Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

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IcedNote
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Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by IcedNote » Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:56 am

So as I was searching for CMG's "desert island" discs, I came across someone who mentioned Bolet's famed Carnegie Hall recital. As I'm sure you all know, he played a number of transcriptions. And that got me thinking...

What are some of your [trigger warning for jbuck919] favorite transcriptions that you deem to be better than the originals? And why not...let's include orchestrations, too.

Some of mine:

- Segovia's guitar transcriptions of Albeniz's "Iberia"
- Ravel's "Pictures at an Exhibition"
- Any of those J. Strauss transcriptions that Bolet played because, let's face it, J. Strauss had never been that interesting.

-G
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by maestrob » Fri Dec 02, 2016 12:56 pm

Stokowski wrote magnificent orchestral transcriptions of J. S. Bach's music...........


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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by maestrob » Fri Dec 02, 2016 1:00 pm

Stokowski also wrote his own version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition:

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IcedNote
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by IcedNote » Fri Dec 02, 2016 2:06 pm

I truthfully never much cared for his Bach orchestrations. :? Something about them clouds the voices and lines, to my ear, and what you gain in color doesn't compensate enough. Dunno.

I'd forgotten he did his own Pictures! I might have to A/B it with Ravel's this afternoon. :D

-G
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John F
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by John F » Fri Dec 02, 2016 3:45 pm

"Better than the originals?" I don't think so.

I can think of at least one work which is undoubtedly better than the music it's based on: Stravinsky's "Pulcinella." Not just a transcription but a recomposition of music by Pergolesi and others. Another work that comes to mind is Rimsky-Korsakov's version of Musorgsky's "Boris Godunov," which is also a recomposition; though it's correct to prefer Musorgsky's uninviting original, I confess I like Rimsky-Korsakov's glamour better.

Still thinking about this - interesting topic.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by Lance » Fri Dec 02, 2016 3:53 pm

Very difficult question to say what is better than the original music. However, I have hundreds and hundreds of works transcribed from the original works. Are they better? Personally, I love the Bach orchestral transcriptions made by Leopold Stokowski. By doing so, he brought the music of Bach to an even larger audience who may never have heard or enjoyed Bach's originals, especially those works written for church services. However, Bach, the great transcriber himself, took Vivaldi's concertos transcribing them for organ and was exceedingly successful in the transition. Who could ever complain about the lieder of Franz Schubert? However, some of the piano transcriptions made are quite revealing in yet another way making them highly successful. Better? Probably not, but equally enjoyable, especially for piano aficianados.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by Holden Fourth » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:43 pm

I've always preferred the Liszt piano transcription of the LvB 8th to the orchestral version. For me it's all to do with being able to hear all the voices which are hard to pick up when played by orchestra, no matter how small or historically informed. I thought that van Immerseel and the AE orchestra might do this but when I heard it I was disappointed.

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:59 pm








IcedNote
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by IcedNote » Fri Dec 02, 2016 10:59 pm

jserraglio wrote:Liszt
I absolutely love the Sonata but was unaware of those transcriptions. Thanks!!

-G
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by maestrob » Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:35 pm

Debussy transcribed Wagner's Flying Dutchman Overture for four-hand piano (two pianos), as did Dukas the Bacchanale from Tannhauser. Reger was fascinated by Wagner's music, and wrote his own four-hand transcription of music from Tristan & Isolde (the Prelude and Liebestod).

These have all been finally recorded by the duo pianists Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen on a marvelous album that includes excerpts from Gotterdammerung as well (see below):

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by John F » Sat Dec 03, 2016 12:32 am

A reminder that IcedNote asked for "favorite transcriptions that you deem to be better than the originals." Most of the transcriptions named in this thread are obviously inferior to the originals and the poster doesn't claim that they aren't.

