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For the same reason that you might want to hear a pianist play any of Liszt's transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies, or Busoni's of the Bach Chaconne, or Finnissy's of Gershwin songs, or (back to the organ) Bach's of Vivaldi.

 

They may not be your cup of tea, but they may throw a new and interesting light on the original or even become works of art in their own right.

 

Paul

Bach-Vivaldi is rather a special case - lots of recomposition which results in a new piece in many cases (as do his own transcriptions of himself, if you see what I mean). Walther's transcriptions of concerti are more to the point here, and they shed no light on anything at all except that his choice of original was rather less discerning. I personally wouldn't want to hear Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven ...too many tremolos and general thrashing about which are no substitute for the original scoring. Trying to recreate a sustaining medium in terms of a non sustaining one is a Bad Idea. L's transcription of the Liebestod is similarly ill advised - Busoni at least had a serious aesthetic behind his transcriptions. On a specific point - I wonder how successfully anyone could transcribe Beethoven 9 for another medium. The point of it was that it broke the mould of symphonic writing - apart from anything else, with no text the whole point of the last movement is lost. Is the pianist supposed to sing along? Can't comment on the Finnissy, but I expect they really do offer a new slant on the original, which I doubt is the purpose of most transcriptions. They are most interesting, I think, when the new medium can add things to the original, rather than having to leave most of it out, which is why transcriptions of Mahler never work really well. I wonder if we are rather losing sight of the whole point of transcriptions, which as everyone here knows was to make the work available to a public which would probably have little chance of hearing the original in its 'real' form. It's fascinating how the whole idea, which was only ever supposed to be a substitute for something more satisfactory, has taken on a kind of artistic authenticity of its own, at the expense of the organ's own repertoire which outside particular enthusiasms even people who love the instrument seem to look down on. We don't see many pianists playing the duet transcriptions of the Brahms symphonies (made by the man himself) - why should that be? There isn't a thread on steinway-pianos.com complaining about all the difficult late Beethoven that Alfred Brendel insists on playing, and hoping that he'll start programming a couple of Joplin rags for variety and to pull the punters in....why is that? Are piano punters more discerning than organ ones, or is that their standard repertoire is just better? I wish I knew...
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I think that some transcriptions do still serve the purpose that Stephen describes. In particular the Overture to The Mastersingers by Wagner. Not may of us will probably attend the opera.

 

As for Brendel he would ask 'What is a Rag' and 'Who is this Joplin chap'. He is such a man of letters and a homme seriueux. Its hard to think of anyone else in the music world of his stature. Haitink perhaps? Certainly no one in the organ world.

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There isn't a thread on steinway-pianos.com complaining about all the difficult late Beethoven that Alfred Brendel insists on playing, and hoping that he'll start programming a couple of Joplin rags for variety and to pull the punters in....why is that? Are piano punters more discerning than organ ones, or is that their standard repertoire is just better? I wish I knew...

 

:unsure: Don't be self-effacing, Maestro! I think you do know... :D

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:unsure:  Don't be self-effacing, Maestro! I think you do know...  :D

Not a Maestro really....which reminds me of a nice story about Lady Solti, which may or may not be apocryphal.... The Soltis' daughter was arriving at her Oxford college with a whole pile of luggage, and Lady S parked where she should not have. The porters came out to remonstrate, and she launched into an aria about how ridiculous it was that she had nowhere to park, and that in any case she hadn't been able to fit all the luggage in the back of the car. 'My daughter's harp is coming with the Maestro' she explained. Porter 1 to Porter 2 - 'Blimey Eric, I didn't know you could get a harp in the back of a Maestro'. End of digression.
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Good story- and brings back a memory of what a great conductor Georg Solti was. I think that his autobiography is one of the more interesting books by a musician.

 

Talking abt conductors, I note that David Hill seems to do more and more conducting. As his assistant at Winchester it must have been immensley valuable to work with DH. I can imagine that anyone who spends time with this talented organist and choir director will learn much. And have a good laugh as well !!

