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Joined: Feb 2022
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Hey everyone,

A while back I challenged myself to write a transcription of the iconic "Over the Rainbow," which is no doubt best enjoyed sung by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. The inspiration for this was sort of a mix between just playing around and perhaps channeling my inner Rachmaninov.

The transcription was a very short-lived idea, so this is not a totally ideal performance... but it's the only time I played it publicly.

I believe at the time of coming up with this, I was working on Rachmaninov's Polka de V.R., which is a "transcription" of a dinky Franz Behr polka, but in the most liberal sense of a transcription - Rachmaninov really had his way with it! He turned pretty cheesy music into a masterpiece of unbelievably inventive and virtuosic display. Here, I'm taking pretty beloved music and making it... well.. I guess making it something else, not something better.

I confess that I hastily put this together a couple weeks before this performance, and I actually made it much better afterward, but then dropped the idea altogether, all within the course of month or something. I suppose I'm more inclined to write original stuff that never sees the light of day than I am to make transcriptions of popular music laugh

Anyway, I'm opening myself up here on a public forum looking forward to some good conversation and feedback, soberly aware of the probable chance of snarky criticism. thumb

With appreciation!

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Very jazzy & original for sure. Nice playing.

Definitely a piece for piano solo than an imitation of the JG original. The version in the "Wizard of Oz" JD sang with a strings ensemble. The key was in Ab (if I remembered correctly).

Thanks for sharing...

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Hi

Certainly no snarky criticism from me. Superb.
I can imagine that is the sort of thing Horowitz might have done with song, if he played it as an encore.

Cheers


Simon

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Although your playing was excellent, I don't think Over the Rainbow is an appropriate song for a virtuosic transcription. Most of Liszt's song transcriptions are virtuosic but when he transcribed Ave Verum Corpus he eschewed virtuosity. Here are two examples of what I think are beautiful and appropriate performances of this song:


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Good for you, I applaud your efforts and enjoyed it. To come up with something like that and perform it is a rare skill. Enjoyed hearing some Thalberg like 3 hand effect writing!

Whether something is “appropriate for a virtuosic transcription” is a completely personal choice.

While I also really like the 2 performances in the prior post and have been a fan of both of them, they have the same general feel. I do think there is room in the world for a reading in a different light.

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Man, I loved it. Where was that performance?


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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Very jazzy & original for sure. Nice playing.

Definitely a piece for piano solo than an imitation of the JG original. The version in the "Wizard of Oz" JD sang with a strings ensemble. The key was in Ab (if I remembered correctly).

Thanks for sharing...

Thank you! I appreciate this.. yes, the original is in A-Flat. And yes, this is more of a transcription fantasy, more akin to what Rach did with Franz Behr than a more traditionally orthodox transcription.
Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

Certainly no snarky criticism from me. Superb.
I can imagine that is the sort of thing Horowitz might have done with song, if he played it as an encore.

Cheers

Thank you smile Just imagine what Horowitz would have done with it!

Originally Posted by spk
Good for you, I applaud your efforts and enjoyed it. To come up with something like that and perform it is a rare skill. Enjoyed hearing some Thalberg like 3 hand effect writing!

Whether something is “appropriate for a virtuosic transcription” is a completely personal choice.

While I also really like the 2 performances in the prior post and have been a fan of both of them, they have the same general feel. I do think there is room in the world for a reading in a different light.

I love your Thalberg comment! I definitely enjoy trying to sneak the melody in between the thumbs, or move it between registers on occasion. Liszt does this a lot in his transcriptions, as does Rachmaninov, so it's a natural inclination after playing so many of those.

Originally Posted by mivaldes
Man, I loved it. Where was that performance?

Thank you! In Savannah, Georgia. Nice series and nice audience, the piano could be better though.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Although your playing was excellent, I don't think Over the Rainbow is an appropriate song for a virtuosic transcription. Most of Liszt's song transcriptions are virtuosic but when he transcribed Ave Verum Corpus he eschewed virtuosity. Here are two examples of what I think are beautiful and appropriate performances of this song:


I love the Keith Jarrett, it's pretty legendary and everyone knows it. The Joey Alexander recording, well.. he was mainly grabbing attention back then for being that good for a small kid. He's grown up now and more than talented enough to stand on his own two feet as an adult, for sure - but this rendering isn't the most original, wouldn't you agree? It's essentially a Keith Jarrett remix.

