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 Post subject: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2011 7:10 am 
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What are your opinions on performing, on the piano, arrangements and transcriptions of pieces written for other instruments?

Is it better to be a purist and stick with music that was written with the specific characteristics of the piano in mind?

Or is it better to include arrangements/transcriptions in our repertoire since they offer other possibilities?

here are my thoughts, somewhat on both sides
1. Liszt's transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies offer the chance to play Beethoven on the piano but with a much more lucid quality than Beethoven's thickly textured piano pieces--yet Beethoven's orchestral writing has just exactly that lucid quality...
2. the Lebecq sisters' two-piano recording of Rhapsody in Blue is wonderful
3. in Glazunov's ballet Raymonda, the final variation for Raymonda (played from a standard accompanist's orchestral reduction) is beautiful on the piano--what that composer could do with a repeated note!
4. it's highly upsetting to see intermediate students playing mediocre arrangements of "50 Greatest Hits" kinds of classical pieces when they could handle Clementi sonatas, Chopin preludes and other gems written for piano... so sad to miss out on that part of the tradition
5. arrangements never ever appear on repertoire lists for competitions/adjudications and such except at the most beginning levels
6. the violists and trombonists play other instruments' music all the time
7. but we already have a very large piano-native repertoire available...

maybe the question is: at what point can an arrangement/transcription be considered a worthy work of art?


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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:22 pm 
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hreichgott wrote:
maybe the question is: at what point can an arrangement/transcription be considered a worthy work of art?


Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder, but a few generalisations..

The simplified arrangements common in the early half of the last century designed for home and amateur use tend to be functional rather than with any greater musical value.

There are plenty cases where the craftsmanship of the arrangement is such that the outcome is ultimately a work of art (and clearly recognisable as such), for example Liszt and Tausig's Wagner arrangements and some of Thalberg's L'art du chant set. Side note: it's probably important in this sphere to make the distinction between arrangements/transcriptions and paraphrases; the distinction is often not made and the terms, rather lazily, used interchangeably - paraphrases generally being rather more frivolous and exhibitionistic in intent, in addition to freely embellishing and altering the original.

I'm in general in favour of playing transcriptions, but I believe you have to be rather careful about what you choose, as there are a lot which fall into the category of hack-work. They do give the obvious benefit of giving a recitalist the option of presenting music which in theory cannot possibly appear at a piano recital.


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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2011 4:32 pm 
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I appreciate the insight of the OP and the reply above. I have only performed one transcription to date, but have plans to pursue others in the coming years. That one, of course, is the Busoni transcription of the Bach Chaconne from the Partita for solo violin No.2. I consider it a totally worthy piece of art. The fact that Bach himself provided such variety of settings for essentially the same music argues strongly for the business of transcriptions. In one measure of the above cited work, I was personally struck by how uncharacteristic two melodic notes were for Bach. I decided to study the violin part and was pleased to discover that Bach could do no other because the required lower G string was already occupied by the bass note. Therefore, I determined to "correct" this artifact related to the limits of the violin so as to allow what I believe the musical intent was all along to exist on the piano incarnation. The measure in question for those interested is the 8th measure of the D Major section titled "quasi Tromboni." The melody notes are the first two. IMO they should be an octave lower than written, so that's how I play it.

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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2011 5:11 pm 
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musical-md wrote:
.. the Busoni transcription of the Bach Chaconne from the Partita for solo violin No.2. I consider it a totally worthy piece of art.


By coincidence, I had it listed originally in my collection of transcriptions which are of manifest artistic value, and then edited it out after some internal debate about where it fitted within the transcription/arrangement/paraphrase semantics and coming to the conclusion I'd not looked at it and the original enough to be absolutely sure of my classification! Whatever it is, I fully agree about it being a totally worthy piece of art.

musical-md wrote:
The fact that Bach himself provided such variety of settings for essentially the same music argues strongly for the business of transcriptions.


Very interesting point. Ultimately any original is still music even when transcribed; the piece is however very much at the mercy of the transcriber's skill.


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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:27 pm 
I prefer playing original piano music, but when a transcription or arrangement rises to a similar artistic level as a major composer's work, I would play it. This is especially true if a major composer wrote the arrangement.

If the original is for an instrument with lesser capabilities than the piano, an arrangement is somewhat like the orchestration of a symphony composer, who writes music on the piano and adds notes in different octaves than his/her fingers can reach.

Also, enriching the harmony of the original, if well done, essentially leads to a new work of great artistic value.

How about the orchestral version of Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, written originally for piano? This is a step up in complexity from the example above, but the same principle seems to hold.

I never bother with watered down arrangements.


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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:27 am 
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Mussorgsky--right, there are tons of orchestrations of pieces originally written for other instruments...

I kind of like how most of the responses to this question boil down to "if the transcription is good, it's worth playing " :)


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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:39 am 
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I think of Rachmaninoff's Songs, arguably some of his finest music. (I believe he composed about 75 of them.) Over the years there have been transcriptions and arrangements of a number of these songs which have entered the piano literature. In fact Rachmaninoff himself transcribed three of them for piano. I believe that these efforts have enriched our repertoire. These are definitely works of art and they should be performed.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:31 pm 
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Rachfan wrote:
I think of Rachmaninoff's Songs, arguably some of his finest music. (I believe he composed about 75 of them.) Over the years there have been transcriptions and arrangements of a number of these songs which have entered the piano literature. In fact Rachmaninoff himself transcribed three of them for piano. I believe that these efforts have enriched our repertoire. These are definitely works of art and they should be performed.

David


Yes. And for me, this man is the master. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0MolHld308 What a musician!


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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2011 2:57 am 
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andrew wrote:
Rachfan wrote:
I think of Rachmaninoff's Songs, arguably some of his finest music. (I believe he composed about 75 of them.) Over the years there have been transcriptions and arrangements of a number of these songs which have entered the piano literature. In fact Rachmaninoff himself transcribed three of them for piano. I believe that these efforts have enriched our repertoire. These are definitely works of art and they should be performed.

David


Yes. And for me, this man is the master. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0MolHld308 What a musician!

That was great indeed!

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"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:30 am 
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And he is (would have been) 96 years old today!

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 Post subject: Re: Transcription/arrangement opinions
PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:51 am 
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Hi Andrew,

Yes, I've been listening to that Earl Wild transcription of "Floods of Spring" for years and have always admired it. We're indebted to him as he did quite a number of these Rachmaninoff song transcriptions and had a wonderful sense of the Rachmaninoff idiom as he wrote them.

I've played the song's piano accompaniment (not an easy one), and I have Wild's transcription sheet music here, but have never gotten around to practicing Floods of Spring. I've played about a dozen of the song accompaniments. Too bad I never had a soprano or baritone to with whom to play them.

Here is a new transcription of Floods by Yevgeny Sudbin. I think you'll find this one to be amazing too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKQnyHb_iI8

David

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