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Good story- and brings back a memory of what a great conductor Georg Solti was. I think that his autobiography is one of the more interesting books by a musician.

 

Talking abt conductors, I note that David Hill seems to do more and more conducting. As his assistant at Winchester it must have been immensley valuable to work with DH. I can imagine that anyone who spends time with this talented organist and choir director will learn much. And have a good laugh as well !!

Yes, I had a marvellous time. I particularly remember Sunday mornings - DH would bring coffee and I would bring doughnuts. A nice way to pass Mattins. The interesting thing about DH is that he never ever told me (or indeed any other of his assistants) how to do anything - he just let me get on with it and one absorbed by osmosis. A nice feeling to be trusted - and because he was away so often I got plenty of chances to do some big stuff with the choir.

Stephen D at Ch Ch was also excellent to work for. DH and SD are top people, in their different ways.

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Much food for thought here and I have been reflecting on the various contributions since my last post on this thread.

 

It seems to me one can draw quite a number of useful illustrations for points one is trying to make by using food analogies. Thus tastes clearly differ. The fact that I would sooner die than have to eat semolina pudding again is no reason why anyone who really enjoys it should be denied the pleasure of eating it. So with music. I hope I have correctly recollected that VH is partial to music of the Tudor period. Greensleeves apart I find music of this period as difficult to follow as the English of Mallory in Mort d' Arthur, and consequently I neither listen to one nor read the other. My loss certainly, but the normal allotted lifespan is too short to sample every experience that life can offer as it is, so I do not see the point of persisting in trying to like something which did not appeal on first encounter. "Get it down, it will do you good" is not a sentiment that I have ever found particularly appealing whether applied to food or music. Clearly claiming this privilege for myself, I must accord the same right to pursue individual taste to everyone else here.

 

Accepting that tastes differ amongst individuals does not mean that one has to accept a quite different proposition. That some tastes are inherently superior to others: that foie gras or Beluga caviar is not merely different from roast beef and yorkshire pudding or fish and chips but also better than roast beef and yorkshire pudding or fish and chips. One can accept people's right to act on their individual preferences without also accepting their right to claim that their particular preferences are superior to, or better than, those of others and thus entitled to greater consideration.

 

That said, let us return to the thorny issue of transcriptions and who should play at the RAH. I am quite prepared to accept that "Londoncentricity" is not the explanation in the particular case under discussion here , although the existence of that concept is not in doubt as far as I am concerned. Therefore, the issue must revolve around the "appropriateness" of inviting a particular player to perform at the RAH. "Appropriateness" can signify at least two quite distinct things : (1) fitting in with performance policies of those who organise the programme ; (2) providing a recital programme appropriate for the instrument in question. There is surely very little scope for arguing that the sort of programme that a particular individual would play would fall foul of the second category - the RAH organ was built to play this kind of repertoire which is why the Bass Drum, Tubular Bells and many of those solo division reeds are there : they are not needed for Sweelinck, Bach, Mendelssohn or Messiaen. So the first category of significance must be the one in operation, ie the preferences of the organisers. Provided these preferences are at least neutral in terms of audience size then I am happy to defer to those on the spot, but I think one is entitled to ask for the evidence that they are so to be produced. After all it seems a number of venues even in London have either ceased to offer recitals altogether or have substantially reduced their involvement: that does not look to me like a situation of growing demand. The normal response of a business that wants to stay in business faced with a decline in demand for its existing product range is to seek to find a new product that will appeal to what customers want. One would simply like to be reassured that this is the approach of those in charge at the RAH.

 

 

Just as I like my meals to be balanced , so with any recital I happen to attend. In the same way that I would not wish to eat a meal consisting of three main courses with no starter or dessert, so I have no particular desire to listen to a programme consisting entirely of transcriptions , but neither would I wish to sit through nothing but Reger or Dupre or Messiaen or even J.S.Bach, though arguably special considerations apply here.

