Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Christensen, Thomas. "Four-Hand Piano Transcription and Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Musical Reception." Journal of the American Musicological Society 52 (Summer 1999): 255-98.

Four-hand piano transcriptions are arguably the most important medium for the dissemination of concert repertory in the nineteenth century and played a destabilizing role by breaking down the geographic boundaries between public and private spheres of music. Before the recording era, piano transcriptions were the primary means of disseminating concert music and four-hand transcriptions in particular struck a balance between practicality and verisimilitude. Advocates of the medium praised it as the ideal way to understand and personally connect with the music while detractors lamented the piano’s limited timbre. Arrangers took different approaches to adapting orchestral textures to the piano. Carl Czerny’s arrangement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony strictly adheres to the orchestral doubling and range of the Beethoven’s score while Hugo Ulrich drastically pares down the texture. Additionally, there were many critical debates over which composers could and could not be faithfully translated to four-hand piano. Contemporary to the four-hand transcription craze, the process of lithography was developed which allowed historical artworks to be similarly reproduced and owned by the masses. Thus, the debates over the aesthetics of the domestication of art extended from music to visual art and largely defined reception histories of the nineteenth century. One understudied aspect of four-hand transcriptions is the effect the practice had on listening habits, particularly as a way for the public to practice dedicated, sustained listening and appreciation for orchestral music that facilitated the Romantic symphonic aesthetic. This, along with the visceral experience of playing four-hand transcriptions, contributed to the breakdown of barriers between the public and private music spheres.

Works: Carl Czerny: le Symphonie en Ut arrangée pour le Piano à quatre mains par ch. Czerny et composée L. Van Beethoven (270-72); Hugo Ulrich: Symphonien von L. Van Beethoven für Pianoforte zu vier Händen arrangirt von Hugo Ulrich (272-75)

Sources: Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 (270-75)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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