Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Question of the Day - 7/20/05

Hi, everyone!

I'm instituting a Question of the Day. It'll be relevant to the blog, of course. Here's how the format works: every day, someone will post a new question. Now, we could do this in a kind of, "every one has a certain day they post, etc" kind of fashion, but I really would prefer to do it more organically than that. If you log on and see that a question hasn't been posted, if you've got one, feel free to pose it. You could always post and say, "This question is for tomorrow, etc," in case someone beats you to it. It doesn't have to be equal responsibility, anyone can post as many or as few as they like. By default, I nominate myself to be resident question-asker. If someone else wants to, just let me know, that's fine by me. If you just want to scrap the idea of a daily question, that's fine too, but again, let me know. Thanks!

Today's question:

In your opinion, is it ok for modern performers to transcribe pieces for other instruments? For example, Joshua Bell's 2003
Romance of the Violin includes at least nine pieces written originally for other instruments/voice. Does this enhance the piece (if done well, of course) or does it only render disservice?

Personally, I enjoy it when artists transcribe songs for other instruments. After hundreds of years of same-ish interpretations, how much more bold can you get to couple it with an entirely different sound? I suppose original instruments purists would argue that the composer intended it to be heard a certain way, which is a valid argument. However, does that mean they only listen to Bach if it's on a harpsichord? I bet they don't. There aren't enough good recordings out there today. I once heard the Brandenburg Concertos on a harpsichord and I wanted to throw up. The evildoer in question (aka the performer), whoever they were, couldn't play the instrument properly and ended up muddling the rhythm entirely. It just became a mess of plucked strings and you know what? That doesn't sound very good. I'm sure Bach was just rolling around in that grave of his. I was practically rolling around and I'm still alive, that's for sure. As long as the transcriber keeps the original spirit of the piece, I don't see why playing it on another instrument can hurt any. After all, shouldn't we embrace creativity in the fullest? That's what those composers were doing when they wrote the music, too. Why bother squelching it now? And that's my two cents on that. :)


Blogger Daniel Gallagher said...

I really prefer Bach on harpsichord. I simply can't see how you can get anything that sounds like Bach on a modern day piano. It might come off as Johann Sebastian Rachmaninoff, or Sergi Bach. Piano tends to muddy the various textures of the music, while a well played, emotionless harpsichord can bring out the individual voices a lot better than on piano. And ot be honest, I actually LIKE the sound of the harpsichord--depending on the player and the instrument itself. Some are better than others. gustaff Leonhard was overestimated. Christopher Hogwood is a wonder. Roselyn Tureck is a wonder too. I suspect that if Bach had written his pieces for piano ( or should I say forte piano?) that they would have been composed somewhat differently with the sonorities of the piano of the era taken into consideration. So in this one case I prefer original instruments. And not just original keyboard instruments. I have a lot of Bach in my collection and none of it is on modern instruments. It's a personal preference. After barqoue I get a little less picky. I don't mind Mozart or Haydn on modern day piano or forte piano. Either works all right with me. Ditto to Beethoven. Although, I must admit, Chopin on forte piano truly SUCKS. As for transcriptions in general, it depends on the piece. I wouldn't want to hear the Beethoven Emporer on a harmonica quartet. On the other hand I like woodwind transcriptions of operas; violin transcriptions of songs work just fine. Orchestrations of THE SEASONS by Tchaikovsky (from the piano originals) work well too. It depends on what you're transcribing and what instruments are involved. Some will be better than others. Again, it's personal taste. For the record, my favorite violinists are Bell Stern, Heifitz, Perelman, and Zuckerman, though not necessarily in that order.

7/21/2005 10:02 AM  

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