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The fugue starts off with a mouse-like smallness, but blossoms and comes to a satisfying conclusion. To pull it off the transcriber has to be a talented composer in his or her own right, as Busoni was.
Sounds like a very romantic transcription. This leads me to think, that the purpose of many transcriptions of Bach's music is to romanticize it. And this tells me, why I don't like that kind of transcriptions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
I presuppose, that we are talking about transcriptions for piano exclusively. As I wrote above, I always find the original compositions better than any transcription for piano. But this does not imply, that I think all transcriptions are trashy. There are good transcriptions (many of which were made by Liszt) and trashy transcriptions (Busoni's "transcription" of Bach's BWV 1052 e.g.). But I do not quite understand this "everything must be transcribed for piano" attitude. Is it so hard for even a serious classical music listener to listen to anything but piano?
It is not a difficult thing, but a different one. I am of the same opinion concerning orchestral arrangements as well (such as Ravel's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Tableaux or Brahms' Hungarian Dances arranged by the composer himself (along with Dvořák, Gál, et al.). It is not a difficult thing to listen to the piano originals, but the orchestrations add, adorn, and are essentially different.

Why can't we like both? No one is suggesting replacing en masse orchestral music with piano transcriptions or vice versa.
 

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Why can't we like both? No one is suggesting replacing en masse orchestral music with piano transcriptions or vice versa.
Agreed. In some cases piano transcriptions are enjoyable in their own right, even if they of course never can replace the original compositions. This is true e.g. of Liszt's LvB symphonies transcriptions, which I - on my part - think are some of the best piano transcriptions ever made, because they serve the symphonies very well. But there are also some transcriptions which romanticizes the music in a way which just trivializes the original composition. So one has got to distinguish.Transcription and transcription may be two different things.
 

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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.

Ferruccio Busoni, 6 Elegies, BV 249
Svetlana Belsky

Published on Mar 19, 2018
Recorded Live; Souers Recital Hall, Miami University, 3/15/2018

00:00 1. Nach der Wendung (Recueillement) ["After the Turning" (Contemplation)]
05:15 2. All' Italia! (In modo napolitano) ["To Italy!" (In a Neapolitan Mode)]
12:19 3. Meine Seele bangt und hofft zu Dir (Choralvorspiel) ["My soul trembles and hopes of thee" (Chorale Prelude)]
19:52 4. Turandots Frauengemach (Intermezzo) ["Turandot's Bower" (Intermezzo)]
24:05 5. Die Nächtlichen (Walzer) ["The Nocturnal" (Waltz)]
29:01 6. Erscheinung (Notturno) ["Visitation" (Nocturne)]
 
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I never felt that transcriptions were "trashy." Sometimes even the composer himself will do a transcription of his own work, with perhaps one of the most thrilling being...


Plus his own charming transcription of Petrouchka, in a brilliant performance:


There are other marvelous piano transcriptions for four hands:


And perhaps one of the best transcriptions of all (on a rather bright sounding instrument and too slow in the beginning for me):


Cyril Scott Symphonic Dances transcription by Percy Grainger:


Look for a far better Duo-Arts Romeo & Juliette performance by Percy Grainger & Ralph Leopold on Klavier Records: https://www.amazon.com/Plays-Schumann-Strauss-Tchaikovsky-Grainger/dp/B000003M68/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=Schumann%2C+Strauss+%26+Tchaik ovsky&qid=1563157733&s=music&sr=1-4

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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.
I've explored a fair amount and so far have not heard an organ Bach performance that doesn't make me miss the contrapuntal clarity of the notes I hear in good piano performances. They always sound like a mushy mess in my ears. The thing that you note about pianos--that the notes decay instead of sustain--is one of the reasons it's such a great Bach instrument, because the complex multi-voiced counterpoint is far more transparent. It's not about performer either--I get the clarity I want from Rubsam on the piano (although his rubato is too frequent and extreme for my tastes) but not from Rubsam on the organ for instance.

Of course, harpsichords also share that feature of decay with pianos, but they sound thin and insubstantial in my ears--exactly the opposite of how Bach sounds in my mind's ear. Of course this is complete speculation but I bet if you built a time machine and sent a modern piano to Bach, it'd be his favorite instrument--Bach's compositions indicate that he loved the big dramatic noise of organs and the clarity and complexity possible with harpsichords; and the piano is the best instrument that allows both at the same time.

Also I'm more of a scotch guy.
 

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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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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.
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.
 

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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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I didn't realize some people considered piano transcriptions trashy. I love 'em. Collected quite a few, m'self. To wit:
Mahler - Symphony No. 1 (Evelinde Trenkner & Sontraud Speidel).
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6 (Chitose Okashiro), (Duo Crommelynck)
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Valentina Lisita)
Tchaikovsy - Symphony No. 5 (Sergey Koudriakov)
Beethoven - Complete Symphonies (Cyprien Katsaris)
etc.
 

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In the days before the phonograph, piano transcriptions were largely the only way to become familiar with orchestral works aside from what your local symphony chose to play that year. There was good business in making piano transcriptions as such (Liszt made hundreds). Today they are mostly obsolete because you can hear any orchestral work on demand anytime you want. But as a pianist, they provide a lot of insight into how a work was written and they're easier to follow along to with the music than the full orchestral score.
 

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I dunno if "trashy" is the right word but I think the (post)modern tendencies for HIP with the idea of great fidelity to the source material along with their purpose not being particularly relevant anymore make them a bit less popular. It seems like I rarely see things like orchestral adaptations of SQs or piano works either, a few warhorses like Pictures at an Exhibition aside.

That said piano/two-hands/two-piano recordings are still fun.
 
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