Composers on Other Planets – Mercury


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.)

The List:

Johann Sebastian Bach

Duke Ellington

Kinko Kurosawa

Maurice Ravel

Béla Bartók

Mikhail Glinka

Alicia de Larrocha

Alessandro Scarlatti

Sidney Bechet

Christoph Willibald Gluck

John Lennon

Domenico Scarlatti

Ludwig van Beethoven

Percy Grainger

Franz Liszt

Arnold Schoenberg

Hector Berlioz

Edvard Grieg

Guillaume de Machaut

Franz Schubert

Johannes Brahms

George Frideric Handel

Gustav Mahler

Jean Sibelius

Cai Wenji

Joseph Haydn

Thelonious Monk

Bedřich Smetana

Turlough Carolan

Gustav Holst

Claudio Monteverdi

John Philip Sousa

Enrico Caruso

Charles Ives

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Igor Stravinsky

Frédéric Chopin

Leoš Janáček

Modest Mussorgsky


Aaron Copland

Antônio Carlos Jobim

Sergei Prokofiev

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Couperin family

Scott Joplin

Giacomo Puccini


Claude Debussy

Josquin des Prez

Henry Purcell

Heitor Villa-Lobos

John Dowland

Krzysztof Komeda

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Kosaku Yamada

Antonín Dvořák

Umm Kulthum

Jean-Philippe Rameau

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.

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