The world of music is lousy with transcriptions of all kinds for all purposes, we can go on listing them forever, but if they're inferior - and aren't even our favorites - then what's the point?
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Sat Dec 03, 2016 3:29 am




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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Dec 03, 2016 7:34 am

Better than the original? I wouldn't make that claim, but here's one of my favorite transcriptions: Samuel Feinberg's transcription of the Scherzo from Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony, as performed by Arcadi Volodos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZuBgYqtzdg

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:12 am



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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by John F » Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:56 am

The more I think about it, the more I believe the composer knows best what performing medium suits his own music best. Not always, but almost always. The examples that come to mind are by Brahms. I think it was a good idea to transcribe his sonata for two pianos as a quintet for piano and strings. (The idea was Clara Schumann's, but Brahms wasn't too proud to accept good advice.) And the orchestral version of his Variations on a Theme by Haydn completes his own version for piano duet as no other composer's orchestration could. Brahms published both versions of each work, so we can judge for ourselves. The earliest version of the sonata/quintet, a quintet for strings, does not survive and counts as an early draft rather than a full-fledged version of the music.

So unless something is wrong with the original that's fixed in the transcription, as is often claimed about Schumann's orchestration and Mahler's retouches, the latter can't be better in any serious way. You may like it better; you may enjoy it more; you may dislike the sound of the organ and prefer any instrumentation but that, even Stokowski's soupy Hollywoodized Bach. But we shouldn't elevate our personal tastes to the status of a serious critical judgment.

This is about rescoring a piece while leaving the music essentially intact. When one composer has based a new composition on the work of another, whether variations on a theme or Liszt's Reminiscences de Don Juan or Stravinsky's Baiser de la Fée, this is no longer transcription but creation.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Sat Dec 03, 2016 10:48 am






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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by maestrob » Sat Dec 03, 2016 12:06 pm

Saxophones are BETTER than strings? I don't think so :roll: :!:

Ormandy's recording of the string orchestra version of Barber's Adagio turns me to Jello, as I'm sure Toscanini did for a previous generation when heard live.

Schoenberg wrote a transcription of the Brahms Piano Quintet No. 1 mentioned above. It's very fine, IMHO.


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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by John F » Sat Dec 03, 2016 12:29 pm

That's the piano quartet #1, right? Even if an orchestration were an improvement on Brahms, which it isn't, I intensely dislike Schoenberg's plastic surgery.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Sat Dec 03, 2016 1:47 pm

:oops:
maestrob wrote:Saxophones are BETTER than strings? I don't think so
Not better, more saxy.:oops: IMO, the winds version of the Barber Adagio is soulful, yet true to the spirit of the original SQ version. Besides, the phrase "Adagio for Saxophones" has a melodic ring to it that I like.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by Holden Fourth » Sat Dec 03, 2016 4:25 pm

IcedNote wrote:
jserraglio wrote:Liszt
I absolutely love the Sonata but was unaware of those transcriptions. Thanks!!

-G
The Appassioanata had me reaching for my copy of the score which is identical in every way (same edition) except that there is no cadenza. Who was the pianist? It reminds me of a recording of the first movement of Op 57 which many consider to be perverse but I really love, that by Glenn Gould.

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Sat Dec 03, 2016 5:05 pm

Holden Fourth wrote:Who was the pianist?
Frederic Rzewski. Love his cadenzas. Heard him in Severance in the LvB 4th concerto play a stunning cadenza. Beethoven live, not a museum plaster-piece.
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IcedNote
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by IcedNote » Sat Dec 03, 2016 5:08 pm

John F wrote:The more I think about it, the more I believe the composer knows best what performing medium suits his own music best. Not always, but almost always....

So unless something is wrong with the original that's fixed in the transcription,... the latter can't be better in any serious way.
I believe I understand why you're saying this, John (i.e. who knows the intentions of a piece of art better than the creator?), but I disagree. I think it's entirely reasonable that one composer can listen to another's music and say, "You know what...I like what he/she is doing, but I think it'd be more effective this way." Or, "I like it, but I see some possibilities that weren't uncovered..." Anyone who's created anything and has shown in-progress work to someone knows this to be the case. And I believe that even professionals...even geniuses...can benefit from this. Always? Not a chance. Most of the time? Nope. Sometimes? Sure.

-G
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jserraglio
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Sat Dec 03, 2016 5:44 pm

By the standards of their own time, Pope "updated" Shakespeare, Mozart Handel, Mahler Beethoven, and gaggles Schumann and Bruckner. Who's to determine from our vantage point what was right or wrong with the originals or better or worse in the transcriptions?


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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by John F » Sat Dec 03, 2016 7:04 pm

By the critical standards of our time, nobody seriously maintains that the composer's own completed version is inferior to someone else's transcription of it. For that matter, neither Liszt himself nor anybody else ever claimed that his transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies for solo piano are superior to Beethoven's orchestral originals.