As for your Liszt comments, he pretty famously infused music, even that which was "inappropriate for virtuosity" with gratuitous virtuosity. Look at his Widmung transcription - turned it into a real technical showpiece. To be fair, Clara Schumann HATED this transcription because of this and wrote a nasty note about her feelings smile But I'm afraid history has concluded otherwise. I appreciate the original more, as the final song in the Myrthen song cycle, dedicated to Clara as a wedding gift. It's such a serious and profound offering of love... BUT - Liszt is totally and completely within his right to put his own spin on things, and the result is pretty damn awesome - my advice for all this is just try to ignore one's own bias for an original when hearing another's act of innovation layered on top of the original creation.

Like I previously stated, nothing compares to the original Judy Garland performance for me. I like Frank Sinatra's too though - VERY different! Tons of pomp and pizzaz, ends heroic and big with the orchestra (Judy by contrast ends with the most incredible diminuendo). I think you should open your mind and realize the possibilities with music are infinite. Perhaps there is even virtue in carving through these possibilities, no matter how wrong they seem at first. Thanks for your comment!

Last edited by MasterRaro; 04/28/22 05:34 PM.
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Originally Posted by MasterRaro
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Although your playing was excellent, I don't think Over the Rainbow is an appropriate song for a virtuosic transcription. Most of Liszt's song transcriptions are virtuosic but when he transcribed Ave Verum Corpus he eschewed virtuosity. Here are two examples of what I think are beautiful and appropriate performances of this song:


I love the Keith Jarrett, it's pretty legendary and everyone knows it. The Joey Alexander recording, well.. he was mainly grabbing attention back then for being that good for a small kid. He's grown up now and more than talented enough to stand on his own two feet as an adult, for sure - but this rendering isn't the most original, wouldn't you agree? It's essentially a Keith Jarrett remix.

As for your Liszt comments, he pretty famously infused music, even that which was "inappropriate for virtuosity" with gratuitous virtuosity. Look at his Widmung transcription - turned it into a real technical showpiece.
I don't think Liszt's transcription of Widmung is overly virtuosic or has gratuitous virtuosity. Only the last third of the piece is at all virtuosic and done quite tastefully. It's far less virtuosic than many other Liszt song transcriptions.

Although the Joey Alexander recording owes something to Jarrett, I wouldn't call it anything near a Jarrett remix. But even if it owes more to Jarrett than I think, it doesn't have any gratuitous virtuosity.

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I love what you’ve done here. If you’re ever inclined to pick it up again and develop it into a fully-fleshed out piece, I’d be interested. I love some of the choices you made, like the darker pause between the opening verses and the “someday I’ll wish upon a star”. Also like the Lisztian (since the Master has been mentioned) arpeggio section around 1:55. A nice extended section with the melody worked in between those arpeggios would be great, with the Lisztian/Thalberg (as SPK mentioned) three-hand-effect. Would love to hear the version you complete one day, if you every chose to.

The great thing about beautiful songs is they can work however you do them, as long as you do them well. Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon was a finger-snapping little number that feels like it captures a first or second date more than a serious romance. Tony Bennett then took the same song and transformed it into a desperate & profound declaration of love; a love that resonates beyond the Earth and seems to require cosmic exploration to be fulfilled.

I mention that song, because it is another great “American Songbook” song like this Judy Garland number, and likewise the latter can fit in any number of settings, if tastefully done.

There were some great ideas and developments in that for that to be a hastily-done first draft. I’m certain if you commit to a final version, you might have a great piece on your hand.

The wonderful thing about music is there’s something for everyone. So while Keith Jarrett and Joey Alexander may have more reserved/jazzy interpretations, there’s space to take that melody and those chords in a different direction as you’ve done.

