History:Primary Artist For Classical Releases
Status: An old discussion comment from the old NamesAndSortnames page; this predates the ClassicalStyleGuide. It will become even more obsolete with AdvancedRelationships. So this is kind of a HistoricalDocument, cool.
Who is the preferred "artist" (i.e. ArtistName) for album, or various artists album, the composer or the performer? This happens presently both with classical works and covers.
In the case of cover albums it's been generally decided to file them under the performer, and current practice seems to be not to list the original composer/performer in most cases. I think this isn't what we want for classical music; especially when a track is called something like "Op. 23", "Prelude" or "Concerto for Strings" it's important to know who the composer was. In addition this is the data people are most likely expecting to do searches on. But on the other hand many times you don't want to include the performers in the track title because of clutter and aesthetic reasons. Unfortunately the line between classical and contemporary music is often thin, so making different rules for them is hard as well.
Dividing by single artist / various artist albums is possible, but does it make sense? At least time and space is saved if the artist on an album is considered to be the common artist for the album, ie. if it's "Various orchestras perform Jean Sibelius" this could be entered under Jean Sibelius. On the other hand "Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performs many artists" could go under Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In both cases a hard to manage Various Artists album entry is avoided. On the other hand if either artist remains the same for whole album it would also be possible to put the common artist in album title and the varying artist in various artists fields. However, as noted above this is rarely the way people search for works. In fact for searchability it would be best to fix whether the artist is intended to the be composer/author OR the performer for all albums and types.
I think a recommendation (in the styleguide preferably) should exist for whether the "artist" referred to in various artist and other albums means performer or composer/original author in the general case. In addition possibly a recommendation on how to indicate the composer/performer in the title would be welcome, altough this is often effectively limited by the information provided on the album. An important thought to this is, however, that in my opinion it's more important to have works listed in MusicBrainz database than their initial correctness. Oftentimes only either artist is initially available to the person doing the entry.