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A 'filler' For Someone's Next Choral And Orchestral Concert.


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The strangest transcription I know is a recording of Bartók's fourth string quartet by a quartet of trombones. Incredibly, it actually works (and remember, one movement is entirely pizzicato - how do you play a pp pizzicato glissando on a trombone?).

 

Paul

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I know that I risk being rather simplistic, but there are many (not on this board, I hope) who obviously disgree with my view that the piano is a very good instrument for playing piano music, the orchestra is very good for playing orchestral music, and the organ is very good for playing organ music. With a few notable exceptions, ignoring this principle results in disaster.

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I know that I risk being rather simplistic, but there are many (not on this board, I hope) who obviously disgree with my view that the piano is a very good instrument for playing piano music, the orchestra is very good for playing orchestral music, and the organ is very good for playing organ music. With a few notable exceptions, ignoring this principle results in disaster.

 

Well, I would agree with this viewpoint.

 

Aside from the Concerto, in G major (after Johann Ernst) which was arranged by JSB, I do not play any transcriptions at all. I have no particular desire to play orchestral music on the organ. Neither do I wish to hear orchestral works played on the organ - or symphonies by Brahms played on fourteen pianos by seventy-five hands - or whatever it is. I also dislike those orchestral arrangements of organ works which I have heard. I find it hard to understand why Elgar thought that it was a good idea to orchestrate (in a fairly ghastly over-inflated version) a perfectly good Fantasia and Fugue, in C minor, by JSB.

 

Interestingly, the following link leads to an interesting item, which states that pieces by JSB and Handel (but arranged by Elgar) were, in 1922 and 1923 respectively, conducted by the composer. I think not. If one transcribes a work, strictly one cannot claim to be the composer - merely the arranger.

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Well, I would agree with this viewpoint.

 

Aside from the Concerto, in G major (after Johann Ernst) which was arranged by JSB, I do not play any transcriptions at all. I have no particular desire to play orchestral music on the organ. Neither do I wish to hear orchestral works played on the organ - or symphonies by Brahms played on fourteen pianos by seventy-five hands - or whatever it is. I also dislike those orchestral arrangements of organ works which I have heard. I find it hard to understand why Elgar thought that it was a good idea to orchestrate (in a fairly ghastly over-inflated version) a perfectly good Fantasia and Fugue, in C minor, by JSB.

 

Interestingly, the following link leads to an interesting item, which states that pieces by JSB and Handel (but arranged by Elgar) were, in 1922 and 1923 respectively, conducted by the composer. I think not. If one transcribes a work, strictly one cannot claim to be the composer - merely the arranger.

 

As the instigator of that rather wicked thread on transcriptions, along with my fellow transcribees (if there is such a word?) I would have to stick up for them. However I do have a gripe of the type of transcriptions some people play (Beethoven symphonies?) and the inappropriate organs they play them on.

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I have no particular desire to play orchestral music on the organ. Neither do I wish to hear orchestral works played on the organ - or symphonies by Brahms played on fourteen pianos by seventy-five hands - or whatever it is.

Absolutely.

 

My wife is a string player and her music of choice is string and orchestral music. She tolerates the organ (she hasn't much option!), but would never go out of her way to hear one. Nevertheless she will come with me to organ recitals occasionally. One we went to consisted mostly of transcriptions. Her reaction afterwards was along the lines of: "Why do people have to play orchestral music on the organ? There is no way the organ can produce the accents and expression that an orchestra can. Why couldn't he have produced a programme of proper organ music?" In my experience this is a fairly typical reaction from orchestral musicians. How can we possibly expect musicians to respect the organ as a serious instrument on a par with any other if we insist on playing repertoire that, from their point of view, the orchestra can play so much better?

 

It seems to me that orchestral transcriptions please only (some) organists and the hoi polloi, but few musicians. There is this idea that Joe Public needs music he recognises, but I've never swallowed this. Generally he seems perfectly happy enough so long as he is given "happy" music with tunes he can go away humming and rhythms he can tap his feet to.

 

I don't think I would want to press the argument too far, but you could go even further and question the desirability of "proper" organ music written with an obviously orchestral texture. Harwood, Whitlock and Elgar might fall into this category. But you would quickly get into some very grey areas (Rheinberger's slow movements?) French Romantic organ music would not fall into this catergory, even such a texture as the opening of Franck's E major choral being, to my mind, thoroughly organistic (exploiting the instrument's sustaining power).

 

Conversely, where transcriptions may well be successful (and consequently valid) is where the process of arrangement results in a texture that is indistinguishable from quintessential organ music. I suppose the Schübler Chorales would be the classic example of this.

