Breaking: Lucerne steps in to buy Rachmaninov villa

Breaking: Lucerne steps in to buy Rachmaninov villa


norman lebrecht

November 03, 2021

The canton of Lucerne has put in a SFr16 million bid to acquire the vacant Villa Senar beside the lake, built by Serge Rachmaninov and remaining in his family until now.

The Putin government has talked of buying it but never acted.

Now it will be reconceived as a cultural centre for a region that Rachmaninov loved.


  • Bill says:

    The name is spelled Rachmaninoff in non-Cyrillic letters. That’s how the great man signed it himself, and that’s how it appears on his gravestone. I think we can safely conclude that was his choice.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Why can’t Russians get their letters right? It’s not too difficult. Maybe they drink too much?


      • Rick V. says:

        In Cyrillic letters, the name ends in the letter “vee” which looks like Roman letter “B”. It is pronounced “vee” except at the end of a word, where it is often pronounced “eff” like “F”. So writing Rachmaninoff is consistent with correct pronunciation. Writing Rachmaninov (often done in the UK) is consistent with Russian spelling.

        • Akutagawa says:

          Actually, if you’re going to transliterate Рахманинов according to modern rules (for English at least), you’d write Rakhmaninov. Rachmaninov would be Рачманинов. It always amuses me that people get so worked up about ff versus v but couldn’t care less about ch versus kh, which is much more important to correct pronunciation.

          • Obviously, some people operate under the assumption that Rachmaninoff wished to Anglicize his name. But nothing could be farther from the truth, because Rachmaninoff moved to Dresden in 1906 and eventually emigrated to the United States only after the revolution via Finland and Sweden. The spelling “Rachmaninoff” is the German way of spelling “Рахманинов” (“Рахманиновъ” was probably the old pre-revolutionary spelling with the terminal hard sign ).

            He always spelled his name “Rachmaninoff” during those years. In German, the double “f” also has an effect on the pronunciation of the preceding “o” which is pronounced shorter when followed by two consonants than only one. If he had wanted to end the name with “ov”, he would certainly have done so, but obviously he wished to have the short “o” sound which is closer to how Russians pronounce it.

            In German, the combination “ch” is pronounced exactly as “kh” would be pronounced; however, this spelling would have been most unusual in Germany at that time. To achieve the English equivalent of “ch”, or Russian “ч”, one must write “tsch” in German.

            Since English speakers will pronounce “v” differently than “ff”, it makes sense to keep the German “ff” spelling — otherwise, some people will be tempted to mispronounce the name.

  • Algot says:

    Excellent idea!

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    Good. I saw of little reportage with Chailly few years ago in this place. it’s the place where there’s the so awesome reproduction of the fingers of Rachmaninov. I Hope that it will be easier to visit this place for the public than the Ravel’s house or the Palais Stoclet.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Good news, always interesting, such composers’ dwellings.

    What I find really puzzling is that Rachmaninoff had the villa built in this thoroughly awful modernist block style, thinking of the nature of his music and the surroundings.

    • Nicholas says:

      The man and his music are full of contradictions. He once intimated that he always had a structural point in mind while performing a piece of music. I believe he aesthetically missed the point in the architecture of Senar. Perhaps, he wanted to achieve functionality instead of beauty.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yes, or perhaps he wanted his dwellings to compensate for his oldfashioned musical taste, to make sure visitors would realise he was not ENTIRELY outdated – he felt rather out of tune with contemporary music.

  • Frank Flambeau says:

    What an ugly building.

  • Alexander says:

    it’s commendable

  • Akutagawa says:

    I thought CHF16mn was a bit steep, even for Luzerne. If you read more closely, it’s CHF8mn for the property itself, plus taxes and fees, plus renovation, plus a 10 year management plan. That sounds a bit more reasonable.

  • Paul Sekhri says:

    It’s great news, as the place was on the market for years, and knowing that it will now be turned into an arts center for visits, concerts, etc is a huge relief vs. being sold to a private homeowner who may not have allowed or encouraged such use.

  • Frank Flambeau says:

    A very ugly, blocky building with no flair. The grounds must be terrific to justify this price.

  • Alexandra CdK says:

    It might be an awful block, but it is built according to the Swiss arch. rules of that time. Stop speculating please.