Pope "updated" Shakespeare? Tell me more. Acting versions of some of Shakespeare's plays were made by Garrick, Cibber, and other Restoration actors in the commercial theatre, with happy endings for "Hamlet" and "King Lear," but while these adaptations (not "transcriptions" but substantial rewritings) suited their taste and that of their audiences for a while, so what? Shakespeare, his original audience, and we are made of sterner stuff.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:24 pm

John F wrote:By the critical standards of our time, nobody seriously maintains that the composer's own completed version is inferior to someone else's transcription of it. For that matter, neither Liszt himself nor anybody else ever claimed that his transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies for solo piano are superior to Beethoven's orchestral originals.

Pope "updated" Shakespeare? Tell me more. Acting versions of so me of Shakespeare's plays were made by Garrick, Cibber, and other Restoration actors in the commercial theatre, with happy endings for "Hamlet" and "King Lear," but while these adaptations (not "transcriptions" but substantial rewritings) suited their taste and that of their audiences for a while, so what? Shakespeare, his original audience, and we are made of sterner stuff.
The "critical standards of our time" (god knows what they might be) are not any more normative than those of the Augustan and Victorian ages. But they do mirror in interesting ways our suppositions about what is artistically valid and invalid. (I realize we may disagree about this.)

Granted, the composer's version is not inferior to later re-workings. It isn't necessarily superior either.

Unlike his contemporaries who adapted Shakespeare's plays for performance, Pope didn't rewrite the Bard. Instead he effectively trashed him in his edition of the plays (1725) by demoting many authentic lines to footnotes as spurious because they violated standards of poetic decorum. Pursuing the analogy — Pope's transgresscription may be seen as "inferior" to Shakespeare's original, but it is still interesting and full of genius—sort of. A year later in his own edition of the plays, Shakespeare Restor'd, Louis Theobald dutifully, some say brilliantly, recaptured as best he could the original text Shakespeare actually wrote: for this "superior" feat Pope immortalized him as poster child of Dulness in the Dunciad. Thus does Imagination ever triumph over Fact.

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by John F » Sun Dec 04, 2016 1:12 am

Good heavens, man, are you living in 2016 or 1725? Pope made a hash of his misguided Shakespeare edition - as Theobald made known within a year - because he imposed an esthetic of his own that is foreign to Shakespeare and, indeed, to us. Naturally Pope mocked Theobald, but he was wrong and Theobald was right.

You may find Pope's Shakespeare "interesting," and indeed many musical transcriptions (to get back on topic) may be interesting in their own way, but from the outset this discussion has been about "transcriptions better than their originals," and unless you want to make that case, whatever interest you may find in them is beside the point.

There's nothing mystifying about the critical standard of our time, which is founded on and proceeds from respect for the artist and the integrity of his artistic creations. By that standard, the artist's version of his own work necessarily is superior to "later re-workings" by others. This is the basis of modern textual editing and indeed goes back to Samuel Johnson's magisterial Shakespeare edition of 1773; it absolutely is normative for the time in which we live, the 21st century. The views and practices of other times, however interesting, are obsolete today, whether in "correcting" Shakespeare's texts or "correcting" "wrong" notes in Beethoven's music.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Sun Dec 04, 2016 5:15 am

John F wrote:Good heavens, man, are you living in 2016 or 1725?
1725, if you please. Engaging time to be alive. The world was populated by fascinating people.
John F wrote:(to get back on topic) . . . beside the point.
There you go again. Diving, when challenged. into a tattered grab bag of tired rhetorical ploys.

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by lennygoran » Sun Dec 04, 2016 6:15 am

jserraglio wrote: There you go again.
This reminds me of a famous President's line :lol: -on these Liszt variations I tried listening to his variations on Lucia-couldn't stand them. Regards, Len [Donizetti fan] :lol:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Lis ... _Donizetti


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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by John F » Sun Dec 04, 2016 6:57 am

John F wrote:(to get back on topic) . . . beside the point.
There you go again. Diving, when challenged. into a tattered grab bag of tired rhetorical ploys.[/quote]
There you go again, changing the subject instead of addressing it. Just what "tired rhetorical ploy" are you talking about? Reminding you of what this discussion is supposed to be about? Guilty as charged.

