Sparky P. says:

    And what of Milhaud’s first name? Is it pronounced “Dar-ree-us”, “Dairy-us” or “Dairy-oo”?

  27. Jeffrey Tucker says:

    What about Ginastera? I’ve been told (both times by natives of Argentina) that it’s “Hee-na-stair-a” and “Jee-na-steer-a.”

  28. Sparky,

    I’ve heard that “Darius” is not really his name; somewhere along the line, his name got changed from “Marius Dilhaud”. I’ve not really followed this up, but has anyone else heard this?

    Kyle, I think you’re right about Adams’ pronunciation. Unlike the current benchwarmer in the Oval Office, who’s name is pronounced Dumb Ass.

    That’ll find it’s way into my FBI file, I’m sure. Hi there, AT&T drones!

  29. Anya says:

    Yes, most people mispronounce Gubaidulina with stress on the “lin” — but David Toub correctly says above, it is Goo-bye-DOO-leen-a.

    The way “Reish” was explained to me: he preferred not to have in his own name the association with the Third Reich. I heard this said by our rehearsal coach as a bit of historical knowledge for us (after a not so funny joke had been said by one of the players, as we were rehearsing Eight Lines, that “We should call it the Eighth Reich”).

  30. Daniel G. says:

    It’s “Gee-nas-te-ra” because it’s an Italian name (common in Argentina).

  31. robert berger says:

    In Hungarian,what looks like an accent mark is not an
    accent.It indicates a long vowel.Vowels without this mark
    are pronounced short.

  32. Rob Deemer says:

    Took me a while to figure out how to pronounce the first name of Keh-ZHI-shtof Pen-dur-REK-skee for my show…or at least I hope that’s right ;-)

  33. Daniel Wolf says:

    David Toub -

    Hungarian has short and long vowels, indicated by a mark that is identical with a accent. The short and long distinction here is literally one of length, not the vowel-that-says-its-name category in US shool grammars). Thus, the marking over the “o” in Bartók is not an accent but indicates a long “o”.

    The stress in Hungarian usually falls on the first syllable.

  34. Daniel G. says:

    Ok, what about:



  35. Wuorinen is pronounced “Wor-nen” (there’s actually a schwa between the two syllables – a swallowed vowel – but I’m not going to figure out how to write an upside-down e).

    I’ve always hear it pronounced “Nus-sen”, without the apparently silent K.

    “It’s pronounced Guacamole – and stop eating our young!”

  36. Daniel G. says:


  37. Marc' says:

    I’ve always been a big fan of Jean SibeLEEus.

  38. robert berger says:

    Gubaidullina is not a Russian name,but a Tatar(Turkic) one.
    The composer is half Tatar and half Russian.

  39. Eric Shanfield says:

    Also: Michael Tor-kee, not torque.

    And: Thomas Add-ess, not Uh-day.

  40. terry bromwich says:

    According to a very nice friend at work (who is British and actually has the name) it is pronounced


    as in bough (that’s bough of a tree, not boff, bog or bodge).

    Just thought you might like to know!

  41. I’ve heard that his original name was Marius Dilhaud, but Marius in a certain society has amusing connotations. Daris sounds more complex and he probably didn’t want a funny name when he meant to write serious music. The origin of this piece of knowledge is the late Israeli conductor Arthur Gelbrun, who was known of his French orientation.

  42. Dennis Ferneyhough says:

    In Gloucestershire it is Ferney-off.