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Transliterations on Tchaikovsky Research

Why is the name Пётръ Ильичъ Чайковскій transliterated as Petr Il'ich Tchaikovsky on this site?

The Russian letter ё is pronounced yo, not e.

(The transliteration of Ильичъ as Il'ich is as close to the sound of the composer's patronym as the English alphabet can get. His surname should actually be transliterated as Chaykovskiy, but to his English admirers he has been known as Tchaikovsky for the last 150 years, so there are valid grounds for continuing to call him that. Anyway, 'Chaykovskiy' looks outlandish and quite ridiculously affected. But you are inconsistent, because you call his great Russian contemporary 'Rimskii-Korsakov', which is accurate, but equally pedantic. Римский-Корсаков has been loved by the English for just as long as Чайковскій, and we call him Rimsky-Korsakov!)

No-one in this country would dream of calling the composer of the Messiah 'Hendl'...

Michael Porter

18/09/2011 03:44

Firstly, I would make the point that transliteration is simply a means of transcribing names from one alphabet system to another, and this isn't designed to reflect the correct pronunciation in either language. The transliteration system currently used on this site is that used by the Library of Congress, with their diacritics and ligatures omitted. The same system was used in The Tchaikovsky Handbook, where after an introductory note, the composer's surname is given as "Chaikovskii" throughout!

There are a few different methods of transliterating names from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, as illustrated on Wikipedia:

In fact the English-language version of Wikipedia also uses its own system:

... although this seems not always to be rigorously applied!  The Internet Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) uses something very similar:

If we were to follow the same rules here, then Petr Il'ich would become Pyotr Ilyich, and Evgeniia Zhukovskaia would be Yevgeniya Zhukovskaya, and Aleksei Tolstoi would become Aleksey Tolstoy, for example. Some familiar names which have become established in the west, such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Scriabin, would be retained, even though they should strictly be Chaykovsky, Rakhmaninov and Skryabin.

If there is a clear desire among our a large section of our readership to change to this alternative transliteration system, then we would seriously consider it.

Brett Langston

18/09/2011 10:03

Thank you, Mr Langston. I'm obliged to you for the links.

Michael Porter

18/09/2011 11:23

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