So this exchange won't be entirely empty of content, perhaps it's worth reviewing what "transcription" is and what it is not. Putting speech accurately into writing, a different medium of communication: yes. Change the words and it's no longer a transcription. Putting the notes of a piece of music into a different sound medium, such as piano to orchestra or orchestra to piano: yes. Change the notes and it's no longer a transcription. What is it then? Either a failed transcription, a botch, or else a new piece of music, depending on the extent, apparent intent, and effect of the changes.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Dec 04, 2016 8:32 pm

maestrob wrote:Stokowski wrote magnificent orchestral transcriptions of J. S. Bach's music...........


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I cannot agree with that. As our local Bach expert I will venture that the only valuable transcriptions are by Bach himself, John F's recent post notwithstanding. In fact I detest the impudent transcriptions by Stokowski. I might make an exception here and there for something like the transcriptions made by Schoenberg.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Mon Dec 05, 2016 6:21 am

Two of my favorite transcriptions. I wouldn't presume to label them "better than their originals".




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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by IcedNote » Mon Dec 05, 2016 10:51 am

jbuck919 wrote:As our local Bach expert I will venture that the only valuable transcriptions are by Bach himself
I think this album is absolutely worth hearing (unless someone just despises guitar music for some reason).

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by diegobueno » Thu Dec 08, 2016 2:34 pm

In the "pieces based on...." department, Hindemith greatly improved upon Carl Maria von Weber's original pieces in his Symphonic Metamorphosis




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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by diegobueno » Thu Dec 08, 2016 2:56 pm

Hindemith again. The profoundly mediocre Geschwindmarsch by Beethoven and its transformation in the 2nd movement of Hindemith's Sinfonia Serena. (The Sinfonia Serena has, like RVW's 8th, a scherzo for winds followed by a slow movement for strings)



Here's a better performance of the Hindemith:


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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by Lance » Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:35 pm

Speaking of PIANO works transcribed for ORCHESTRA, I must say Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" sonata is such a massive work that it almost seems to have been written for the orchestra. Never shall I forget that original American silver-covered LP of the Felix Weingartner transcription for orchestra. That first movement was most impressionable to very young years, and even to this day, I like it almost as much as the original piano sonata.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:42 pm

Lance wrote:Speaking of PIANO works transcribed for ORCHESTRA, I must say Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" sonata is such a massive work that it almost seems to have been written for the orchestra. Never shall I forget that original American silver-covered LP of the Felix Weingartner transcription for orchestra. That first movement was most impressionable to very young years, and even to this day, I like it almost as much as the original piano sonata.
As I have implied in a previous post, one cannot successfully transcribe the Opus 106. I don't know why anyone would take on such a thankless task. Just the difficult jump at the beginning of the first movement is impossible to duplicate in any other arrangement.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by Lance » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:55 am

Perhaps, but then I was amazed at one man (whose work with Beethoven's music) is well known. It may even be a more "authoritative" representation (the symphonies, for example) coming more on the heels of the composer himself, and Weingartner's association with previous conductors. I rather enjoyed his transcription.
jbuck919 wrote:
Lance wrote:Speaking of PIANO works transcribed for ORCHESTRA, I must say Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" sonata is such a massive work that it almost seems to have been written for the orchestra. Never shall I forget that original American silver-covered LP of the Felix Weingartner transcription for orchestra. That first movement was most impressionable to very young years, and even to this day, I like it almost as much as the original piano sonata.
As I have implied in a previous post, one cannot successfully transcribe the Opus 106. I don't know why anyone would take on such a thankless task. Just the difficult jump at the beginning of the first movement is impossible to duplicate in any other arrangement.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by jserraglio » Tue Dec 13, 2016 3:00 pm

This transcription may be even better than the original.


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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by karlhenning » Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:08 am

maestrob wrote:Stokowski wrote magnificent orchestral transcriptions of J. S. Bach's music...........
maestrob wrote:Stokowski also wrote his own version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition:
...which are better than the originals? (But I see that John F got there first.)

Cheers,
~k.
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Re: Transcriptions Better Than Their Originals

Post by karlhenning » Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:10 am

jbuck919 wrote:[...] I might make an exception here and there for something like the [Bach]transcriptions made by Schoenberg.
I do like those very much.

Cheers,
~k.
Karl Henning, PhD
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