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I remember hearing Stravinski's re-arrangement of the Eb Prelude and Fugue from Clavierubung III for Orchestra on Radio 3. It simply ruined a good piece of music. I wondered why Stravinski bothered and whether he actually had any real appreciation of Bach's music and the organ.

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I remember hearing Stravinski's re-arrangement of the Eb Prelude and Fugue from Clavierubung III for Orchestra on Radio 3. It simply ruined a good piece of music. I wondered why Stravinski bothered and whether he actually had any real appreciation of Bach's music and the organ.

 

That's a shame because the Schoenberg arrangement is very good.

 

What we must remember is that even if we don't like them now, when people like Lemare were around they served a very good purpose and they had the organs to play them on with some orchestral effects. Even if we're not keen on them now, then can I plead that we at least view them for what they were and the importance they used to have?

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My wife is a string player and her music of choice is string and orchestral music.

 

Coincidence! So is mine and she says/does exactly the same re the organ and its repertoire!

 

AJJ

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What we must remember is that even if we don't like them now, when people like Lemare were around they served a very good purpose and they had the organs to play them on with some orchestral effects. Even if we're not keen on them now, then can I plead that we at least view them for what they were and the importance they used to have?

I would accept that entirely. In the days before everyone had a "wireless" - and even beyond, while the sound quality of broadcasts was still fairly primitive - the organ was a major means of entertainment and of introducing people to music they might not otherwise have heard. Although I am sure there must have been plenty of provincial orchestras there can have been nothing like the opportunity to become familiar with as wide a range of music as we take for granted today - except through arrangements. I guess, too, that in the days before we had music on tap through high-quality recordings and broadcasts people were a lot less fussy and much more prepared to "make do" with music adapted for their enjoyment by whatever means were to hand. So in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries transcriptions (whether for organ or piano duet) certainly served a purpose and the recreation of an organ recital from these times could have some value as an educational experience (and watching the sometimes prodigious technique necessary would probably be fun too, if the organist is visible). But otherwise I can't help feeling they have outlived their usefulness. Each to his own, though. It would be boring if we all liked the same things! And, whatever I think, Joe Public is most unlikely to be bothered!

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I don't feel that those of us who play transcriptions need to defend ourselves! I'm quite happy to stand up and say that I enjoy playing and listening to transcriptions. Of course the organ can't provide the nuances that a number of orchestral instruments played by a number of performers can, but I enjoy them on the organ as a separate genre.

 

Indeed, why should orchestras have all the best tunes? B)

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I don't feel that those of us who play transcriptions need to defend ourselves! I'm quite happy to stand up and say that I enjoy playing and listening transcriptions. Of course the organ can't provide the nuances that a number of orchestral instruments played by a number of performers can, but I enjoy them on the organ as a separate genre.

 

Indeed, why should orchestras have all the best tunes? B)

 

Ah, an ally at last. Maybe we should retreat to the other thread and leave this one to the Widor 5 addicts!

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I don't feel that those of us who play transcriptions need to defend ourselves! I'm quite happy to stand up and say that I enjoy playing and listening to transcriptions. Of course the organ can't provide the nuances that a number of orchestral instruments played by a number of performers can, but I enjoy them on the organ as a separate genre.

 

Indeed, why should orchestras have all the best tunes? B)

 

I agree. One might add that transcriptions were what many threatened town hall organs were designed to play along with Bach in a style that might well cause some members here to have a seizure - guaranteed if I add that I actually like to hear it played that way from time to time. It may not be authentic but it is a great deal more exciting than some historically informed performances Ihave heard in my time.

 

One could also add that the great majority of "working organists" by which term I mean those who play for church services, wedding celebrations and at crematoria [??] perforce have to play transcriptions. What else are (and I use the names by which the general public would recognise them) Handel's Largo : Bach's Air on the G String, Sheep may safely graze,Jesu Joy ; Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary ; Mendelssohn's Wedding March and so on and so on. I strongly suspect that there are relatively few here who have not at some time performed one or more of the items on this list. Of course, whether or not they enjoyed the experience is a quite separate (and irrelevant) issue. Indeed in the case of quite a few amateur "organists" I have known in my time confiscating their collections of popular transcriptions would dramatically reduce their repertoire, in some cases to vanishing point or almost.

 

Perhaps they do but I am not aware that pianists appear to experience the same angst about performing transcriptions or reductions of music intended to be performed by other media or music written for the harpsichord, clavichord, virginals or even the fortepiano all of which differ in marked respects from the modern piano . Until I discover that they do experience this sense of guilt I shall remain an unrepentant admirer of the organ transcription as played by,amongst others, Thomas Trotter, Nicolas Kynaston, Simon Preston, Dame Gillian Weir, Christopher Herrick, G.D. Cunningham, Edwin Lemare, Frederick Hohman, Ian Tracey, Marcel Dupre and a bloke called John S Brook.

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