Piano transcription

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A piano transcription is a piece of music played on one or more pianos that is an approximation of a source piece of music. The source may be music for a solo instrument or voice, an ensemble of instruments and/or voices, or even a piece originally for solo or ensemble piano. Piano transcriptions vary in faithfulness to the music source with some pieces being strict transcriptions (harpsichord to piano transcriptions) while other transcriptions only vaguely approximating the source (Liszt virtuoso medleys of themes from operas).


Piano transcriptions have likely existed for as long as the piano has been around.

19th Century[edit]

During the 19th century the piano transcription became popular for several reasons - the bourgeoisie grew in number and wealth, they were interested in symphonic and chamber music; the availability, quality, and affordability of attending ensemble music was not able to keep pace with this interest; and the design and production of the piano was modernized. Piano transcriptions filled this gap with transcribers turning old and new popular works into arrangements for one or two pianos involving one to four players. Composers used the transcription as a way to promote their music as well including most notably Brahms. Notable works in this genre include Franz Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies and piano transcriptions of baroque works by Ferruccio Busoni.

20th Century[edit]

Piano transcriptions in the 20th century have been realized by Percy Grainger, Ronald Stevenson[1] and Glenn Gould.


Performed live by Mark Gasser

Transcribed for piano by Ferruccio Busoni from the Schübler Chorales by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Martha Goldstein

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