 

Finally I have a question (series of) for those who decided not to attend a recital by Mr Heywood because it contained a substantial number of transcriptions, which is how consistently do you apply this policy ? What about an orchestral concert featuring Gordon Jacob's arrangement of the Elgar Organ Sonata, Stokowski's Bach Transcriptions, or orchestral arrangements of Debussy Piano Preludes. What if Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition were the main work ? Would you excise the Toccata and Fugue in D minor from your repertoire should scholars ever succeed in establishing that it was not actually written as an organ work ?

 

IF the answer offered is "but orchestral transcriptions are different than transcriptions for organ" then why is this so ? "I prefer them" is a perfectly valid expression of a preference, but a preference is only a personal opinion: it is not a fact. Even very large numbers of people sharing the same preference does not convert an opinion into a fact. At one time majority opinion thought the Earth was flat but that did not make it so!

 

Brian Childs

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Yes, I had a marvellous time. I particularly remember Sunday mornings - DH would bring coffee and I would bring doughnuts. A nice way to pass Mattins. The interesting thing about DH is that he never ever told me (or indeed any other of his assistants) how to do anything - he just let me get on with it and one absorbed by osmosis. A nice feeling to be trusted - and because he was away so often I got plenty of chances to do some big stuff with the choir.

Stephen D at Ch Ch was also excellent to work for. DH and SD are top people, in their different ways.

 

Coffee and donuts for the congregation would be nice. I note that Winchester still do a congregational chant at matins for one of the canticles. A foundation of that stature should be above that sort of thing. However, one Winchester tradition I love is the short introits by Prendergast/Surplice that precede Evensong. Specially the festal ones that end in Allelulia ! Then there is the Wykeham Arms and Wyke pie....

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Not keen on orchestral transcriptions of organ reperotire. Andrew Davis's transcription of the Bach Passacaglia was innoffensive but added nothing. If anything it reminded me why this work is one of the pillars of the organ repertore and does not belong in the orchestral sphere !

 

I view a transcription as the amuse bouche or pudding of an organ recital but never its main course !!

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Not keen on orchestral transcriptions of organ reperotire.  Andrew Davis's transcription of the Bach Passacaglia was innoffensive but added nothing. If anything it reminded me why this work is one of the pillars of the organ repertore and does not belong in the orchestral sphere !

 

I view a transcription as the amuse bouche or pudding of an organ recital but never its main course !!

 

I think we could both probably agree on that as a principle, possibly only differeing in the size of the portion to be allocated to the sweet course.

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I note that Winchester still do a congregational chant at matins for one of the canticles. A foundation of that stature should be above that sort of thing.

 

Above what sort of thing - letting people actually participate in an act of worship in a great cathedral? Imagine the consequences of that...

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What about an orchestral concert featuring Gordon Jacob's arrangement of the Elgar Organ Sonata Stokowski's Bach Transcriptions, or orchestral arrangements of Debussy Piano Preludes. What if Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition were the main work ? Would you excise the Toccata and Fugue in D minor from your repertoire should scholars ever succeed in establishing that it was not actually written as an organ work ?

To my mind Elgar's organ sonata sounds better orchestrated. After all, it was conceived in orchestral terms.

 

I hardly ever play the Bach - don't think much of it as a piece. It is a rather special case though. It would be difficult to ignore the fact that it is the most famous organ piece in existence. Whatever scholars discover won't change that.

 

As for the rest - yuk. I've never been able to like the Mussorsky in any of it's incarnations.

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Above what sort of thing - letting people actually participate in an act of worship in a great cathedral?  Imagine the consequences of that...

All worship "where two or three are gathered together" is about participation, but cathedrals are weighted towards passive participation - and rightly so in my view. One doesn't have to sing one's head off to participate.

 

Rochester also sing one of the Matins canticles to Anglican chant, but not always. There I think it's a question of the time available: there's only about five minutes between the end of Matins and the start of the Eucharist.

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