Transcription is inherently an act of homage. It is an activity that—perhaps more than any other, short of composing the piece in the first place—allows one to get to know a work from the inside out. Often the compulsion to translate music into a different medium stems from the unlikelihood of being able to perform the original version; for those of us who neither play a standard orchestral instrument nor conduct an ensemble, a vast repertoire of the music we admire is inaccessible to us from the standpoint of direct participation in its realization. In the age before recorded media, the infrequency of live performance also made accessibility to the music-loving public an issue; composers and publishers increasingly responded with the preparation of piano duet and other “reductions” that could be read by amateurs for entertainment and educational purposes. Such arrangements were not always utilitarian, however.
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