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What's the point of a piano transcription from the listener's point of view?

It's easier to hear the logic of a complex work.
Why? I mean, I don't believe you're right. In fact, you're not right. You're wrong.

Michael Finnissy surely deserves mention as a contemporary master of pano transcription.

A total red herring. They're just not transcriptions. They're very good though, I like them much more than the Gershwin things.
 

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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/04/arts/music/piano-transcriptions.html

First, I'm having a bit of déjà vu here, as I thought I read this article before, but the date is clearly yesterday. Maybe someone wrote something similar not too long ago?

Second, I'm happy to report I never see antipathy toward piano transcriptions in my circles. I do absolutely love them, from Martynov's (and Leslie Howard's) recordings of Liszt's Beethoven to those in the standard repertoire (Faure's Sicilienne, Brahms' Hungarian Dances, Horowitz's version of Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre) to the very many piano transcriptions of harpsichord and organ music. I'm so thankful they exist.

Anyone else have similar feelings? Anyone averse to these transcriptions? Is the snobbery against them still a thing?
Horowitz said

"I don't like the sound of a piano as a piano. I like to imitate the orchestra - the oboe, the clarinet, the violin and, of course, the singing voice. Every note of those symphonies is in these Liszt works."
The problem is that these instruments can sustain, a piano can't. And so you end up doing what Liszt did when you write a transcription -- tremolo.

Tremolo

Yuck.

Here's an example, it's just soooooooo vulgar and old fashioned,

 

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Because the transcriptions permitted the audience to hear great works they might never have heard performed by a full orchestra. The transcriptions carried the music all over Europe and it was great training and an insightful learning experience for the composer who did it, such as Liszt.
I asked (or meant) what is the point, not what was the point.

The idea that appeals to me is that a transcription is a fresh composition, inspired by an existing work but not at all an attempt to recreate or evoke the original on piano à la Liszt. Like Wagner/Gould Siegfried Idyll for example, and indeed Busoni tried to achieve this. Or even the Finnissy - but the problem with the Finnissy is that the original is too hidden from view.
 

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I love Bach keyboard music but dislike harpsichords and most organs, so transcriptions are far from pointless from this listener's point of view.
Really it shouldn't need much of a transcription to take a work from harpsichord to piano, I mean you may have to make some adjustments if the piece needs two keyboards some of the time, but that's all. This isn't the same as moving from orchestra to keyboard, or from a cantata to piano (I'm thinking of those things that Walter Rimmel wrote.)

Organ is another matter, because of the sustain, the range and the complexity of the music - music which needs pedals and a couple of keyboard may be hard to transcribe in a way which reflects the harmonic and contrapuntal interest of the original.

But saying « I don't like organs » seems to me as strange as saying « I don't like wine » - there are so many different types that if you continue to explore you'll find some that you like I'm sure.
 

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Actually inspired by this thread I did a bit of investigation on Busoni's attitude to transcription, which seems to be quite complicated not least because he changed his point of view, and the well known Bach/Busoni paradigm may not be the best way to hear his final ideas. I've been surprising myself by how much I've been enjoying the Elegies. Normally I can't go near this sort of music without feelingthe urge to run away.

Hamelin plays them, they're like parodies of music by Mozart, Luther and indeed his own music. Parody as in parody mass. Unfortunately Mein Seele Bant doesn't seem to be on youtube so I can't post a link.
 

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Transcriptions are fine as a complement to the original. But Busoni's arrangement of Bach's Chaconne could never be a replacement for the genius of the original which is one of the greatest works ever written by anyone. I remember a young woman holding a whole Albert Hall audience spellbound with it. But the Busoni opens it out for pianists which is fine.
The Brahms, which really is a simple piano reduction, "opens it out for pianists." The interesting question is why exactly Busoni decided to embellish the music so much.
 

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In very contrapuntal music, I often like to hear instruments which aren't homogeneous in all registers -- being able to appreciate the dramatic interrelationships amongst the voices is easier for me if the voices have different timbres. Of course there are some pianos and organs and clavichords which have irregular registrations, though less so in modern pianos I think.

You can bring out the narrative of tension and release amongst the voices on a homogeneous instrument, you have to give each voice a life and a personality of its own, and bring the whole together in a way which is musical, poetic.
 

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I know what you mean--exceptional Bach pianists are exceptional in my mind specifically because they're able to assign ownership of each note to each voice to a truly impressive degree. Gould, Sokolov and Schepkin really stand out for me in this regard.
I must say that I think their way of playing counterpoint has been so much put into the shade by Rubsam on lute harpsichord that I can't bear to listen to Sokolov play baroque music any more. I don't know Schepkin and I don't enjoy Gould.
 
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