The planet Mercury has just under 400 craters. The wonderful part is that most of them are named for famous people in the arts: writers, artists and composers. The rule for inclusion is that “all new craters must be named after an artist that was famous for more than fifty years, and dead for more than three years, before the date they are named.”
Haydn: Symphony No. 43 in E-Flat Major, Hob.I:43, “Mercury” – IV. Allegro (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; Frans Brüggen, cond.)
In looking over the list, we find some 50 craters named after composers, conductors, and musicians. Gluck and Debussy rub shoulders with John Lennon and Machaut. They come from countries all over the world, from India to Italy, Austria to America, and China to Brazil. They are predominantly male, but Alicia de Larrocha (Spain) does sweep in as does Cai Wenji (China) and Umm Kulthum (Egypt).
Strauss I: Merkurs Flugel, Walzer (Wings of Mercury, Waltz), Op. 83 (Slovak Sinfonietta, Žilina; Christian Pollack, cond.)
Johann Sebastian Bach
Alicia de Larrocha
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Ludwig van Beethoven
Guillaume de Machaut
George Frideric Handel
John Philip Sousa
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Antônio Carlos Jobim
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Couperin family
Josquin des Prez
Holst: The Planets: III. Mercury, The Winged Messenger (Royal Scottish National Orchestra; David Lloyd-Jones, cond.)
When you look at the map of Mercury recently developed by the US Geological Survey, we can find out where our composers are.
Sometimes the juxtapositions of names seem a bit random and other times, done with a clever sense of humour: Berlioz next to Carolan (top left), Purcell next to the painter van Dijck/Dyck (center top), and right in the middle of the planet is Mozart. Debussy is by Joplin (bottom left) and above Lennon, is Holst.