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Thread: Transcriptions

  1. #1
    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster AllanP's Avatar
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    Transcriptions

    The playing of transcriptions (music written for another instrument rather than the organ) seems to have gone out of style among organists. Today, my family had lunch at a restaurant where a harp player performed a wide variety of music. The question occured to me "Why can a harpist play transcriptions and an organist should not?".

    Could others on this organ forum please discuss the pros and cons of this topic?

    Thank you for any thoughts that you feel free to share.

  2. #2
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Hi AllanP,

    I regularly play transcriptions for weddings these days. Yesterday, a couple wanted me to play the ouverture to *Die Meistersinger* by Wagner as recessional music. It is always a blast to play. Some couples bring Mozart piano sonatas and want it as music for the ceremony. So, my advice - get working on your technique to facilitate the performance of sometimes symphonic music, where melody is *king*. Ya gotta be flexible in providing sometimes many different types of music.

    Cheers!

    Giovanni

  3. #3
    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    I wouldn't say "should not" but there is a part of the, shall we say 'traditional' organist fraternity that seems to frown upon the idea. The quickest and simplest comeback to that is of course "Well, it was good enough for Bach!" (ie, his Vivaldi transcriptions which now count among the collections of "Bach" organ works).

    I'm not dead against the idea of performing orchestral transcriptions on organ but there's a fine line before you start getting into Theatre organ stuff which can grate on the ear sometimes (especially the oom-pah pedal work). I'd like to see more transcriptions that consider the orchestral colours and translate an impression of them to organ registrations. Example; "Oh, it's an oboe solo here so I'll use an oboe stop." or "there are trumpets here so we'll use the trumpet stop." Sometimes, it will make far more sense to examine the dynamics and texture of the orchestra rather than making it too literal.

    Many years back, I did an arrangement of Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. In fact, I did two, one for organ solo and another for organ duet (which is a little easier). My basic reason for doing it was that I adored the work so much (still do) that I would love to be in a performance of it. This thought is somewhat hampered by the fact I'm not a string player, so why not do an organ arrangement? In doing so, I had to use registrations which have nothing to do with strings or string technique, but are more in keeping with the dynamic constrasts used throughout the work (the first and final chords are a real challenge!).

    Take the sound of a nice French Horn ensemble. I find that a well voiced Diapason is a good substitute for this effect rather than using a reed stop.

    So, from that POV, the pros are that you get to play pieces that you might otherwise not get a chance to play if you don't play an orchestral instrument. The cons are, sometimes it can just sound twee or kitsch, but that of course is highly subjective.

    Matt

  4. #4
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by giovannimusica View Post
    ... Yesterday, a couple wanted me to play the ouverture to *Die Meistersinger* by Wagner as recessional music ... Some couples bring Mozart piano sonatas and want it as music for the ceremony.
    Giovanni
    Hi Giovanni,

    Wow - you are really fortunate to have bridal couples requesting great music like this. I get requests for 'torch songs' like I Love You Truly and Because
    Fortunately, the church took firm stand on those, deeming "only what would be appropriate for a church service will be allowed as part of the wedding ceremony." I find that rather restrictive and told them so - the cleric that made that statement has since left the Lutheran church and became a RC Priest .

    Well, personally, I do transcriptions these days too - mostly piano material, which adapts fairly easy to organ. Lately though, at least in my part of the US, the trend is returning back to Purcell, Pachelbel, and Bach. I absolutely detest the Lohengrin and Wagner 'traditional' marches - but will use Lohengrin for just the bride's entrance and not the entire wedding processional if they so insist

    Indeed though, we do have to be adaptable in today's world.
    Kh ~~.
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  5. #5
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Hi Lars,

    Yeah, I guess I am fortunate. Today I had a couple who wanted the Prelude in G major BWV 541 as the processional music and Sinfonia to Cantata 29 as recessional music. After the ceremony they requested an encore piece - I gave them the Gigue Fugue by JSBach. That was the first time I saw all the wedding guests and bridal couple in the aisle, doing the gigue and clapping their hands.

    Cheers!

    Giovanni

  6. #6
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Smile

    Hi Giovanni,

    An encore at a wedding ... fantastic! I'm impressed ...

    I know Fox promoted this sort of thing in some of his performances. I think it's great that the bridal party and congregation responded in the way they did, but I can imagine you about fell off the bench at first .

    At least it seems that people can appreciate Bach in their own way, and I'm all for hat.

    Lars

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