Alexandra Ivanoff, culture journalist and music editor of Time Out, Istanbul, gives her interpretation:
|Rachmaninov/off at the piano|
Also, the Cyrillic B can be pronounced like an f or a v, so it's kind of toss-up - that evidently continues."
My doughty editor at The Arts Desk, ace critic and Russophile David Nice, offers further explanation:
"The solution is simple, though the inconsistency is maddening: both Prokofiev and Rachmaninov were known in France as 'Serge' and with two ffs, the French transcription. They were published by Editions France de Musique which was bought up by Boosey and Hawkes, hence the publisher's insistence...The Rachmaninoff Society insists on this, and the foundation is supporting the concerts... I ALWAYS put v (and one s in Musorgsky, no reason for two in transliteration. And always Ye for the Russian E (ie Yevtushenko, Yesenin, Yevgeny, Yelena...)"
Critic and author Matthew Rye adds: "I had always understood that the 'ff' was R's own self-spelling when he moved to the US (in the same way that Schoenberg chose to lose his umlaut and added the first 'e', and Rubinstein became Arthur rather than Artur)."
John Riley says: "Academically it should be Rakhmaninov, but that seems the least popular option."
The discussion has put me in mind of my experience aged 18 in what would now be called a gap-year internship, but was then simply a part-time job in a year out between school and university. (It was paid, too, and we even got luncheon vouchers.) I was lucky enough to be taken on as office junior by a famous musical publication with an eminent editor, whose letters I had to type from audio-recorded dictation - and he had spelling issues that I simply could not fathom. They were far indeed from Music A level. Skryabin, for a start; and I think my fuzzy memory must have blanked out his solution to the -off/-ov issue. The most confusing, though, was Chaikovsky, with no T. The terror that this struck into my heart has never quite left me.
Come to think of it, my own name in its eastern-bloc Cyrillic original would have been best transliterated as DUKHEN. I've evidently been missing a trick. By this token you are now reading...
DZESIKA DUKHEN'S CLASSICAL MUSIC BLOG