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There's no denying, in my mind, that there is virtuosity here to be admired, even envied by some. What I am missing in this transcription is the message of the original song where, as in any truly great song, lyrics are significant part of the whole. No, I don't mean that you should be singing the lyrics. Without the lyrics, of course this can work as a piano piece. On the other hand, however, the lyrics reveal a yearning and a reaching for what might be unattainable. The grandeur of certain moments in this transcription denies that quality.

So, while the melody is there for the most part, with some ingenious and very "pianistic" renderings of that melody, I miss the song's message; I cannot separate the Yip Harburg nostalgia-tinged lyrics from the music.

That said, thank you for sharing.

Regards,


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The virtuosic one is very nice indeed. I enjoyed it and liked it.

For intermission, my non-virtuosic simple style snippet heheh ... LINK

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I forgot to mention - in the opening post video - the right hand doing all the work at the start is clever and nicely done. Some very clever methods used through-out. Excellent performance.

Now - as for Keith Jarrett's performance - further down in the forum post --- the head-rolling and extreme leaning probably isn't necessary, but nicely done as well. Interesting body movements.

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Originally Posted by SouthPark
Now - as for Keith Jarrett's performance - further down in the forum post --- the head-rolling and extreme leaning probably isn't necessary, but nicely done as well. Interesting body movements.
It's not necessary for most pianists but it's necessary for Jarrett since that's the way he plays all the time. Most people don't care about it because many think he is one of the great jazz pianists, especially for ballads.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It's not necessary for most pianists but it's necessary for Jarrett since that's the way he plays all the time. Most people don't care about it because many think he is one of the great jazz pianists, especially for ballads.

He can do what he wants for sure. Absolutely. I don't reckon it's necessary though - even if Jarrett reckons it's necessary for him to do that. It's probably only necessary if he's got some serious health issue that requires him to do full-on exercises to prevent some kind of catastrophe or something if he stops the body exercises for too long.

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Originally Posted by SouthPark
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It's not necessary for most pianists but it's necessary for Jarrett since that's the way he plays all the time. Most people don't care about it because many think he is one of the great jazz pianists, especially for ballads.
He can do what he wants for sure. Absolutely. I don't reckon it's necessary though - even if Jarrett reckons it's necessary for him to do that. It's probably only necessary if he's got some serious health issue that requires him to do full-on exercises to prevent some kind of catastrophe or something if he stops the body exercises for too long.
I don't think any of Jarrett's body movements or facial movements have much to do with what's necessary in terms of his thinking. That's just the way he plays the piano naturally. And I certainly don't think his movements have anything to do with a health issue.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think any of Jarrett's body movements or facial movements have much to do with what's necessary in terms of his thinking. That's just the way he plays the piano naturally. And I certainly don't think his movements have anything to do with a health issue.

I agree. I think the audience has extra to look at when he does those movements, which probably does add something extra - as in something interesting/appealing - in a positive sense. Amazing and special music and piano ability he has.

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Joey Alexander's one is nice too. He is certainly using well-known patterns in a few places - eg.

LINK - disney wish up on star type


LINK - ice castles romance type

and LINK - standard jazz type

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Originally Posted by SouthPark
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think any of Jarrett's body movements or facial movements have much to do with what's necessary in terms of his thinking. That's just the way he plays the piano naturally. And I certainly don't think his movements have anything to do with a health issue.

I agree. I think the audience has extra to look at when he does those movements, which probably does add something extra - as in something interesting/appealing - in a positive sense.

... or something so distracting it's hard to concentrate on the music !

Regards,


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Originally Posted by BruceD
... or something so distracting it's hard to concentrate on the music !

hahaha. I know what you mean. At first, as I had never seen that style of playing before, I was surprised to begin with - as seeing somebody bend all the way down onto the 'brace brace brace' position (which isn't a good sign) and even do a few head-turns (as if he is being troubled by something) is certainly out of the ordinary.

But after seeing that behaviour, and knowing that he just does that sort of thing ..... I ended up just ignoring it, and just listen to the piano music. But --- know just what you mean!

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I just got a chance to listen to your performance. This is more a reimagining of the piece for piano than a strict transcription--it should be judged for what it is and not what it is not. Fantastic job!

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